Jack Wilshere is expected to end a turbulent week by losing his place in the England side for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Montenegro.
Roy Hodgson needs two victories—against Montenegro and then Poland on Tuesday—to guarantee England’s place at the 2014 World Cup, so he will opt for two forwards at the sacrifice of a midfielder, according to Neil Ashton and Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail:
Hodgson has picked Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge as England’s front pairing for the Group H clash in front of a sold-out Wembley as they aim to close in on qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
But Wilshere, who started against Moldova and Ukraine last month, is under threat as Hodgson prepares to name a 4-4-1-1 formation.
If Hodgson does, as expected, opt for the twin threat of Rooney and Sturridge—the Manchester United star sitting deep to link play behind the Liverpool man—only one place is up for grabs in the centre of England’s midfield.
Captain Steven Gerrard will certainly start, so Hodgson has to decide which midfielder gives England the best balance alongside the Liverpool talisman.
Adrian Kajumba and David Woods of the Daily Star report Wilshere has already been consigned to a bench role, after Hodgson confessed a number of top names will be disappointed at Wembley:
"It's one of the hardest selection weeks,” Hodgson is quoted as saying in the Star article. "I have had to give it a lot of thought, but it's clear in my head. I fear I will break hearts."
Hodgson’s decision on his midfield axis will be solely based on the balance of the team, not Wilshere’s recent off-field troubles.
The Arsenal man was recently pictured with a cigarette in his mouth—for which he later apologised, as per The Guardian—and he then sparked a storm by stating his belief that only players born in England should play for England, per BBC Sport.
None of that will influence Hodgson, though, according to the Star article. Wilshere started the last qualifier in Ukraine, but the emphasis is on attack against Montenegro.
Gerrard has been employed in a much deeper role at Liverpool this campaign compared to the box-to-box all-action figure that has defined the majority of his career.
He is utilising his experience to restrict the threat of opposition forwards, while using his passing range to begin his own team’s attacks—producing a passing accuracy of over 85 percent so far this season, per WhoScored.
Who should start alongside Gerrard?
Michael Carrick, another sitting midfielder, would make little sense alongside Gerrard unless the Liverpool man is instructed to move forward, so Wilshere would arguably be the better option if Hodgson does not pick Lampard.
Experience will be the factor to sway the selection in Lampard’s favour. The Chelsea man has 100 caps to his name, while Wilshere is looking for only his 11th international appearance.