Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Carroll conundrum continues

England fans may come away happy with their nation’s 2-1 friendly win over Italy this week, but there are still tactical issues that Roy Hodgson must sort out before the start of World Cup 2014 qualifying.

One particular concern on Wednesday, noted by those who watch live football online at home, was England’s wing play, with the handful of crosses into Italy’s box either over-hit or misdirected. It throws into question the use of a target man upfront if he isn’t going to get the service he needs.

The England squad is littered with wingers, with Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Stuart Downing, James Milner and Aaron Lennon all vying for contention on the flanks over the last four years.

Yet despite this England struggled to use their width to their advantage on Wednesday night. Johnson and Milner failed to pepper the box with those crosses that generated such success at Euro 2012, while full-backs Leighton Baines and Kyle Walker also appeared conservative in their directness.

Admittedly this lack of service certainly didn’t hinder England in the second half, with nippy Jermain Defoe upfront on his own unable to match the areal ability of Italy centre-halves. It was the first half, with Andy Carroll leading the line, that England were found wanting.

Frank Lampard failed to find Carroll on more than one occasion, while Johnson and Ashley Young appeared more than happy to cut inside and distribute the ball sideways. This desire to retain the ball is commendable considering England’s usual inability to hold possession, but that tactic does not fit Carroll’s game.

If you play Carroll upfront on his own he must be given service by a direct and attentive midfield. England should have played two games last night, testing the Italian defence in the first half with crosses from the wings and leaving the tiki-taka stuff until after the break.

This may only have been a friendly and his live scores as England boss have been encouraging, but Roy must work out the best style for his team to play, and whether or not Carroll’s game can handle it.