Frank Lampard, Mark Noble, Steve Sidwell, Leon Britton, Lee Cattermole, Jake Livermore, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson, Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell, Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, James Ward-Prowse.
Quick quiz question: What unites the 14 names on the list above?
Full marks if you've deduced that those 14 names are a) English midfielders who b) started the last round of Premier League matches (plus Frank Lampard, who started in the UEFA Super Cup, though he might want to forget that). That's the entirety of the intersection in that particularly depressing Venn diagram.
And yet there was entirely predictable hand-wringing since Friday night at the Lampard-Gerrard reunion ('Persistence is futile' was one headline on a piece that offered not one single name as an alternative) as though there was a wealth of options available. Does someone want to have a pop at making a case for a Howson-Johnson dream team? Or a Cattermole-Sidwell axis of mediocrity?
The only midfielders from that list who could seriously make a case for inclusion over Gerrard and Lampard are Jack Rodwell (called up and then withdrawn from the Under 21s) and Michael Carrick, who at 31 can hardly be cited as the future of England, and who was poor when he replaced Gerrard against Moldova. Sharing Carrick's age are the injured duo Scott Parker and Gareth Barry, who would likely replace rather than join the names on that list at the top of the page.
Presumably those who weep and wail at the inclusion of Gerrard and Lampard are not seriously hoping to see them replaced by inferior players like Steve Sidwell and Jake Livermore but are instead campaigning for the emergence of youth. So in the absence of the injured Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere - who would surely be a shoo-in for England if fit (my word, we do hope we're not still typing those words in a year's time) - who does that mean exactly?
The England Under 21 squad certainly looks relatively healthy in central midfield but includes three Championship players (Henri Lansbury, Josh McEachran and Jason Lowe) and two Liverpool substitutes (Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey). If you seriously don't want to see the Gerrard-Lampard partnership again, which one of those players do you want to see instead? One of those kept out of the Liverpool team by Gerrard or the one sent out on loan to Middlesbrough because he can't get past Lampard at Chelsea?
That Lampard (34) and Gerrard (32) are still England's best options in central midfield is far from ideal, but what is clear is that they are still England's best options in central midfield. Getting rid for the sake of getting rid when World Cup qualification is the prize could perhaps be better filed under 'futile'.
This article first appeared on Football365 here
Is a Gerrard-Lampard partnership England's best option in central midfield?