FIFA World Cup

Why England Made a Mistake Taking Frank Lampard over Michael Carrick

England's Michael Carrick stands during the playing of the British national anthem before the start of an international soccer friendly against Brazil at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,  Sunday, June 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

Among the many stories coming out of England's World Cup squad in the past week or so has been news that Frank Lampard's Chelsea contract will not be renewed next season, leaving him a free agent.

At 35 years of age, it was hardly a surprise, yet it hasn't meant the announcement has been any easier for Chelsea fans or Lampard himself to process.

It brings down the curtain on what has been a glorious 13-year stay at Stamford Bridge—one that has seen him become the club's all-time goalscorer and win three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League among other achievements.

As he mulls over his future in club football while relaxing in England's Rio de Janeiro hotel, he can be thankful time hasn't been called on his international career, too.

Similar to his time with Chelsea, Lampard has been a great servant for his country. He has over 100 England caps to his name and with 29 goals is unrivalled by any other midfielder.

It makes for impressive reading, but much of his good work for England came during his prime. Now, considering the role he plays, it raises the question as to why Manchester United's Michael Carrick wasn't preferred as England's midfield backup at the World Cup.

Sure, Carrick doesn't come with the profile of Lampard, yet looking at his performances for a struggling United outfit last term, he will feel he did more than enough to justify his selection in Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad.

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick of England lead the warm up during a training session at St Georges Park on September 3, 2013 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The swashbuckling, box-to-box Lampard we salivated over throughout his career is gone. When given game time in Brazil, he will act as a midfield anchor to help start attacks and connect the midfield with the strikers.

It's not his natural position, but such are his talents that Lampard can perform it well. Only Carrick does it better.

As United huffed and puffed their way to seventh in the Premier League last season, Carrick was one of their best performers. Given how David Moyes' team performed, some would argue that this was not difficult to achieve, yet Carrick was a rare star in an otherwise forgettable campaign.

Of his 29 appearances, Carrick enjoyed a pass accuracy of 88 per cent and proved pivotal in defensive midfield, winning 46 per cent of his tackles, while committing just 12 fouls:

Michael Carrick vs. Frank Lampard: Premier League 2013-14
CarrickLampard
Appearances2926
Pass success rate88%83%
Tackles won46%43%
Fouls committed1218
Headers won2110
Take ons (successful)86%58%
Average pass length18m20m
Squawka

The stats represent more than just numbers: They show a player capable of retaining possession, thus allowing his team to build attacks and nullify the threat from the opposition.

They are qualities that will be vital at the World Cup, notably when England line up against Italy in the humidity of Manaus on Saturday evening.

With teammates such as Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson ahead of him—three players he would have benefited playing alongside at Old Trafford in 2013-14—Carrick would prove invaluable.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Michael Carrick of Manchester United is pursued by Frank Lampard of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 6, 2011 in London, En
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In contrast, Lampard's stats do not compare. The ex-Chelsea man had an inferior pass accuracy (83 per cent), won less tackles (43 per cent) and committed more fouls (18) in his 26 Premier League outings for the Blues.

There's more, too.

Carrick was more dominant in the air and had an average passing range of 18 meters compared to Lampard's 20 meters, which supports the notion that he is better suited to a team looking to retain possession and control games, using short passes effectively.

That's not to suggest Carrick is a better player than Lampard—their personal achievements throughout their respective careers suggest otherwise—but for the role Lampard will be playing, his former West Ham United teammate is better for England.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

England have an abundance of attacking talent in midfield. Alongside the aforementioned Sterling and Henderson, Adam Lallana and a fit Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will give opponents plenty to consider.

It's in the defensive pivot where they require some added expertise—expertise the likes of Carrick would bring.

Hodgson and his coaching staff deserve credit for the squad they have selected. England appeared to be also-rans even before the World Cup started, but a squad mixed with youth and experience has given a realistic hope that Brazil 2014 will become much more than a wasted journey to South America.

It's exciting once more.

Should England progress from Group D they will need to be pragmatic at times, and with the likes of Carrick missing, they may well live to regret leaving him at home.

 

All stats courtesy of Squawka.com.

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