Is Liverpool’s Andy Carroll big potential or a big mistake?
The second part of this article was first featured on Football Speak – if you enjoy it please go there and “Rate it”.
Here at We Heart Football we have never been described as completely impartial. More likely we are biased, opinionated and some might say at times blinkered. This is not about to change, but in order to offer a balanced view Raffael Fernandes and Tom Gaunt will be giving two different perspectives on one, possibly misunderstood, player. Andy Carroll.
Andy Carroll – A bit of perspective please
Little over 12 months ago, a young centre forward from Gateshead walked off the pitch at St. James’ Park clutching the match ball with a spring in his stride, and a smile as wide as the Tyne. Newcastle had just demolished Aston Villa 6-0 and the youngster had raped, pillaged and plundered his way to a devastating hattrick on his first home outing of the season, wearing the number 9 shirt made famous by a long line of Geordie legends. Andy Carroll had announced his arrival in the Premiership, the latest ‘local boy done good’.
Roll the clock forward a year and Carroll wears the look of a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. After all a lot has happened since then.
Carroll went on to score a further 8 times in the 19 league games that season, and was consequently involved in one of the most sensational transfers ever to have taken place in World football – let alone English football. Ironically it was the highly controversial transfer of another star striker, Fernando Torres, to Chelsea on the final day of the January 2011 transfer window that inadvertently changed this young man’s life forever. A merry-go-round, fuelled by Abramovich’s billions and LFC’s new owners’ desire to show they meant business, caused Carroll to emerge from the drama a few hours later holding the mantle of the most expensive British footballer ever, and the 8th most expensive in world history. Rarely ever has there been a rise so meteoric, and according to many – so unjustified.
A lot has been written in recent weeks about Carroll’s failure to find the net, and as worryingly, about the tendency of Liverpool’s play to become very dimensional with his inclusion on the pitch. It seems to many that Dalglish’s pass and move philosophy is totally at odds with Carroll’s lumbering frame, a final piece of the jigsaw that doesn’t seem to fit.
Whilst some of these points are very valid tactically, I’m not going to embark in a debate about tactical nuances on this article. Why not? Because (a) I think Carroll’s shortcomings so far are actually more psychological than tactical and (b) I am optimistic that Carroll and Suarez can in fact form a dangerous partnership under the tutelage of Kenny Dalglish, who let us not forget brought us the Shearer -Sutton strike-force and deadly duo Aldridge and Beardsley – but it will take time.
As far as I can see there is a long line of people who are tripping over themselves to write Andy Carroll off as an expensive flop. “I told you so” they will say, “He’s shit” and “£35m? You’re having a laugh”. So keen are these people to try to prove to each other that they were right all along, that they forget they were probably the same one’s who said “He’s gonna be an England great!” the year before when he was still wearing black and white stripes.
Herein lies my main point. Andy Carroll is still that local lad – he is still the same player he was a year ago, albeit a little more experienced. Nothing has changed – apart from a huge difference in perception now that he has a £35m tag around his neck. Imagine a jacket costs £50, but is sold in auction for £50m because it once belonged to John Lennon. It is still the same jacket, no different, but is it really worth £50 or £50m? Whatever Liverpool paid is irrelevant until we see if he produces the success to repay that £35m investment over the next 5 years, and the only person who can influence that is Andy Carroll himself.
Much has been said about his off the field shenanigans. This doesn’t bother me too much right now. He’s a young boy who seems to like a beer and have a laugh with his mates. Big deal. He’s also a very talented footballer – and hopefully that’s something he’ll now realise he needs to take more seriously. His decisive goal against Everton proves that he knows where the goal is and that skill is a rare commodity, just ask Arsene Wenger who has struggled to find a natural goalscorer as back up for Robin van Persie.
The biggest factor in Carroll realizing the potential he can fill is overcoming the psychological barrier of feeling like he is worth £35m. There is a chance he may never overcome it – and that would be very sad. Pulling a player out of the safety of his home town club and elevating him onto the history books due to a phenomenally inflated transfer fee is a reality he is going to have to deal with and overcome. He can no longer play with the “nothing to lose” youthful exuberance he did previously. From now every touch, every movement will be scrutinized and blown up.
Personally I think it could be another 2 years before we see the “real” Andy Carroll. At that point he’ll be 24 years old. The same age that Didier Drogba was when he moved to Chelsea for £24m, and by then who knows how much he will be worth?
Andy Carroll – Is he a dud?
