Carroll's Euro call highlights lack of options

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Steven Gerrard's call for Andy Carroll to be called up to the England squad is a sad reflection on the state of top flight English football.

For a nation with pretensions of matching the world's best, even considering a striker with only four goals in 33 league appearances is remarkable. Would Spain, Germany, or Holland, teams we hope to at least match and perhaps even better this summer, even entertain the notion of an Andy Carroll in their squad?

Germany have Mario Gomez, with 26 goals in 33 league appearances. Holland have Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, with 29 and 30 league goals respectively. Spain have 17-goal Fernando Llorente and host the world's most creative attacking midfielders. Only four English strikers have more than 11 league goals this season and one of them is banned for two-thirds of the group games.

Pressure and expectation have weighed heavily upon Carroll this season. His inflated transfer fee, combined with a anaemic Liverpool midfield, has inhibited his first season away from Tyneside.

There is no doubt that he remains a talented, if limited player. After one or two successful seasons at Anfield - and success for a £35m striker is at least 20 goals a season - he should be considered for an England place. But four goals is not enough.

However, his captain thinks otherwise. After defeat in the FA Cup to Chelsea, Gerrard said: "He [Carroll] changed the way we played. We were a lot better with him in the team, we were a lot more direct, we created more, we were more of a threat."

Aside from the painful reference to a "more direct" style of play - England have surely tried this philosophy - Gerrard went on to back his colleague for an England berth.

"I think his form the last two or three months has been fantastic and he is certainly pushing for a place back in the England squad in my opinion," said Gerrard.

Carroll's form has certainly picked up in the last few weeks. The striker scored late winners against Blackburn and Everton and has three goals in his last five appearances. Somewhat worryingly that's the same amount of goals as Carroll scored in his previous 29 appearances before that and he recently spearheaded the attack in Liverpool's dire 1-0 home defeats to West Brom and Fulham.

But aside from Carroll, what are the alternatives for England? With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two group games, new England boss Roy Hodgson will be forced to scrape the barrel in his search for goals this summer.

Darren Bent is yet to prove himself at international level but is still looking for his first proper opportunity at a major tournament. He is the natural finisher England lack but his fitness may prevent Hodgson from dialling his number this time around.

That leaves Jermaine Defoe, another talented poacher but one who has barely featured for Spurs all season. Sitting on the bench may be a good way to stave off fatigue and ensure freshness come competition time but it's no way to find form.

If Hodgson really wracks his brains he might remember his old Fulham favourite Bobby Zamora, or Gabriel Agbonlahor, or even Peter Crouch. Each has featured in recent squads, with only Crouch finding any success.

The former-Spurs frontman moved to Stoke for regular first-team football, with surely one eye on making the England squad this summer. Such desire should not be overlooked and Crouch has 10 Premier League goals this season.

Elsewhere, Daniel Sturridge enjoyed a bright start to his Chelsea career but has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge. Nevertheless, 11 goals from a right-sided position this season should ensure him a spot on the plane even if his minutes have reduced in recent months. Manchester United's Danny Welbeck has also probably done enough to earn a spot but with only nine league goals in 30 appearances he is hardly prolific.

For those fond of an outside bet, listen carefully and you may be able to hear some people championing the inclusion of Danny Graham or Grant Holt. While both have enjoyed commendable first seasons in the Premier League, their presence is unlikely to trouble France, let alone Ukraine and Sweden in the group stages.

Even so, each is more deserving of a call-up than Carroll. That is not a slight against the Liverpool striker, it is simply a reflection of his performances this campaign. A couple of goals in Wembley cup matches is too little, too late.

England's options make painful reading. Hodgson may have planned all along to use a 4-2-3-1 formation this summer, but a lack of forward alternatives may necessitate its implementation. Capello enjoyed success in the qualifiers with counter-attacking tactics and Hodgson has operated with one up front before, but Carroll would not fit into this style of fast, counter-attacking football.

England's best bet currently looks to be Danny Welbeck. He's played regularly for a title-chasing club and has performed well across the season. Darren Bent - if fit - and Daniel Sturridge should also feature, along with Wayne Rooney.

And if we insist on taking a target man, for a "plan B", that man surely has to be Crouch. Carroll has shown signs of improvement. But even with an acute shortage of high quality forwards, England should resist the temptation to pick the Anfield forward.

Statistics do not always tell the full story but Carroll cannot escape his goal record. England cannot afford to take a forward unproven at international level, short of goals and short of minutes to the Euros.

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