Norway’s visit to Wembley gives England supporters the first glimpse of the future in central midfield, now that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have called time on their international careers at the tender ages of 34 and 36 respectively.
Roy Hodgson has not been especially inventive or risk taking with his selections, naming Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson in the heart of the midfield in a 4-4-2 formation, but will this work?
Against Norway, the duo shouldn’t be posed any real troubles and look a decent pairing for a game where Hodgson has vowed to try to “entertain the crowd”, after the disappointment of the World Cup and issues surrounding low ticket sales for Norway.
England look decent value at 5/11 to beat Norway and based on the line-up, other promising bets include the 21/20 that both teams score and the 11/5 that over 3.5 goals are netted in the match.
However, rather than entertaining, the big focus of the pair should be ensuring they get their defensive mentality right for the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier in Switzerland.
Henderson is at his best when playing on the front foot; steaming forward to press opposition and winning back possession in high areas.
During the World Cup, he was stationed deeper alongside Gerrard in a 4-2-3-1, where he was robbed of the chance of performing his natural, energetic and hard-working game. Instead of this licence, Henderson was tasked with getting in possession and playing probing passes.
Understandably, his contribution was nowhere close to what has come to be expected at Liverpool.
There is a fear that the same problems will exist alongside Wilshere, who like Gerrard, is far from a natural in a positional sense to protect the back four and so will require assistance to prevent England becoming too open.
England will want Wilshere drawing defenders towards him in the final third, rather than attempting to cut them out of the game from inside his own half. Like Henderson, he will be effectively on a leash if being tied down with defensive duties.
Therefore, both would be at their deadliest with the protection of a proper anchorman alongside them, happy to do little more than interrupt the opposition as they burst forward.
Few obvious examples of this sort of player exist, but Hodgson would have been best to experiment with Jack Rodwell or even Jack Cork here ahead of the showdown with Switzerland, where the creativity of Granit Xhaka could spell all sorts of problems in the space between England’s defence and midfield.
It could even make sense to use Phil Jones in a deeper midfield role, based on the fact that he averages more interceptions per game than any other player in the Premier League this season.
Given the number of attacking Liverpool players in the England fold, it would surely make sense to implement their club ethos within the international set up – and that means a diamond formation in midfield.
With a proper holding midfielder, Wilshere, Henderson or even Fabian Delph would have the licence to influence play in positions up the pitch, safe in the knowledge that England are not totally exposed behind them on the counter attack.
Almost more importantly, a diamond midfield would also allow Raheem Sterling to play in his best position.
The consensus would probably still be that Wayne Rooney remains England’s best player and the team should be picked to suit his strengths.
But Sterling is the long-term future and the player with the attributes to cause the greater amount of sleepless nights for opposing managers.
Sterling started wide against Uruguay at the World Cup and had a minimal impact; or at least less of an impact than in the opener with Italy when fielded more centrally.
He is set to line up on the left against Norway, which is the last position that he should be picked in.
From the left, he will find it trickier to beat an opposing full-back down the line and even if he does make it to the byline, crossing with his left foot is not Sterling’s best skill.
What is more likely to happen is that he will cut inside, but shooting is not his strongest suit either, with Brendan Rodgers recently comparison Sterling in this discipline to Ricky Gervais.
Meanwhile, from a wide berth, Sterling will be forced to track back. From a central position with a bit more licence to stay forward, he could present even more danger on the counter attack, if the likes of Henderson snaffle possession back quickly.
Only Eden Hazard averages more dribbles than Sterling in the Premier League this season and he will without doubt pose more problems running at the heart of a defence, in comparison to charging towards the left corner flag.
Furthermore, Rooney and Daniel Sturridge are not a typical strike pairing to feed off wingers.
Instead, Sturridge has a tendency to drift towards the right flank and having a winger directly in this position will surely only hinder his game, rather than giving him the freedom to influence play where he deems fit.
It never makes sense for international managers to call up players based on their performances for their club and then use them in a totally different manner for their country.
Even Hodgson must realise that Sterling is not his best option on the left in a 4-4-2 formation? It really shouldn’t be an argument that the best players should start in their best positions and the rest of the team adapted around them.
There doesn’t seem to be one English player selected in midfield or attack here that are best utilised in a straight 4-4-2 formation.
If England start with the same configuration in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier in Switzerland, a loss in Basel is on the cards. Switzerland are currently the underdogs for that fixture at 7/4, which stands out as a profitable price.
Alternatively, England can be backed at 8/5 to kick off their Group C campaign with a victory, while the draw is available at 21/10.