So, it seems that Liverpool's Andy Carroll is gearing up for a re-call to England’s starting eleven for their match against Sweden tonight. England’s appearance will once again be moulded on Roy Hodgson’s meticulous planning, yet this decision is not a particularly complex one. 7 of the last 8 goals that Sweden have conceded have come from headers. This simple statistic reveals to any reasonable observer just why Carroll will be selected; Sweden have a clear weakness that can be exploited by Carroll’s clear strength. As an aging Andriy Shevchenko eagerly demonstrated on Monday night, Sweden’s defence is almost incapacitated when it comes to direct crosses and presence in the box; a subtle approach was not required for the hosts to take all three points.
Surely then Carroll’s inclusion is an obvious decision, one universally accepted by commentators and fans? Not so. Reading many reports of the news, one could easily be fooled into thinking that Hodgson had ordered Joe Hart not to wear gloves, was planning a five-man front line and was even contemplating telling his players to just pick up the thing and run with it to the line. Hodgson’s decision has already been mocked and questioned as a return to the dark ages. It still appears that any player over 6ft, incapable of a million kick-ups and not Spanish is treated with suspicion. Tiki taka = good, scoring a goal with your head = bad.
In an effort to be “sophisticated” the popular presses have instead remained infuriatingly simple.
In The Guardian, for example, Richard Williams used the decision to include Carroll as an opportunity to once again question Roy Hodgson’s position as England manager. Apparently, Hodgson’s belief that looking to score headers is enough to condemn him as prehistoric, of a bygone age that even his Scandinavian apprentices have moved on from. Williams implies that Hodgson’s approach “belongs to the past.” What aspect of Hodgson’s approach exactly? His decision to play an in-form striker against a vulnerable defence? His lowering of ghastly inflated expectations? His implementation of a tactical discipline that has been sorely missing from recent England sides? Or perhaps it is his reactive tactics, tactics that have recently been employed by Champions League winners Chelsea, Europa League winners Atletico Madrid, Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund and, of course, by Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. Of course, this is never really explained, it seems if you’re not playing false-nines and dominating possession, you’re an antiquated relic of a bygone age.
In an effort to be “sophisticated” the popular presses have instead remained infuriatingly simple. Andy Carroll himself may be a divisive character; he is both a £35 million pound flop and one of England’s brightest attacking prospects, a player of great potential already capable of upsetting any defence. Yet these are arguments for another time. Regardless of your opinion of the player, however, there are clear facts ahead of tonight’s game with Sweden that cannot be ignored. If Sweden concede most of their goals to headers, there is only one candidate in England’s squad to punish them tonight. Even Carroll’s most ardent critics could not deny that he has continually threatened defences with his strength, height and sheer brutishness. So he can’t pick out a beautiful through ball? Leave that to Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Steven Gerrard. Carroll provides England with a targetable goal threat they often lacked in their game against France. It might not be pretty, but neither is having one point in Group D with one game to go.
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