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Massimo Luongo vs Jackson Irvine: The battle for Mile Jedinak's Socceroos role

06:07 SAST 2018/10/15
Massimo Luongo Jackson Irvine Socceroos
The international retirement of the Australian skipper has not only left a leadership void, but a gaping hole in defensive midfield

Massimo Luongo and Jackson Irvine didn't start a match for the Socceroos at the World Cup - with the only the latter appearing as a substitute.

But with the sudden international retirement of captain Mile Jedinak, there is a midfield spot up for grabs in the Australian XI alongside Aaron Mooy.

Jedinak has been the team's enforcer, playing in a deep midfield role, since becoming an international regular in 2010.

Huddersfield star Mooy's injury means that both Luongo and Irvine will get the chance to audition in front of new coach Graham Arnold during Tuesday morning's (AEDT) friendly against Kuwait.

Which midfielder is more likely to succeed in playing alongside Mooy? Luongo or Irvine?

Goal examines the battle between two of Australia's brightest talents.

Massimo Luongo

It was nearly four years ago when Massimo Luongo burst on to the scene at 2015 Asian Cup winning the tournament's best player with two goals and four assists as Australia lifted the trophy on home soil.

But since then, the 26-year-old has failed to establish himself as a regular Socceroo starter - with Mooy's emergence in 2015 pushing him down the pecking order.

It's incredible to think that a player of Luongo's talent and ability has been to two World Cups, but failed to play a single minute.

The reason is because the last two Socceroos managers, Ange Postecoglou and Bert van Marwijk, deemed Luongo a square peg for a round hole in midfield.

Mooy and Luongo play a similar role in the team, and neither is particularly excellent at doing defensive duties, the former is a slightly better player - particularly because of his exquisite range of passing.

The question is can Luongo play a deeper midfield role, like the one vacated by Jedinak?

While there is no questioning his work rate, opposition players would definitely be more intimidated of Jedinak roaming around the defensive midfeld area than Luongo.

Unless Arnold decides to change the system to accomodate the QPR star, or asks Mooy to do more defensive duties, than Luongo is unlikely to start in the matches that matter.

Jackson Irvine

Is Jackson Irvine a more talented player than Luongo?

The answer is certainly not but you cannot deny the Hull City midfielder's extraordinary work rate and desire.

Van Marwijk saw this trait in Irvine before the World Cup and it was why the Dutchman deployed him in the three group matches off the bench.

Irvine stands at 189cm tall, and while he is usually deployed in an attacking role for his Championship club, he has the right physical traits, mindset and work rate to play in a defensive midfield role.

Since moving to England's second tier with Burton Albion and then transferring to Hull, Irvine has scored 16 goals in 98 appearances, while also getting two for the national team.

His desire to get into the penalty box from deeper areas and being a significant threat at set pieces resembles Jedinak's ability to get himself into goalscoring positions.

Aside from Mark Milligan, who is playing centre-half currently and is on the verge of retiring from the green and gold, there is a significant dearth of aggressive Australian midfielders coming through the ranks.

Jedinak's position is there for Irvine's taking and it looks like Luongo will be the one who misses out once again.