Who's better - Tom Cleverley or Jack Wilshere?

Which prospect is better? Manchester United's Tom Cleverley or Arsenal's Jack Wilshere?

As England continue their preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, a new generation of players has emerged as the future of Roy Hodgson’s team.

Having returned from injury, Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, at just 20-years-old has already cemented himself as a staple of the team, and one of the first names on Arsene Wenger’s team-sheet.

His manager handed him the departed Robin van Persie’s number 10 shirt, placing immense faith and trust in the youngster who is hailed as of England’s brightest prospects.

Barely out of his teens, Wilshere has notched up almost a century of appearances for his club and 6 England appearances to boot and, despite spending 17 months on the sidelines through injury, has walked right back in to the line-up where he’s bossed the midfield and fired the Arsenal guns to awake from their insipid coma.

At Manchester United, Tom Cleverley has broken through the ranks and forced himself into Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team. He’s almost  made 20 appearances for the Red Devils this season and it’s not even half way through.

He’s netted 3 goals in all competitions and has been linking up well with Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck for club and country alike. With 7 England caps under his belt, he’ll likely go into the World Cup as one of the most experienced of the new generation.

Hodgson will be tasked with shepherding the new heard of youngsters as the likes of captain Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry retire one by one from international football. Their potential replacements will likely be one of Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Jack Rodwell, Jordan Henderson, and Jonjo Shelvey.

But I’d bet money on Wilshere and Cleverley edging out the competition. The only problem might be that they are too similar – both operate best as the most attacking of a central two or three. It makes tactical sense that Hodgson will likely require someone to protect and hold the midfield and I’d put money on Jack Rodwell or Jonjo Shelvey being the successor to Gareth Barry in that sense.

Subsequently, I think Tom Cleverley will likely be edged out of his preferred position – whether Hodgson rotates or deploys him elsewhere in an assumed 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 remains to be seen but I think Wilshere has future England captain written all over him – he’s the obvious successor to Steven Gerrard.

Strangely enough, Gerrard and Frank Lampard suffered similar fates – both regarded as two of the best midfielders of their generation and, somehow, they never clicked as a partnership for their county. I imagine a similar narrative unfolding upon their retirement.

Wilshere and Cleverley play in similar roles for their clubs and have a similar skill-set but I find it difficult to imagine them playing alongside one another. Wilshere definitely has the prowess over Cleverley when it comes to passing, technique, vision, and creativity but Cleverley is a much more seasoned finisher that has the edge when it comes to speed and mobility.

I’d also be inclined to say Cleverley’s the more versatile of the two, which could stand him in good stead, as he may have to play a revised position in the future England team.

I just can’t see anyone in the current crop surpassing Wilshere’s ability and dominance in midfield week in week out for their club. And, subsequently, I can’t imagine Hodgson picking anyone else as the engine and the driver of his team.

Who is better? Cleverley or Wilshere?

image: © eschipul

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