Six players have dominated the trio of midfield spots in Roy Hodgson’s preferred 4-3-3 formation since the end of Euro 2012, but the man whose presence seems to bring the best out of his attacking teammates looks set to miss out on England’s crunch World Cup qualifier against Montenegro.
The Three Lions have scored more goals with Tom Cleverley on the pitch than any other midfielder since August 2012, but the Man Utd star was already set to miss out against the Brave Lions before his injury withdrawal with Jack Wilshere and James Milner preferred ahead of the former Bradford man in recent games.
England have scored five goals with Wilshere on the pitch in the last three games.
The Arsenal man’s has spent 173 minutes in an England shirt since shaking off injury problems to return to the side against Scotland in August and his importance to the international team was underlined when England’s goals dried up against Moldova when the 21-year-old was subbed on the hour.
A nervous performance in the 0-0 draw with Ukraine last time out should not deter Hodgson from picking him ahead of defensively-minded Milner, who was ineffectual in the last 20 minutes of the aforementioned match and has only scored once in 41 games for his country.
With 22 goals scored in the last ten games he has featured in Frank Lampard must also be included.
Chelsea’s greatest ever goalscorer missed Euro 2012 with a thigh injury, but his return to the side has seen England’s strikers flourish.
Considering he has helped himself to four goals in qualifying so far – a tally only Wayne Rooney has bettered in Group H – the 9/4 on Lampard to score at any time against the Brave Lions should be snapped up if Hodgson does the sensible thing and hands him his 101st cap from the start.
Captain Steven Gerrard is well deserving of his guaranteed place in the midfield
Injuries and suspension have seen the Liverpool legend play fewer international games than Cleverley since Euro 2012, but the 33-year-old’s on-pitch influence has hardly diminished and England have scored 20 goals in the nine games that have featured their captain since the start of last season.
Gerrard in the middle of a three with Lampard and Wilshere to his left and right would ensure England have the passing platform to give Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck the best chance to fill their boots up front and this line-up could adapt to 4-2-4 in a goalscoring emergency, with the Chelsea man pushed further forward.