Manchester United’s midfield problems have been increasingly highlighted lately. Culminating in the club re-signing Paul Scholes as a result of the long-term fitness problems facing Darren Fletcher. One player who has shone for United however is Michael Carrick who over the years has sometimes fallen out of favour with Ferguson. This season however he has been more or less their top performer, although it is rarely recognized by the mainstream media or by Fabio Capello.
Previously it would be fair to state that Carrick can be too one-dimensional often shining in smaller matches but proving anonymous in the bigger games where his lack of mobility has at times let him down. As well as this his lack of physical presence and immobility make it more difficult to appreciate the subtle qualities to his game.
Carrick’s form so far
It is Carrick’s defensive statistics that make for surprising reading this season. Carrick completes. 3.9 tackles game, more than any other United regular. Only three players in the Premier League boast a better tacklers per game rate than Carrick which is impressive considering he is not renowned for his tackling ability. Another key example of Carrick’s defensive qualities is his 3.4 interceptions per game is more than any other player in the Premier League barring Stylian Petrov. Interceptions being an increasingly important aspect of the game both regards to defending and restarting attacks, especially in the international and European game. This is demonstrative of Carrick’s ability to read the game, and are the subtle qualities that are not easily noticed by fans.
His passing stats are also very good, as we’d expect, he has the most accurate pass completion out of Man United’s regular players with 89.9%. As well as this he has scored goals in recent games against QPR and Bolton which are further evidence in his improved game as he had not scored in two years prior to these. It is also his range of passing that is key, against Bolton for example he was supplying the attack with some sublime long passing, as well as with the more measured sideways passes that are essential to controlling the possession, and thus the pace of the game.
If he compare these statistics to his rivals it makes interesting reading. Parker has just more tackles per game with 4, Barry only has 2.1. That is somewhat surprising from Barry who is essentially an anchoring midfielder. You’d expect it to be higher, especially as Yaya Toure plays slightly further up the field.
With regards to interceptions, Barry has 2.5 per game and Parker enjoys 2.3 per game. These are of course key statistics to assess for a holding player, and the comparison reflects favourably on Carrick who as stated enjoys 3.4 interceptions per game. The ability to intercept must be a key consideration when picking centre-midfielders.
Offensively he offers more than both players as well. Only slightly better pass completion than Parker who enjoys 89.8% success. Barry’s passing is 87.2%, still good, but not as high as the other two midfielders.
Carrick has not featured for England since 2010 and appears completely out of the Capello’s plans. Having compared his form to Barry and Parker, two direct rivals to Carrick’s place, we must regard Carrick as a real contender for a spot in the squad. Of course Parkers statistics are very, very good, and an analysis of the three points to Barry being the weakest option.
The problem is that Parker has monopolized the holding role with Barry also being above him in the pecking order. With regards to the creative spots Lampard and Wilshire appear to be higher than Carrick, as Lampard offers more of a goal threat and Wilshire is slightly more forward thinking than the deeper lying Carrick. Capello has looked to use a three man midfield lately and even opted to play his club mate Jones in the midfield ahead of Carrick. Despite Carrick being a leading performer for his club. Even Jack Rodwell has appeared for England more recently than Carrick.
One would have to assume that Parker will be definitely be in Capello’s plans due to the regular games he’s had this year, as well as his fine form for his club. It is thus Barry who is arguably vulnerable, his form for City has been good, but not as good as Carrick’s and with Carrick’s fine range of passing, both long and short, he can offer more to England in an attacking sense. The increased influence on ball retention, and England’s well noted problem at retaining the ball, makes Carrick an attractive option in midfield.
Realistically we can assume that Parker and Barry will go, Barry seems to be in favour as he regularly gets picked despite an abysmal showing in South Africa. It is probably likely that Jones will also go due to his versatility as a midfielder, right back and centre back. Wilshire seems certain to go if he finds form when he is fit again which means we can assume Capello will take another two or three centre midfielders.
Will he go to the Euros?
If we assume that Capello will pick three other midfielders. This would mean that Lampard, Gerrard, Carrick, as well as Jack Rodwell are in contention. Think Football have already asserted that Steven Gerrard may not warrant a place in the squad (read link for reasons why). Frank Lampard has at times been overlooked by AVB, as well as Capello, but has scored an impressive 11 goals already for Chelsea this season, as well as having already racked up 90 caps his experience could be ensure him a place alone.
Rodwell is raw but may go due to his mobility and energy. If Capello picks three midfielders plus the aforementioned, Wilshire, Parker and Barry, as well as Jones as an option then Carrick surely will go. However if he opts for only two midfielders it would likely be Gerrard and Lampard ahead of Carrick in the pecking order. This may not be fair but the fact he has been out of the picture for so long strongly implies he is no longer in contention.
With his ability to keep the ball as well as the high number of interceptions he completes he could be a key member of the squad, even sitting alongside Parker, in a ball player, destroyer relationship. England’s upcoming friendly in February provides the perfect chance to gauge whether Capello still sees Carrick as a viable option. But with what Carrick offers both in terms of ball retention and defensive discipline leaving him at home could be a big error.
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