Sunday began with plenty of optimism amongst Liverpool fans, match day was here, and Liverpool were to take on Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield, a game where Liverpool needed three points to guarantee fifth place and Europa League qualification. Following a string of impressive displays, and the news that Kenny Dalglish had finally been handed a permanent contract, Liverpool fans, myself included, had a right to be optimistic.
However, the day’s event didn’t unfold as many had expected. Liverpool were beaten two goals to nil, thanks to strikes from Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric. Referee, Howard Webb, also deserves a special mention.
Yes it was a disappointing result, but the mood amongst some supporters seemed to dramatically change from healthy optimism to unfair pessimism – all in the space of ninety minutes. It appeared to me that it was Andy Carroll taking the most flak.
It’s fair to say it won’t be Andy’s best performance in a red shirt, but in all honesty, no player will have fond memories of their performance on Sunday, and that includes the Tottenham players too. Second to that, let us not forget that Liverpool’s new number nine has spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines, since his arrival in January. Unfortunately for us and him, due to a thigh injury, Carroll was made to wait several months for his Liverpool debut, which finally came in the 3-1 victory over Manchester United. However, he was blighted yet again by jarring his knee against Arsenal, an injury that would set Carroll back several more weeks. It is crystal clear that Carroll is lacking sharpness, or ‘match fitness’ as they say, and that sharpness will only be recovered when Carroll is playing week in week out.
The big argument surrounding Andy Carroll, though, is the ‘price debate’. A lot of jibes have been made at the fee Liverpool paid for the young Geordie. Is Andy Carroll worth £35 million? At the moment, he probably isn’t. But the key word here is ‘probably’. I think a lot of people forget that ‘Big Andy’ is only 22-years of age; therefore he is far from the finished article. He is what I would call a ‘rough diamond’, a term often overused in football these days. Carroll is unpolished, rough round the edges, but there is obvious talent there. Carroll managed to score eleven goals in just nineteen appearances for Newcastle this season, an impressive ratio for any Premier League striker, not to mention for one of such a young age. Carroll’s performances this campaign have also earned him his first two senior England caps – his debut in a friendly with France, and his second against Ghana -where he also scored his first senior international goal, a thunderous left foot drive into the bottom corner.
Still not convinced? Okay, here is the maths lesson. John Henry suggested Liverpool wanted Andy Carroll plus £15million to replace Fernando Torres. In an interview with The Guardian, Henry stated:
“The fee for Torres was dependent on what Newcastle asked for Carroll. The negotiation for us was simply the difference in prices paid by Chelsea and to Newcastle. Those prices could have been £35million [from Chelsea for Torres] and £20million [to Newcastle for Carroll], 40 and 25 or 50 and 35. It was ultimately up to Newcastle how much this was all going to cost. They [Newcastle] made a hell of a deal. We felt the same way.”
With little time left in the January window, it was a good bit of business by the Liverpool negotiators, who were forced to act under very short notice. In hindsight, that bit of business looks even better, with Torres only scoring one goal in sixteen appearances for Chelsea. El Nino has not been missed.
The ‘pass-and-move’ football that Kenny Dalglish has brought back to Liverpool has been one of the most pleasing things to see in Liverpool’s recent revival. So how can Liverpool get the best out of Andy Carroll, whilst maintaining the fluid, attacking football seen of late?
I think a lot of fans fear the ‘route one, punt up the field’ tactic, but as King Kenny has said himself, Carroll is by no means just a target man.
One of Carroll’s best characteristics is his neat touch, a precious quality for a big man on the football pitch, not to mention he has a lethal left foot to go with it. Despite all that, it is his aerial, physical traits that will scare the majority of Premier League defences, and this is where Carroll can really do the damage. This is why Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli need to prioritise bringing in a couple of wingers this summer. At present, Liverpool lack any sort of wide player who can beat a man and then provide the ammunition for Andy Carroll to really start firing.
For the above reasons, I urge Liverpool fans to have patience. On Carroll’s arrival, King Kenny stated, “We signed Andy Carroll for five-and-a-half years, not for three weeks.” £35million was spent on potential, and Carroll has it in abundance.
Jack Wells (@jackwells7)