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Michael Carrick - The key to English hopes of reaching Brazil

A constant presence in the Manchester United midfield over the past few years, Michael Carrick has managed to accumulate only 26 caps for England. Of course, being around the time of England’s so called ‘Golden Generation’, Carrick could really never expect to play for the Three Lions. Manager after manager insisted upon using the 4-4-2 ,with Lampard and Gerrard in midfield. When someone like Paul Scholes, easily the best English midfielder of this generation, is shunted out wide left in favour of Lampard and Gerrard, Carrick would not have been surprised to be neglected by the national coach time after time. But now, having his best season in years, Carrick finally seems to have made a spot for himself in the England midfield. Especially with Jack Wilshere, Carrick will be vital for England in the middle of the park.

Roy Hodgson finally has moved away from the traditional 4-4-2 and adopted a 4-3-3 formation. It’s ironic that Hodgson, of all the English managers, has finally made this step. Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello were brought in for their tactical nous so that they could bring out the best from a highly talented group of players, whereas Roy Hodgson, an underestimated tactician, favours a rigid, disciplined 4-4-2, with two banks of four always sitting back. So, when Hodgson made the decision to call up Carrick to the national squad, it made sense as Carrick personifies the typical Roy Hodgson player. Disciplined, he tends to sit back rather than joining attacks, has excellent positional sense, is not a great tackler but his hassling of opposition players is unquestionable. And to top all this, you have his passing range. Although Steven Gerrard might be able to deliver “Hollywood” balls, i.e., 70 yard cross-field balls, Carrick is more consistent and accurate over 90 minutes. And this season, he has shown that even he can play the final telling ball.

In the age of double pivots (almost every top national team plays with one), England still haven’t played with a established duo in midfield. Xabi Alonso-Busquets, Schweinsteiger-Khedira, Mascherano-Gago, Paulinho-Ramires all are established double pivots for their respective sides. With Gerrard moving to a deeper role, Carrick is the only other quality defensive midfielder England currently have in their ranks (Please don’t mention Scott Parker and quality in the same sentence). Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick can form a formidable double pivot which will allow Gerrard to join attacks, which he couldn’t do when he played in a 4-4-2 at the Euros.

Michael Carrick is a player who makes those around him play, regardless of the fact that maybe he is not the player that shines the most individually.

It is more important to find players who can build a team rather than simply finding two very good players and putting them in the team even if they don’t play so well together.

I mentioned Carrick, but there’s Paul Scholes too – another player who maybe hasn’t had the career in the national team that he had at United. It’s not just about having lots of good players. Maybe you shouldn’t pick the best players but pick the ones that go together best. – Xabi Alonso

Who better than the Basque World Cup winning midfielder to talk about another deep lying playmaker. In England, it is always  the players who ‘catch the eye’ that are the heroes. They are the ones who are talked up in the media, get all the endorsements and finally end up playing for the team too. But like Alonso mentioned, finding the balance is important, especially in international football where midfield domination is vital. Every team needs their own Didier Deschamps, even if they have their own Zinedine Zidane. And for England, who better than Carrick to play that role. After all, he has silently kept moving the ball forward for Manchester United while Ronaldo, Rooney, and now Van Persie, grabbed the goals and the glory.

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