Michael Carrick - a realistic option at centre-back for England?
When it was first mooted by Roy Hodgson it was at first more or less ignored and those who heard it, will not have had the most welcoming of receptions to the idea. However, if you look beyond the face-value, could Michael Carrick actually be a realistic option in central-defence as England adapts to life after John Terry?
Firstly, let us discount Carrick’s displays in the position for Manchester United. While not the complete disaster that has been reported, Carrick did at times struggle, particularly against the aerial might of Everton’s Marouane Fellaini for example earlier this season.
However, without delving into cliche, the style of defending needed in the Premier League is vastly different to that at international level. Yes of course, a Fellaini still exists on the international stage but the way he is used by Belgium contrasts with the way Everton, as attractive as they have been this season, use his presence. Similarly, an Andy Carroll in theory is not quite as commanding for England as he is at a Sam Allardyce-managed West Ham.
So thus, the first charge levelled against Carrick, that of his physical or aerial deficiencies loses relevance. Of course at times, he may struggle with the aerial ball but one would hope Hodgson would pair Carrick with an aerial presence, such as a Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill.
Additionally, how many times do we sit down to watch England games only to see opponents simply sit deep, allowing their defence to have the ball, where their passing ability and use of the ball simply fails to penetrate the mass ranks ahead of them. What follows is then usually in England’s case, the lump forward to the frontman.
That was particularly the problem in Euro 2012 when Hodgson’s men were defeated by Italy. The Italians sensed the England backline’s inadequacies on the ball and thus John Terry and Joleon Lescott were often allowed time and space, only for them to struggle and look long, gifting possession away time and time again.
With Carrick at the back, England would have a player able to bring the ball out, pass it progressively with pace and purpose and importantly, will rarely look long if the opportune ball does not present itself. Although the 31-year-old has been much maligned at times in his career, no one has ever doubted Carrick’s composure on the ball and ability to retain possession. With England this ability could prove invaluable.
Indeed, it has been a tactic employed most notably by Germany in the past when their midfield lacked “technical” expertise, with Lothar Matthaus, Franz Beckbenbauer and Matthias Sammer all passing midfielders who dictated matches from the back.
Clearly, employing Carrick in defence is hardly going to make England favourites to win the World Cup but on the international stage, particularly in matches where England are overwhelming favourites to win, his abilities could well provide a superb option from a slightly deeper role.
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