Andy Carroll: Frustrated and Frustrating
It's the same thing we hear and read time and time again: Andy Carroll is a £35-million flop.
We hear it everywhere from every conceivable source. Liverpool fans, opposing fans, England fans, the media, the critics, the pundits.
Given the popularity of a failed story and the schadenfreude at a significant investment, Andy Carroll finds himself at the center of heavy fire.
Now even Kenny Dalglish has had to fend off rumors that Carroll is going back to his boyhood Newcastle on the cheap.
Is there no hope left for the big man?
I for one think there is, and here are nine reasons Liverpool should be keeping their No. 9 instead of letting him go. I'm looking forward to your two cents.
Carroll celebrates his well-taken goal against Oldham
Well, the first is pretty simple.
Andy Carroll has made some quite obvious improvements in recent weeks.
Set Anfield alight he might not have, but he has definitely looked in better shape and shown a greater desire on the field.
He might still have an unenviable goal record this season, and his well-taken goal against Oldham in the FA Cup might not have sparked a scoring spree, but his positional awareness and link-up play has come on leaps and bounds.
Stewart Downing has been disappointing to say the least
Carroll's arrival heralded a new era for Liverpool. With Dalglish favoring a pass-and-move style and Luis Suarez appearing to be Carroll's new accomplice in a striking partnership hankering back to the days of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack, the team would be built around Carroll.
And so, wing wizard Stewart Downing was brought in for his pace and crossing and set piece specialist Charlie Adam for his free-kick and corner prowess to set chances up for the new unstoppable tower.
Except it hasn't worked out.
Let's be clear: Carroll was never a striker in Suarez's tricks-aplenty mould, and he never will be. He is a striker who thrives on service from the flanks, and he needs quick, pacy balls delivered into the box for him to attack.
Over to Messieurs Downing and Adam then, who clearly have vastly underperformed on the aspects they were brought in exactly for.
Carroll and Downing, Carroll or Downing?
Then comes the bigger question: Which playing style will Liverpool be adopting in the long term?
On current evidence, the silky pass-and-move style, as personified by the quick-witted Suarez, quick-footed Craig Bellamy and quick-thinking Steven Gerrard, doesn't seem to compatible with Carroll, who, with what critics call a lumbering playing style and a less-than-polished first touch, seems tailor-made for the traditional British style.
So, in Dalglish's ideal formation, Carroll doesn't seem to be a piece in the jigsaw.
And this has been evident already from Carroll's frequent appearances on the bench.
If so, why was Carroll bought in the first place, and for a record-breaking amount? Just to provide a viable Plan B?
While Liverpool are figuring this out, they must keep hold of England's best powerhouse forward.
Steven Gerrard has only come back from injury recently
It doesn't help that Carroll hasn't had a sustained run in the first team with their strongest players.
His Liverpool debut didn't come until March due to his injuries, and even then, he was eased into the team during the second half of the 2010-2011 season.
This season has seen Steven Gerrard out injured until recently, and then Lucas until next summer.
For a striker who relies on having the team set chances up for him instead of creating something out of nothing, this couldn't be a worse scenario to find yourself in.
The good news is that Gerrard is back, and we've already seen what the Gerrard-Carroll partnership promises, with Carroll already thriving on Gerrard's whipped crosses.
Feeling the weight of the 35m pricetag?
Having just turned 23, Carroll is still very young, and having come from Newcastle—where he grew up in and lived his entire life—to Liverpool must have been an unsettling and life-changing experience, taking him out of his comfort zone.
And he hadn't even played a full season in the Premier League by the time he made the switch.
So, new league, new environment, new record-breaking pricetag.
Doesn't seem like a recipe for instant success.
The jury is still out on Carroll, and the picture will be much clearer once given a full season with Liverpool and in the league.
A loan spell would be an infinitely better option for Liverpool than an outright sale.
Bench duty for Andy Carroll
Now to a couple of realistic reasons that Liverpool should keep Carroll—for the time being, at least.
Recent rumors have linked Carroll with a return to Newcastle in a £15-million deal.
First things first—Newcastle have a fella named Demba Ba who is banging in the goals. Do they even need Carroll back?
Taking that out of the equation, that represents a £20-million loss on Carroll. For club owners like Fox Sports Group, who tout their Moneyball strategy, surely this would be unacceptable by their standards.
Carroll/Suarez: Liverpool's expensive imports
Was that Fernando Torres I mentioned in the last slide?
Yes, and his departure was painful for Liverpool. Traitorous as he may be labeled now, his departure left a gaping hole in Red hearts and a bitter taste in Red mouths. Torres left because Liverpool weren't ambitious enough. The future was at Chelsea.
And to prove that they did mean business, John Henry and his team, having already agreed a deal to bring in Luis Suarez for a club-record fee, sanctioned an astounding record-breaking splurge to bring in Carroll as a statement of intent.
A statement that would show the fans that they are building for the future with star British youngsters at Liverpool's core.
Need I mention that Carroll instantly took over Torres' iconic No. 9 shirt, presumably to erase the memories of a former Anfield idol.
To sell him now would be to admit that FSG's was a failed statement of intent, and that their attempts at replacing the No. 9 bearer have not come to fruition.
Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard will have vital roles to play in Carroll's development
With a management team as well-known for its man-management skills as Kenny Dalglish and Steve Clarke are, Carroll is in the perfect environment to develop, as many former Anfield heroes have suggested as well.
With club legends and seasoned internationals as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy around, Carroll is in a team who is willing to impart their experience on him.
And with a Kop famous for its patience and accommodation, Carroll has an army of fans ready to give him more time as he fights his way towards heroic status.
In such an environment, Carroll has all the ingredients he needs to develop into the striker he has shown he is capable of becoming.
Carroll has time on his side
Extraordinary aerial ability. A thunderous left foot. Clinical finishing. Deceptively quick pace. Passion.
These were the attributes that Kenny Dalglish saw in Andy Carroll a year ago. Attributes that impressed him enough to bring Carroll in for such a sizeable sum.
A year on, even though Carroll hasn't set anywhere on fire, he retains these attributes, and they have been increasingly evident in recent games (perhaps except the clinical finishing part).
Yet this is the striker whose future striking hopes England had laid on. The Shearer-esque phenom that Liverpool and England could build a team around.
At 23 years old, Carroll still has his best years ahead of him.
When Dalglish paid over the odds for him, he didn't pay for a finished product. He paid for an unpolished gem.
And for Liverpool to throw away Andy Carroll now would be a waste for all parties concerned.