Charged with taking English football back to the dark ages Roy Hodgson now faces the biggest two games of his managerial career and is 7/20 to lead England out of Group H.
To ensure a repeat of the vitriol he received after the 0-0 draw with Ukraine doesn’t reoccur, and to guarantee a better passing display, Hodgson must select Michael Carrick for both matches and relegate Jack Wilshere to the bench.
Carrick has made an average of 83.3 passes per game this season.
There was a distinct feeling of frustration after the Ukraine stalemate that England lost the ball more often than Britain’s Got Talent sensation Mr Zip lost his phone and keys.
If Hodgson wants to remedy that problem then Carrick is the only solution. The midfielder has been in the top three in the league for the average number of passes he makes a game for two consecutive seasons and leads the way so far this term.
Furthermore, Carrick completes those passes at an exceptionally high rate, never dropping below 77 per cent in that time.
No Premier League player has made more than Carrick’s 4.4 interceptions per game.
Playing Carrick also frees skipper Steven Gerrard and Chelsea late-arriver Frank Lampard, preferred over Wilshere in the lineup because of his superior goal threat, to concentrate on supporting attacks.
Carrick rarely strays far from the apex of the centre circle and has added intelligent defensive abilities to his natural passing range, making an average of 4.4 interceptions per game in the Premier League – a division best.
He also successfully makes at least two tackles per game while chipping in with 2.6 clearances per outing. Conversely Wilshere falls short of making even one successful tackle, interception or clearance per game.
Constantly fouled Wilshere is more likely to lose his rag.
Put bluntly, Wilshere gets kicked a lot. It’s a problem that the most talented players in the world have to deal with, and Wilshere currently gets fouled 2.4 times a game, the tenth most in the English top flight.
Montenegro showed they are not above rattling a player both physically and mentally when Wayne Rooney saw red against them before Euro 2012 and Wilshere could well be the next player in their crosshairs for that strategy.