In the summer, Michael Carrick wasn’t called up to the Euro 2012 squad because he had told the FA if he wasn’t going to play, there was no point in him going. Even with Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry ruled out through injury, Roy Hodgson opted against asking Carrick to play, and instead went to the tournament with Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker and Jordan Henderson as his midfield options.
Hodgson also later revealed that unlike all the previous England managers, he hadn’t asked Paul Scholes to come out of retirement.
It was a strange decision on Hodgson’s part when you consider just how important Carrick and Scholes had been for United last season. For example, in 19 of the 24 league games Carrick played in midfield last season, he completed more passes than any player on the pitch. His passing completion over the course of the season was over 90%, which was higher than Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Henderson, (Modric, Mata, Silva, Meireles), and this applied to final 1/3 passes too. When you compare all the English midfielders in Hodgson’s squad, in terms of their passing, interceptions, tackles, key passes and touches, Carrick came out on top. Read Carrick’s 2011/2012 stats in full.
Then when you look at Scholes’ contribution in the half season he played, even Carrick is blown out of the water. Read Scholes’ 2011/2012 stats in full.
Of course stats aren’t the be all and end all when deciding who the best players are and I’m not suggesting that a manager should pick a squad entirely on the basis of their stats, (particularly not a manager like Hodgson, who bizarrely claimed: “I don’t regard statistics, especially possession statistics, as being particularly important.”) but Manchester United finished on the same points as the champions last season and Carrick and Scholes had a big say in that. In contrast, Parker (4th, 20 points behind City/United), Lampard (6th, 25 points behind City/United), Gerrard/Henderson (8th, 37 points behind City/United) hardly set the world alight with their club form. Stats can’t be used as conclusive proof as to which player is better but they certainly help give some indication, particularly when a player is superior statistically across the board, in terms of the attributes available.
Regardless, it’s done and dusted now and from our perspective, it’s far better that our players have a summer off. However, you can’t help but feel aggrieved on their behalf, knowing that they were deserving of the chance to represent their country in a major tournament.
The big news for England this week though was Hodgson’s continued stupidity in mouthing off to random people on the tube about Rio Ferdinand’s England career.
A shame-faced Hodgson apologised for his embarrassingly unprofessional behaviour, and said: “This is one of the hazards I suppose of travelling on Tube trains and then speaking to people who ask me questions rather than sitting there tight-lipped refusing to ever open my mouth. It’s so difficult now, everybody’s waiting to catch you out and send pictures off to newspapers to cause problems for people. I’ve paid for it. I shall learn in future, and maybe this will be a lesson for all those people who see me on the Tube. Please don’t be too offended if I refuse to answer any questions you ask me.”
There is no hazard in travelling on the Tube if you simply refuse to answer inappropriate questions. It’s not rocket science. It’s refreshing for managers and players and engage in conversations with the fans, but I wouldn’t expect Rooney to hop on the met and talk about any issues he has behind the scenes with Ferguson. It’s not difficult to work out what should and shouldn’t be discussed.
Still, whilst Hodgson initially claimed that Rio was left out of the squad for “football reasons”, despite the fact he played 38 games last season for a team with the 2nd best defence in the country, he is now arguing that Rio is “too old” to be selected. Honesty is obviously a difficult concept for Hodgson, but after his dreadful handling of the John Terry situation, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what his problem with Rio is. Maybe Rio’s age would be relevant if Hodgson hadn’t picked a player who’s just one year younger than Rio to be his captain, and a player who is older to be his vice captain.
So Rio misses out on another squad and if what Hodgson blabbed to fans on the Tube is anything to go by, he won’t be getting another opportunity. Following his poor performance against Spurs, some people have backed Hodgson’s decision. After all, most defenders can keep up with Bale, right? Hmmm. Regardless, Rio has been great for United this season, the Spurs game aside, and has done a great job for our defence when you consider Vidic had been playing whilst needing surgery, Evra has been awful and Ferguson changes the goalie every week.
Don’t just take my word for it though.
When it comes to 50-50s on the ground, 50-50s in the air, tackling success and interceptions, Ferdinand is superior to all the players who have been picked ahead of him. That’s not bad for someone who is “too old”.
It’s not just his defensive work though, but his contribution to the game as a whole, with him keeping possession for his team better than any of the other defenders. But as Hodgson said after England’s defeat after Italy, who cares about possession statistics? Why would a manager concern themselves with picking players who keep the ball for their team instead of giving it away, eh?
Still, whilst from an England perspective we can see that Hodgson is wrongly keeping Rio out of his squad, just as he did Carrick (and Scholes), from our perspective, the one that really matters, it is great. Not only do we have players in great form, we have players who are better rested thanks to the International absence. It is obvious that Rio doesn’t really want to give up on his England career and it’s a shame for him that it’s being cut short, but for us, it’s definitely a positive thing. Last season he was one of the few United players who didn’t suffer with injuries, but he’s got a dodgy back and it won’t do him any harm having the International break to put his feet up.
“Rio could do the job for England, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t see why he should,” Ferguson said this week. “He should concentrate on his career here, that’s what I’d prefer.”
Harry Redknapp has also lept the defence of Rio, but agrees with the manager when it comes to Rio’s International career.
“He has been called slow. Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “Rio could still take most players over 20 yards but in Gareth Bale he was up against the Usain Bolt of English football. But at this time of his life, does Rio really need trips with England? I don’t think he needs all that aggro any more. He still has a couple of years left in him at the very top level — maybe more if he is not playing for England. And if he’s not wanted then he shouldn’t waste his time even thinking about England. Concentrate on playing for your club. Focus on that and he probably won’t miss England.”
The FA have messed Rio about too many times but for some reason he just seems to take it. They gave him the captaincy then took it away without any explanation, they banned him for 8 months even though they conceded he hadn’t used any illegal substances, he lost out on a Euro 2012 place because Terry racially abused his brother, and now the England manager is casually writing off his International future to randoms on the Tube. Fuck that Rio, you’re better off out of it, but now is the time to retire gracefully and let inferior players fight it out for an England spot.
Takes taken from English Premier League Index