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Mile Jedinak

Is Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak's place in the Australian midfield safe?

9:35 AM SGT 28/3/18
Mile Jedinak
Mile Jedinak may be an inspirational skipper, but his recent performances haven't been

He almost single-handedly secured the Socceroos spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but Australian captain Mile Jedinak has struggled recently while other midfielders have shined.

A brilliant leader, Jedinak's role in the side goes well beyond what he does with the ball at his feet and he's rightly become a hard man to dislodge in the Socceroos starting 11.

But with Australia's midfield depth growing deeper and indeed more attractive by the day, it could be time to consider Jedinak's role in the squad moving forward.

With new coach Bert van Marwijk at the helm, a new 4-2-3-1 formation deployed and no real guarantees moving forward, the skipper's place in the side presents an interesting point of contention.

Sluggish and caught out in possession a number of times on Wednesday morning (AEDT), the 33-year-old was arguably the Socceroos poorest performer against Colombia.

While his defensive midfield partner Massimo Luongo starred, Jedinak unselfishly played in the shadows but did look off the pace when thrust into the light at Craven Cottage.

With 21 fewer touches than Luongo, the Socceroos skipper conceded three fouls and won just two of his nine contested duels.

As Luongo stepped up, Jedinak stepped back, and the duo's respective performances poses further confusion around what Australia's best midfield line-up looks like.

Sitting out of the Colombia game through injury, Huddersfield star Aaron Mooy is arguably one of Australia's best players right now, and when fit, all but demands a starting spot.

While that in itself puts a question mark over Tom Rogic's place in the starting side, Mooy along with what was a dynamic Luongo on Wednesday, mean one of the two central-defensive midfield positions may no longer have Jedinak's name rubber stamped on them.

Having struggled with a groin injury that required surgery last year, the Aston Villa man missed a large chunk of the Championship season when it began in August and has missed games in December and January as well.

Speaking to Goal Australia in March, Jedinak opened up about the injury

"It was obviously a tough period," Jedinak said. 

"I had a procedure in the off season and was rehabilitating in the pre-season and trying to get myself back to a position where I could play games.

"I had a few hurdles along the way with different things that I wasn’t really aware of it at the time because I hadn’t really experienced anything like that before."

The injury also saw him sit out Australia's first qualification play-off against Syria before returning triumphantly against Honduras.

To say Jedinak stepped up in the second leg of that fixture would be an under-statement, and while somewhat lucky to claim a hat-trick in the 3-0 win, he really did lead the Socceroos to the World Cup that night in more ways than one. 

But under a new coach unburdened by any past or indeed long-term relationship with the squad, Jedinak's place in the squad is certainly no guarantee after two underwhelming performances.

Those displays have in turn seen fellow midfielders Jackson Irvine and Massimo Luongo impress.

Irvine, also playing in the Championship with Hull City, scored against Norway with a fine header while Luongo ran the midfield against Colombia going close to scoring himself with a brilliant dribble in the second half.

Both have been playing consistently and performing well for their clubs, with Luongo scoring three times in the past month for QPR.

Four sadly doesn't fit into two though and with Mooy, Jedinak, Luongo and Irvine to choose from, I for one don't envy van Marwijk having to decide who fits in and who misses out in the central midfield for Australia.

And as it stands, the omission of the Socceroos captain might be a dice worth rolling ahead of Australia's two friendlies against the Czech Republic and Hungary in June.