The complete exclusion of Manchester United’s Michael Carrick from Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad is the biggest oversight of both the England manager and the media coverage. The Sky Sports News glare focuses on Ferdinand’s snub, yet Carrick has just as much justification to feel aggrieved at missing out. Keeping the ball has too often been the problem for English sides at major international tournaments and no English player keeps the ball better than Michael Carrick. Carrick possess an average of 73.1 passes per game for Manchester United, a rate higher than all other English players, and the third highest rate in the entire Premier League.
This time last summer, The FA’s director of technical development, Trevor Brooking claimed that England need more players in the mould of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. Brooking claimed that; “You need ten outfield players comfortable in possession. We don’t keep the ball as well as countries like Spain.” England are undoubtedly lacking in possession savvy yet if there is one player who comes close to a Xavi model it is Michael Carrick. Unlike Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, Carrick does not catch the limelight with spectacular last minute winners. There will be little popular uproar at his exclusion, yet his ability to keep the ball in midfield is arguably more valuable to England than the swashbuckling skills of Super Frank or Stevie G.
England are undoubtedly lacking in possession savvy yet if there is one player who comes close to a Xavi model it is Michael Carrick
Someone who does not overlook the talents offered by Carrick is Sir Alex Ferguson. It’s not easy to continually impress one of the most experienced and successful managers in the game yet Carrick has once again this season become a mainstay in a Man United’s midfield. This is a midfield that has averaged the highest possession rate in the league with 57.7 percent. As Manchester United almost pipped Man City to the title Carrick’s passing was essential to their charge. It is well documented that Hodgson favours a 4-4-2 formation. If this is the case, Hodgson may well see Scott Parker as a more defensively-sound partner to Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard who will undoubtedly want to get forward. Yet while Parker’s tackling and interception rates are better than Carrick’s, Carrick is surprisingly close to the Tottenham man. Carrick makes an average of 3 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per match, putting him in the top ten premiership midfielders on defensive stats. Parker is only marginally better (with 3.7 tackles and 3.1 interceptions) on this front but is far behind on passing with an average of just 59.3 passes per game as opposed to Carrick’s 73.1
While Parker’s tackling and interception rates do better Carrick’s, Carrick is surprisingly close to the Tottenham man
Carrick could therefore just as easily free up a Gerrard or Lampard as Parker does and may well be able to provide a creative player with more of the ball than Parker can. With Carrick breaking up the opposition play and more often than not finding teammates with his first pass, his common midfield partner in the second half of the season Paul Scholes was able to express himself more creatively. With Scholes able to probe opposition defences, United, until the last month of the season, thrived. It is said that Manchester United will undergo wholesale changes to their centre-midfield next season with Carrick predicted to be cut. Yet this has been claimed a number of times before and Carrick continues to work his way back into Sir Alex’s thinking.
Hodgson could also argue that Carrick has previously failed when tested for England. It is true that Carrick has rarely set the world alight, it is misguided to say he has failed. Hodgson is not the first England manager to underuse Carrick’s talents. In 2010, as Gareth Barry was hopelessly overrun by Germany’s midfield, Carrick did not even make it onto the pitch. Carrick’s most extended run in the side came under Steve McClaren and perhaps he is suffering from the manager’s low reputation. Yet Carrick has rarely failed for England and it should be noted that in one of their most impressive friendly performances in recent times, the 2-1 victory over Germany in Berlin, Carrick was named by both BBC and ESPN as the man of the match.
If Trevor Brooking and the FA wanted to develop a footballing philosophy of possession based football ball akin to Spain then their first move should have been to appoint a manager who would have actually selected their best player in this mould. Your annoying, misinformed friends on Facebook are most probably ruing Ferdinand’s “appalling” rejection or Downing’s “unbelievable” selection. Yet it is the lack of Michael Carrick in this England squad that could ultimately cost Hodgson.
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