Since that night in Rome in 2009 where Manchester United lost to Barcelona 2-0 in the final of the UEFA Champions League, Michael Carrick has been the equivalent to marmite in the eyes of many fans. You either love him or hate him. After some really fine performances so far this season is this about to change?
Although admittedly I’ve always been a fan of Michael Carrick, his performances this season have been nothing short of brilliant. He has become more of an all round midfielder and is doing most things better than he ever has.
Last season Michael Carrick was used more defensively than previously. He limited the opportunities in which he got forward. This meant that in the absence of a real defensive midfielder, he adapted to the role and made it his own.
As you can see, the goals conceded per game has drastically decreased. Incidentally, Manchester United virtually ceased to concede when he was reintroduced to the Premier League team. Manchester United, so far this season, have only conceded 1 goal from open play whilst Michael Carrick has been on the pitch in a Premier League game.
Michael Carrick has been playing in a deeper role in recent ties as I said previously. This effectively began in the 2010/11 season and that season his defensive stats were not too dis-similar to the seasons previous as he took up a more deeper lying passing role however this season he has really revelled in the role he has been given where he seems to be still playing that deeper role but with a bit more freedom to get forward. He has been intercepting once every 18.9 minutes, a drastic improveent on the seasons previously as well as tackling at a similarly improved rate too.
Some may easily point to his deficiency in the aerial statistic to find a flaw in the defence but I feel that Carrick is being much more intelligent with regards to aerial balls. Although it isn’t something that can be measured in a statistic, instead of competing for every aerial ball, it is noticeable to see that Carrick seems to allow the opposing midfielders to win the aerial ball to instead gain possession from the much more winnable second ball. Michael Carrick has most definitely improved the defensive aspects of his game over the years, even though it was something he was already doing very well.
As I have said previously, Michael Carrick does operate in a deeper role than most and his positioning last season could’ve been likened to that of Sergio Busquets however having been allowed the greater freedom, perhaps due to the fact he’s playing alongside centre back Phil Jones more often than not, Michael Carrick has become an effective attacking outlet too.
The main criticism of Michael Carrick is his lack of assists. Last season he finished with 0 to his name, though it’s quite apparant that this is not the job of a defensive midfielder. This season Michael Carrick is still on 0 assists however he has been creating chances at a much better rate so it would not surprise me if eventually one of them found the back of the net to record his first assist for a very long time.
Michael Carrick however is the man who assists the assister. In his current role his primary objective is to win the ball and set up the next team attack, a job he does very well.
Michael Carrick still does not shoot too often. In fact, so far this season he has only managed two shots, both of which came in his last game vs QPR where he also found the back of the net. By electing to pass instead of shoot he does often keep the pressure on the opposing player which I believe is much more useful to the team than shooting from distance.
In his earlier years, Michael Carrick was a much more balanced midfielder. It’s quite apparant that in 2010/11 he became much more defensive, by orders of the management presumably. This season however, Michael Carrick has refound the balance in his play and with the experience of the 2010/11 season, he is also doing better with regards to the defensive side of the game. All in all, Michael Carrick has become a much more complete player this season.