James Lawton: A night that cried out for the creative Carrick

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The Independent Football

That sense was beginning to drop over the formalities of victory when Andrei Shevchenko reminded Wembley that before his Chelsea misadventure he was the great swordsman of the European game.

It meant that John Terry was required to produce a winning captain's goal five minutes from the end. There was, though, in the flush of victory, a need for some cool reflection. England have quite a bit more serious work to do.

Before the Shevchenko eruption, there was the luxury of arguing a case for the refinement of a winning performance rather than a desperate attempt to repair some critical damage. You could reflect on a time you rapped off advice to an England manager as routinely as complaining about the weather.

Now, with the birth of what had continued to look suspiciously like a real team it seemed more appropriate to say something like: Signor Capello, Excellency, and with respect, do you think it might just be possible that last night's selection was not quite perfect?

It was eminently sound, of course, Capo, but might not a certain Michael Carrick have provided something of an extra dimension?

Was it just possible that he might have given a more consistent rhythm to an England effort that, especially when Wayne Rooney was on the ball, showed more than once a capacity to brush against the sublime?

Rooney also offered another kind of promise, a more hazardous one when he followed through with excessive conviction on Oleksandr Aliyev and fortunately escaped a booking.

Rooney was twice the author of cross-field passes to Aaron Lennon that brought his team within a touch of shattering Ukrainian resistance.

Once, Lennon reacted beautifully and a masterpiece of a move broke down only when its initiator blazed the returned centre over. On the second occasion he miscued the ball to a Ukrainian defender and soon enough was paying the price, the arrival of David Beckham for his 110th cap.

With England a goal ahead and beginning to savour the possibility of a fifth straight qualifying victory, Capello was no doubt looking for a little more ball control.

But there was surely another need. It was to build on the advantage of Peter Crouch's strike after half an hour – and wipe out the possibility of the kind of strike which the old master Shevchenko had unleashed.

Everything pointed to the possibility of such momentum – except for a truly creative force in the middle of the field, the kind which Carrick has exerted so impressively for Manchester United this season. So who would give way for a player of such creative force who can also read points of attack with increasing acumen?

It may sound like a harsh verdict on the warrior efforts of Gareth Barry, but it was in the direction of the Villa man that you looked most often when England's ability to open up the game with necessary force was most in question. Barry, certainly, is an impressive element in the England squad; he represents some of the key virtues which Capello came to instate, energy and balance and unflagging commitment, but also there is a need for a more persuasive aggressive touch, with Steven Gerrard released to run at the defences and Frank Lampard reverting to a less pronounced attacking mode.

In the end, the debate was put into less pressing perspective by the Terry goal, and the sense that England had shown once again that they are a team of more than fleeting resolution. However, it will return soon enough when Capello addresses how England perform when they reach the big stage in South Africa.

This win makes that a near certainty, but there is still room for considerably more conviction when they get on the ball, something that is not so much about good intentions as a certain natural talent. The kind that is, with respect, owned by Michael Carrick.

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