Andy Carroll's Liverpool tenure has been often criticized and rightly so, given his poor performances during his Anfield career. However, his strong performance in the FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley proved that he can be an important part of the Reds' future.
Carroll was brought into the club in January 2011 after Fernando Torres transferred to Chelsea, and ever since, Carroll has not been able to live up to the £35 million transfer fee that manager Kenny Dalglish paid to acquire him from Newcastle.
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Too often Carroll fails to have an effect on matches, but since the Christmas holiday, he has made steady strides that will give him confidence heading into next season.
Chelsea had a difficult time handling Carroll's strength once he entered Saturday's final at the 60th minute mark. Prior to his insertion in the lineup, the Blues didn't need to waste much energy and effort keeping Liverpool from making life difficult for goalkeeper Petr Cech. The whole momentum of the match shifted like a pendulum in Liverpool's favor when Carroll stepped onto the pitch.
Carroll also rejuvenated the other Liverpool players, which was a major reason the team was the far better side in the last 20 minutes of the match.
When Carroll is at his best, he is a physical presence that defenders have a tough time competing against, especially in the penalty box. Carroll was a terror in the air and was winning headers and 50-50 balls with great power, which was the opposite of what the Reds were doing in the first half.
This performance by Carroll was exactly what Liverpool and their fans expected of him when he arrived to the club last year.
Playing the role of a big center forward who is tough to handle in the air and in the box is what Carroll does best, and that's exactly what he did against Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Carroll's energy and passion was exactly what the Reds needed in the first hour of the game, and not starting Carroll might have cost the club a shot at lifting the cup after the match.
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However, his performance proved many of his doubters wrong, and it might have been enough to impress the decision makers who will form England's Euro 2012 squad for June's competition.
After a strong showing at Wembley, Carroll will be full of confidence heading into next season.