Carrick offers Eriksson a solution to midfield crisis

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Liverpool 0
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The Independent Online

It was said with the broadest of smiles, which indicated that that was the last thing on his mind. It should also have barely crossed Sven Goran Eriksson's mind either. But the England coach was given food for thought here by the mature display of one player Jol certainly has no intention of shifting: Michael Carrick.

Eriksson cannot be accused of not recognising his talent either. After all, when he took over four years ago he handed Carrick an immediate debut, aged 19. Eriksson can also not be blamed for the fact that Carrick then endured two years of injury, stalling his career.

Carrick also had the task of convincing the then head coach of Spurs, Jacques Santini, that he was a player worthy of inclusion after his £2m move to White Hart Lane from West Ham. It was not until Jol took over that Carrick was given his head. Jol has been a cheerleader ever since.

"I can only repeat what I've told you," he said when asked of Carrick's performance against Liverpool, claiming: "He mastered the midfield. Maybe it is better to keep his feet on the ground."

That will never be a problem for Carrick, the most level-headed of players and one, in terms of talent and temperament, ideally suited to international football.

Doubts persist over his ball-winning - although Jol has the statistics to prove he was sixth-best in the league last season, relying on "nicks" rather than crashing tackles - and also his ability to impose himself against the best.

Against Liverpool he was in the deep-lying role in harness with one of four full debutants - "You need a bit of Dutch courage to do that," joked Jol - the £7m midfielder Jermaine Jenas, who he partnered on England's summer tour.

Ironically, Jenas was a player imposed upon Jol, who had to shuffle Edgar Davids across to the left. "I have to invent a system," said Jol, echoing Eriksson.

But Spurs were more convincing than England, and maybe Eriksson should consider shuffling Steven Gerrard back across to the left, albeit tucked in, with Ashley Cole getting forward more and Carrick holding. Either that or leave out Frank Lampard. And that won't happen.

It provided a fascinating sub-plot to an entertaining, committed and even contest. So even that the stats - shots on target, corners, possession - could not be split. Both sides had headed goals ruled out - one by Spurs' Grzegorz Rasiak, the other by Liverpool's Peter Crouch - because, bizarrely, the corners they came from swung out and back into play. Both also struck the crossbar - Rasiak, again, with a header and John Arne Riise with a thunderous volley.

Liverpool, who travel to play Real Betis in the Champions' League on Tuesday, their 11th competitive game of the season, drew encouragement.

"Our results last season on the road weren't very good, especially after internationals and European games," admitted Jamie Carragher, who once more impressed. "So a point is a decent result."

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, King, Gardner, Lee; Lennon (Brown, 82), Jenas, Carrick, Davids; Rasiak (Keane, 82), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Naybet, Reid.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Warnock (Alonso, 69); Luis Garcia, Hamann (Sissoko, 45), Gerrard, Riise; Cissé, Crouch (Traoré, 77). Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Josemi.

Referee: H Webb (Yorkshire).

Booked: Tottenham Davids; Liverpool Hyypia.

Man of the match: Carrick.

Attendance: 36,148.

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