Welcome to the Virgin Media Midweek Kick-off! After Andy Carroll’s explosive return from injury, we ask football writers Matt Blake and Sam Diss if the West Ham striker should cross the Channel to France this June.
Yup! He’s just what England needs
“Carroll is devilishly effective if you play to his strengths” – Sam Diss Commissioning Editor of Mundial Magazine
He’s the ultimate Plan B
It’s the letter that’s always surrounded the 27-year-old and he thrives on it. When the game is in its dying embers and you need something to throw in the fire, leave the centre-halves where they belong and fire up Carroll. While his all-round play can leave something to be desired, he is devilishly effective if you play to his strengths.
He’s finally back to full fitness
While the Man United replay didn’t show him at his best, his hat-trick against Arsenal was – for his opponents – quite terrifying (and don't forget the penalty he put away so calmly against Leicester on Sunday). There’s nothing quite like seeing a hungry, finally-fit Andy Carroll galloping at defenders scrambling to clear their lines or seeing him fly through the air at the ball like someone put him on a catapult. His purple patches of goal scoring form are only so rare because his good health is even rarer.
He’s got a mean streak we all love
You know how we all love Dele Alli but we love him EVEN MORE when he goes a bit nasty and rakes his studs down an unsuspecting Fiorentina player or whatever? Andy Carroll has that too – only it’s not niggly fouls or the odd overpowered 50-50 challenge, it’s more like his entire body is a weapon and he’s only let outside to play with it a few times a month.
Let’s not forget he’s played for England before
When he played at Euro 2012 he was a rare, reckless bright spot, playing with the abandon and excitement that was totally at odds with that year’s dour squad and was rewarded with a goal against Sweden. He’s only played for England nine times and scored twice (one more than David Nugent and four less than Darius Vassell) but people talk like throwing Andy Carroll into the Euro squad would be like asking a grizzly bear to juggle. He's been to the big time before.
How do you play against him?
Andy Carroll described himself recently as “unplayable” and, well, sometimes it’s pretty tough to argue. The striker is chaos. He’s a throwback to a bygone era of black-and-white televisions, flat caps, and bread for dinner. The last remnants of Good Old Fashioned Centre-Forward Play have lingered in the last half a decade but nobody has been the embodiment of it quite like the West Ham striker. How can you not unleash that on the world? Cultured defenders, with their propensity for rumination and lateral thinking, aren’t trained to mark a 6ft 3 Geordie with hair like the rogue prince of an underwater kingdom, who dances on tables and throws his head at every ball like he’s a builder trying to sledgehammer a non-loadbearing wall. Let's capitalise on it.
Nope, he's too blunt
“If football were a game of Cluedo, Carroll would be the lead piping – nobody chooses the lead piping first” – Matt Blake, sports writer, Virgin Media
England shouldn’t need a Plan B
The most fashionable argument for sending Carroll to France is that he offers Roy Hodgson a Plan B. He’s the guy you bring on when Plan A fails; the donut tyre you keep in the boot for when one of your good ones blows. It won’t get you home, but should limp you to the nearest garage. However, isn’t it smarter to thoroughly check your tyres before a big trip, rather than risk a blow out on the M1? By summer, Hodgson will have spent months building his squad around a style of football that he thinks could win the tournament. He should believe in himself and stick to his guns, not ditch them for a hammer at the first sight of blood.
His legs are made of glass
Since joining West Ham in 2012, Carroll has been injured near-constantly, including bouts out for crocked knees, a foot, a heel, a hamstring and an ankle. With such delicate legs, he’s just too risky. There will be injuries at Euro 2016 and the last thing Hodgson needs is to run out of replacements when Wayne Rooney’s ancient 30-year-old legs finally judder to a halt mid-group stage.
He’s a fouler
Carroll’s not a dirty player, but he doesn’t half like a full-body lunge tackle. And while you have to admire his commitment to the challenge, it’s a problem. Example: in just 158 minutes at Euro 2012, he committed eight fouls, while the rest of England’s strike force made nine between them all tournament. And broadly, he has the highest fouls-per-match ratio of all England’s hopefuls, averaging 1.4 offences a game. With England’s new focus on youthful pace and pinball passing, Carroll will slow them down. Numbers don’t lie.
Look at the competition
The simple – yet most important – fact is this: there are better players available to Roy Hodgson than Andy Carroll. Rooney is captain, Kane is the best striker in England and – as it stands – Vardy’s having the season of his life. So is Carroll a better choice than Welbeck, Walcott or Sturridge? I don’t think he has the defensive capabilities of Welbeck, or the on-off-the-bench pace of Walcott, and Sturridge simply has a better eye for goal.
He’s a one-trick pony
If football were a game of Cluedo, Carroll would be the lead piping – nobody chooses that first. No, you always start with the revolver, then the dagger, because they’re cooler. It’s the same in football: the foot-for-a-head “target man” is out of fashion. Now, strikers have to go on silky runs, and charge at defenders and latch onto looping, over-the-top passes. Carroll doesn’t do that. He’s less a fox in the box than a rampaging warhorse. True, if you run a pony at a ball enough times he’s bound to score eventually. But will it be enough to drag England through Euro 2016? It’s a neigh from me – he doesn’t cut the Colonel Mustard.
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