By Tom Gaunt
Before any Liverpool fans decide to petrol bomb my flat or send me a steaming shit in the post, I am fully aware that the headline is somewhat inflammatory and a tad premature but nonetheless I do stand by this question. I also do not think his goal in the Merseyside Derby can paper over the cracks. His overall performance was underwhelming, to say he looked rusty would be a compliment. However he did score, and I do respect his ability to pop up with a goal. My issue is with the player as a package, and I will explain why.
I have never been in the anti-Carroll camp or been one of those who predicted he would be a flop and was an absolute waste of money, quite the contrary in fact. I thought although the price tag was ludicrous in itself, £35 million actually made him the 8th most expensive player in history and the most expensive British player ever, it was a fee that needed to be paid at that point in time and a good future investment. Now I am not so sure. The premise of this article is not to discuss whether he is worth the fee, where I stand on that will be apparent once you have finished reading, but to look at whether he is actually a good enough player to play for Liverpool and spearhead the attack for the foreseeable future.
The first issue is that he does not fit into the way that Liverpool are trying to play. Since Dalglish was appointed he has been attempting and on many occasions succeeding to play good pass and move football, a brand of football which has been missing at the club for a number of years now. In order to play this type of football you need mobile players with good movement, intelligence and touch. Unfortunately these are not skills Carroll possesses. He had a great start to the 2010-11 Premier League season scoring 11 times in 19 games, but this was for a club playing fairly direct football and with him as the focal point, he was not required to do much except rough up the opposition defense, win headers and finish whatever came his way. He did all this brilliantly. However much like Torres at Chelsea (I bet you were wondering how long it would be before he was mentioned), Carroll just doesn’t fit in. It puzzles me why he still gets game time ahead of Dirk Kuyt, especially as the intelligent Dutchman has such a good understanding with Luis Suarez.
Everyone will, I am sure, remember Liverpool destroy Fulham last season 5-2. As a Chelsea fan I was genuinely afraid. Had Liverpool finally clicked? Were they now on the verge of being a force to be reckoned with? That day Liverpool gave Fulham a footballing lesson, and it was no coincidence this was done without their £35 million man. I appreciate that Carroll has only played a handful games for Liverpool and did impress last year with two excellent goals against Manchester City and I believe he is a Premiership-quality striker and will always get a team goals, he is certainly a threat, but not the man to propel Liverpool into the top 4 or a potential long-term Anfield legend.
Two season ago Harry Redknapp said that the presence of Peter Crouch in the team was encouraging players to play long balls too often, essentially taking the easy way out. This has also happened at Chelsea with Didier Drogba offering the escape-ball a little too often. It is certainly beneficial to have the option and Arsenal have been criticized at length for their lack of muscle up front but for me it should be plan B. It was widely believed that Carroll would benefit from Stewart Downing’s crossing and that Liverpool may play percentages by peppering the penalty box with crosses for Carroll to head in, but it hasn’t quite panned out like that. Everybody knew that Downing was more than just a left winger, when he arrived on Merseyside. He had after all played on both sides of the pitch for Villa as well as occasionally through the middle. What has been a revelation, however, is how complete a player Downing has been this season. He has been taking up positions all over the pitch and is fitting in well with the pass and move philosophy. Whilst this is god news for Liverpool it is yet another reason why Carroll may not succeed, the man who was due to be his main supplier is proving too valuable to limit to a mere crossing machine. Since Carroll’s arrival I have watched Liverpool play with him and without, and there is a stark contrast, but that is not where my critique ends.
The expression “there’s no smoke without fire” springs to mind with all the recent talk of Carroll and his drinking. Whilst Kenny Dalglish, who is always the epitome of calm, brushed off the paper-talk others didn’t seem to be backing the Geordie with much conviction. Although both John Terry and Alan Shearer defended Andy Carroll but neither denied that the young player had a problem, this for me told a story in itself. This is also consistent with my belief that the player is short on intelligence and this can only be a bad thing for his new club.
If we look at the man as an individual his skills seem to be becoming conspicuous but their absence and he is looking more one-dimensional every game. I have heard fitness being blamed, but Carroll strikes me as a man whose natural level of fitness is not one of his strengths so I am not sure this issue will ever go away. Essentially they have bought themselves a target man who will probably score between 10 and 15 goals a season, and for me he could certainly be useful as an impact sub, albeit a very very expensive impact sub. In the long term I think he could do more damage than good, but only time will tell whether my knee-jerk reaction is justified.
Posted on October 3, 2011, in *Raffael Fernandes, *Tom Gaunt, epl, Liverpool, Opinion, Premier League, Pub Chat and tagged Andy Carroll, Carroll, Didier Drogba, Dirk Kuyt, England, Fernando Torres, John Lennon, Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool, Luis Suarez, Merseyside, Merseyside Derby, Stewart Downing. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.