Case made for England dropping Gerrard for Montenegro clash
Michael Carrick was arguably England’s best player in the first half when facing Montenegro in World Cup qualifying previously and an argument can be made as to why he should start ahead of captain Steven Gerrard for the return at Wembley.
Montenegro had far greater success in the 1-1 draw in March when switching from a 4-4-2, where they were getting outnumbered in central midfield, to a formation that was somewhere between 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-4.
Therefore, they must surely opt for something similar at Wembley, with Stevan Jovetic potentially their most valuable player floating around behind the striker.
Keeping him quiet will increase Roy Hodgson’s chances of winning the game and Gerrard showed in England’s last fixture with Ukraine that he is not the ideal choice for a lone defensive midfield role.
More than once, attacking midfielder Roman Bezus found himself in plenty of space that Gerrard should have been monitoring, but was unable to make the right final decision.
Gerrard is not a true sitter and protector in front of the defence, as despite the fact he is not as box-to-box as he used to be in his younger days, he still prefers to play slightly higher.
At Liverpool, he has Lucas performing the duties of tracking runners and keeping space between defence and midfield to a minimum. For England, there is not this player.
Given Montenegro are liable to sit quite deep and attempt to find Jovetic quickly to launch counter attacks, the job of the deepest midfielder is important against Montenegro.
Carrick is the better option in this role and the problem in picking both he and Gerrard is that England need to beat Montenegro, which will not be made any easier by having two deep-positioned midfielders.
Jack Wilshere can put in a tackle and would arguably be a better choice from a slightly more advanced position, leaving the attacking central midfield spot available to Wayne Rooney.
Hodgson will probably start Gerrard deep again like he did against Ukraine, with Wilshere alongside him and Rooney just ahead, but this does not look the best strategy to nullifying Jovetic.
If this happens, 20/21 that Montenegro score over 0.5 goals looks fine value, especially as England have not kept three clean sheets in succession since 2007.
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