Jake Livermore’s presence in yet another England squad, despite not even being a guaranteed starter for a West Brom side on course to finish rock bottom of the Premier League this season, sums up how dire the situation has got in the Three Lions’ midfield, and how Gareth Southgate has inevitably had to think outside of the box to find a solution.
The key problem is how compartmental English midfielders appear to have become, especially with Southgate seemingly keen to at least attempt a 3-4-3 setup at some point during the World Cup.
While the likes of Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier and Livermore offer energy, physicality and defensive protection, the creative elements of their passing games leave much to be desired. Likewise, although Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jesse Lingard can add much more to England going forward, they can easily become lost in deeper capacities and lack the same level of proven discipline.
What England truly need is a deep-lying midfielder who can hold shape well but also start attacks from the base of the engine room. That’s where Jack Wilshere, a 34-cap international who hardly got a kick at Euro 2016, suddenly becomes so important to the England cause.
Criticised for lacking output for such an offensive-minded player in his younger years, Wilshere’s influence on attacking play now seems more obvious, not least because he’s currently enjoying arguably his best form for Arsenal since that stunning breakthrough season in 2010/11.
The 26-year-old’s greatest gift is how he links attacks by driving forward from deep midfield positions, and Arsenal’s 3-1 win over AC Milan last night provided even more evidence of that, completing four dribbles and 95% of his passes in another impressive performance – albeit that resulting in just one chance created throughout the ninety minutes.
That’s precisely what this England side needs next to Henderson or Dier; rather than an unspectacular workhorse like Livermore, someone prepared to take the ball from deep and deliver it to an England front line that – assuming all will be fit – boasts as much quality and promise as any other that will be involved in the tournament in Russia.
Wilshere’s reminded everybody this season that he can be that lynchpin for the Three Lions; the big question now is whether he can stay fit for when the World Cup comes around.