England manager Roy Hodgson will have a selection headache ahead of the nation's first FIFA World Cup group game, against Italy on Saturday, June 14 in Manaus, Brazil, due to the rising star of Jordan Henderson or the more experienced but off-form Jack Wilshere - with only one able to partner captain Steven Gerrard in the heart of the Three Lions midfield.
England have currently completed two of their three preparatory international friendlies ahead of the commencement of the World Cup schedule, with Henderson starting against Peru at Wembley last Friday and Wilshere selected for Ecuador duty.
Neither man truly excelled, yet arguably Wilshere had the better game.
During the 3-0 victory over Peru, Henderson's freedom was inhibited slightly when compared to how he would have operated in a three-man midfield formation at club-level under Brand Rodgers and his direct passing game failed him, leaving Steven Gerrard to deliver the balls from the start of the midfield zone.
In the 2-2 draw with Ecuador in Miami, Wilshere began confidently, showed good close control and was precise with his passing range, but as the game wore on he struggled to exert himself as he may have done for both club and country say, 12 to 18 months ago.
For one-time England international Joey Barton, Henderson's rise has been marvellous: "You look at Jordan Henderson… he's had a full run of fitness with a great campaign and Liverpool suffered when he was suspended in the last few games," he said to Eurosport.
"If you asked me to pick the World Cup squad 12 month ago, Henderson wouldn't have been part of the conversation but now he and [Adam] Lallana have come to the fore. [Raheem] Sterling has done well and if Henderson is not ahead of Wilshere for a starting berth then he's very close!"
Statistically-speaking, Henderson has the advantage, as this data table from Premier League competition in the past season demonstrates…
|Club||Tackle /App||Mins /Duel Won||Touch /App||Pass Acc||Chance||Assist||Goal||Dribble /App||App||Min|
Henderson is more prolific in the tackle, is more frequently on the ball (73 touches per appearance) so he is able to influence play more often, has a marginally higher passing accuracy, creates almost double the amount of goal-scoring chances for his team-mates yet is only really overshadowed by Wilshere when it comes to effective dribbling and usefulness in the duel.
What may be to Wilshere's advantage is cumulative minutes played. Henderson has enjoyed much game-time at club level, suggesting Wilshere would be the more fresher and less fatigued of the two.
Barton, though, is high on Henderson - largely because of the turnaround in playing-level and potential in the last 12-24 months.
He continued: "When he went to the Euros , I didn't think he should have been in there, he wasn't playing well enough to be a part of the squad and I say that as a passionate Englishman and also as an opponent who had played against him.
"It was unfair to put him in at that level as he wasn't in a confident state of mind but this year, I'm the first to say, massively surprised - he's been fantastic in an emerging Liverpool side.
"He's stepped up and he had to be selected for this World cup. He's arguably pushing for a starting berth and that's a credit to how far he's come."