Rumors have abounded all week about the forthcoming potential exit of Andy Carroll.
It started two days ago when Brendan Rodgers floated the idea that a loan was not out of the question. Well, at least that is the way the press ran it.
His direct quote is as follows: “It’s something I would have to look at, I have to be honest.” He then goes on to discuss Carroll at length in similarly ambiguous fashion.
A day later, the same publication linked the Hammers with a move. They ran a story with “Andy Carroll would interest West Ham” in the byline. Once again, more than a little disingenuous.
What the club’s co-owner David Gold actually said was, “I am not aware of any talks between ourselves or Liverpool over Andy Carroll. But that’s not to say we don’t have an interest should he become available.”
Enter the Telegraph.
Say what you will about the source, if nothing else they are not one to let rumors pass by. Just a day after Rodgers’ vague remark, along with West Ham, they linked Aston Villa, Fulham and AC Milan with a move.
Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Rodgers. All it took was, “that’s something I have to look at,” and now AC Milan are in play.
The big Geordie netted just four league goals and one more at Euro 2012. Yet, apparently that was enough to get Carroll into the Ibrahimovic backfill conversation.
But then, just when things had gotten ridiculous, in swoops the Guardian with a noteworthy article. With that, the journalistic world was made right again.
Up until that point, you could be forgiven for being under the impression that Rodgers had gotten in over his head on this one. One errant remark, and the press went off to the races. But perhaps he is more adroit than that. As it turns out, a relatively intriguing offer sits on his desk.
The report is that a “£9m plus Dempsey” for Carroll offer rests in the inbox. If true, that has to have the Northern Irishman thinking.
Let’s assume then, that it is indeed a valid offer. Both Rodgers and the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) will have to make a decision based on the relative merits of three criteria.
Does it Make Financial Sense?
For the sake of objectivity, we can use impartial observers to estimate relative value. In this case, Dempsey is rated as being worth a fee of £13 million. Add to that the £9 million in additional cash and the offer is £22 million for Andy Carroll in strict monetary terms.
On the one hand, that figure represents a sizeable increase from earlier fees being quoted. The entire rumor began based on the premise that Liverpool is willing to loan out Carroll for the season. If that is the case, it is hard to imagine a situation in which a team activates a £22 million buy-out clause.
For now, this is probably the highest bid they will get. Based on his one full season at Anfield, that seems a fair offer.
However, it is certainly selling low. 18 months ago he was purchased for £35 million. To take a £13 million loss in such short order hurts.
It remains to be seen whether or not FSG are willing to admit so publicly that they made a mistake in paying over the odds for Carroll. Of course, they were being guided and advised by Damien Comolli at the time, so they have their own get-out clause.
To conclude, the numbers make sense based on today’s valuations. However, If FSG and Rodgers think that Carroll’s form, and subsequently his value, will improve given one more year then it will be worthwhile to hold off on trading him.
What does Clint Dempsey add to Liverpool?
The second component of this thought process is Dempsey’s relative worth. In a larger sense, the Texan may be worth £13 million, but is that what he is worth to Liverpool in particular?
Certainly, the two players in question are not directly comparable. If Carroll is sold, the Reds will have to make an additional purchase to replace the vacancy up front. Dempsey is not that player.
The American makes the most sense slotting alongside Luis Suarez as a left-sided centre-forward. The two will support a lone striker from either flank. Both are expected to overlap and cut in as often as they go wide. Thus, they are not true wingers and must therefore be multi-dimensional players. [ed—Borini's signing since this article was written means that either he or Suarez could play centrally, with Dempsey and the other wide, or else between the three players they fill the two spots. Either way, Dempsey's presumed role remains the same.]
Liverpool’s best option at the moment in that position is Stewart Downing. In his first campaign on Merseyside he had no assists and no goals. Conversely, Dempsey scored 23 times in all competitions.
If he can come even close to that kind of productivity at Anfield he represents a sizeable improvement from current personnel. Given that the American played a similar support role behind Pavel Pogrebnyak at Fulham, the transition appears to be an easy one.
Finally, there is the matter of his multi-dimensional play. Dempsey has played lone striker, attacking midfielder and winger for his country’s national team on numerous occasions. That kind of versatility is ideal.
Yet there are drawbacks; age is a concern. At 29, he could be on the tail end of his prime years. Further, the transition from a mid-table club to a larger one is always difficult. He could be the kind of player best suited to star for a smaller club similar to Charlie Adam.
Will Andy Carroll Improve Enough to be Worth Keeping?
Thus, Dempsey seems to make sense, and the numbers are good based on present valuations. But do Rodgers and FSG see a dramatic change of form in the offing from Carroll?
If they sell, he turns it around, and Carroll becomes a match winner for Fulham this could become a nightmare quickly. For that reason, they must be doubly sure they know what they have in the tall Geordie.
Here are the offensive statistics from last season via EPL Index.
|Player||Goals||Total Shots||Shots on Target||Shooting Accuracy %||Shot Conversion %|
Given that Carroll is the only out-and-out striker on the list, it is shocking that he does not lead in one category. The next chart relates to the volume of offensive activity.
|Player||Mins Per Goal Scored||Mins Per Headed Shot||Mins Per Shot|
Other than putting his head on the ball slightly less than twice a game there is a little of note in a positive sense. Further, Carroll’s tally of 516.25 minutes per goal scored is particularly poor. Here is a list of what that figure looks like for the Premier League’s best.
|Mins Per Goal Scored 11/12|
These numbers are startling in comparison. Robin van Persie scores about five times as often as Carroll per minute on the pitch. The numbers get worse from there.
However, this is merely one year and there is a new regime in place. Thus, it is worthwhile to take a look outside of the numbers as well.
In the end, he is a very difficult player to scout conclusively. His physical presence is undeniably imposing. Carroll’s late F.A. Cup performances attest to that point. He is also outstanding in the air and when on form is the ideal striker to fit into a traditional English 4-4-2.
That said, he has a few weaknesses.
At times, he looks awkward and ungainly on the pitch. He makes clumsy passes and disrupts play up front. Carroll is also not overly fast and at times his confidence leaves him at the wrong moments.
That last point is of particular note. It will take time to restore confidence. One look at Liverpool’s schedule and that has to give you pause. The early matches are a who’s who of last season’s top finishers. Liverpool cannot afford to put out less than their best against Manchester City in the name of Carroll coming around.
But here is the trump card. Assuming it is worth it to take a hit, lose some points, and remain patient with the forward, what would the Reds get for their trouble? No matter how confident, Carroll is always going to be a certain kind of player.
Unfortunately, that type does not work within the new modified 4-3-3. He will be the square peg on the pitch. In the end, there is no guarantee that he is a good enough forward to warrant paying the price of disrupting the system.
For that reason, FSG and Rodgers should act now to unload a costly failed experiment. Carroll is a promising player and a great lad, but he does not fit the current regime on Merseyside.
Supporters would wish him all the best. However, Clint Dempsey and an additional £9 million is a solid offer.
Liverpool would be wise to accept.