Arsene Wenger has certainly raised some eyebrows in some of his pre-match talk ahead of the tie with Manchester United on Sunday with Robin Van Persie once again an integral part of the conversation.
But it was Michael Carrick that really stole the headlines after the Frenchman suggested the England international should be the PFA Player of the Year this season.
In his words he actually said:
“I would choose Carrick, as Robin had it last season - give it to somebody different. He is a quality passer. He could play in Barcelona. He would be perfectly suited to their game. He has a good vision and an intelligent player and it is for what he has achieved in his whole career as well. It is this year or never for him - he is 32 years old and after they go down. I think Carrick is an under-rated player in England - sometimes not only should the goal-scorer be rewarded but the real players in the heart of the game. Carrick, for me, deserves it.’’
I completely agree that Carrick has been a thoroughly under-appreciated player in the Premier League for many a year now but could he really play for Barcelona?
Now we all know Barcelona are obviously now rubbish (sense the sarcasm) after their 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Bayern Munich but they are still top of La Liga and in the Champions League semi-final so let’s say for arguments sake that they have dominated European football this century shall we?
Could Carrick get in their team?
Well the easiest way to discover that is to compare him to Barca’s equivalent Sergio Busquets and see how he comes out; which is when it becomes clear that Wenger was right. Michael Carrick could easily slot into the Barcelona first-team.
The pair have great passing accuracy although Busquets (92.2%) has the edge on Carrick (88.4%) but these are rarely key passes or through balls like Carrick’s; whose ability and desire to play the ball forward rather than backward or sideways could even give him the edge on Busquets.
Busquets is better in the air but the pair are practically even in terms of successful tackles but Carrick edges ahead again with his better interception rate and clearances. Carrick also commits less fouls than his Catalan rival.
Neither would count goalscoring as a key skill although Carrick again has the edge while he also has more assists and when the passing game fails Carrick is far better at finding an accurate long ball than the Spanish international.
While Busquets dominated him in the dribbling aptitude there is little doubt looking at the stats that Michael Carrick could do as good a job as Busquets at Barca.
Meaning Wenger is right; Michael Carrick is really good enough for Barcelona.
At least one Englishman is.
What did you make of Wenger’s comments?
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
image: © HowardLake