So, unless we follow some AA writer's suggestion to play a 3-7-0 formation this year we clearly have a surplus of midfield talent. I'm a big proponent of the 3-5-2 we played against Chelsea, but that seemed to have been more of a one-time thing than an actual tactical change, so let's assume we're going to need four players in the middle.
But who's going to get most of the playing time? Obviously there will be some degree of rotation, especially until we figure out which formations are going to work with all the new talent, but I do believe it's important to be consistent as much as possible.
First, let's see who we finished up with last year:
- Villa (0-1 L) - Spearing, Lucas, Cole, Kuyt
- Spurs (0-2 L) - Spearing, Lucas, Rodriguez, Kuyt
- Fulham (5-2 W) - Spearing, Lucas, Rodriguez, Kuyt
- Newcastle (3-0 W) - Spearing, Lucas, Rodriguez, Meireles
- Birmingham (5-0) W - Spearing, Lucas, Rodriguez, Meireles
Obviously Stevie G is going to start, even though he was not having a good year last year even before his injury. Maybe he never was really well. On some levels I fear his best performances are behind him, but if he's dropped it won't be this year.
I'm a huge fan of Kuyt, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the team's worst slump last year was while he was injured. Nobody works harder, and he knows what to do in front of goal when he gets a chance. Having said that, I don't think he'll be starting. Just not enough pace.
Spearing will get his chance at some point, but I don't think he'll be a regular starter this year. Maybe a loan deal would be in everybody's favor. Same goes for Shelvey, who impressed but needs more experience.
Rodriguez and Meireles both had flashes of impressive scoring, and Meireles is clearly a very likeable player, but I don't feel like either of them is consistent enough.
Lucas is hardcore. Who would have thought we would have praised a Brazilian for his defensive qualities? I think he'll make it as the defensive midfielder; almost a sweeper role in front of the back four.
That leaves two spots for Adam, Henderson, Downing, Aquilani, and Cole. I can't see Cole make it. I love Charlie Adam's play. I haven't seen enough of Henderson or Downing to have an opinion, but I felt like Aquilani has played very well in the preseason.
My call: Gerrard, Lucas, Adam, Aquilani.