Liverpool FC : Should Kenny Dalglish Play Ugly With Andy Carroll in the Lineup?
Liverpool Football Club owners and manager Kenny Dalglish smashed the club record when signing Andy Carroll for £35m from Newcastle United in the January 2011 transfer window.
Considering the previous record was the signing of Luis Suarez a short time earlier for £23m, the investment in Carroll represented a raising of the record bar by a staggering £12m.
For a fee of such significance, one would expect the club and manager Dalglish to be looking to build a new-look Liverpool around the towering Englishman. However, to do so may require Dalglish to revise his team's playing style.
Given the physical stature of Carroll and his superb aerial ability, the long ball or direct ball style of play may well seem to be the best way to fully and most effectively utilize the player's traits and attributes.
Commentators on the Reds' recent win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light were very observant when watching Carroll. He is clearly tall, and some players of his height do not really leap well, depending instead on their starting advantage to win balls.
Carroll, on the other hand, really does leap. He does not simply rest on the fact that he is taller than most anyway, he rubs it in by attacking the ball and putting tremendous effort into his jump. He has the added ability of being able to hang in the air, almost Michael-Jordan like.
Given all this aerial prowess that Carroll brings to Anfield, surely the Reds should make the most of this by adopting a style of play that would harness their new striker's strengths.
However, Liverpool Football Club, under the guidance of Bill Shankly, developed a playing style that became known as "pass and move." This has been the ethos of the Reds' play since that time and, with very few exceptions, all managers since have adopted this method as well.
It is a little naive and narrow-minded to simply assume that if a team has a "big man" as the focus of its attack, a long or direct ball approach must be employed. It was Shankly who developed "pass and move" at Liverpool with John Toshack as the fulcrum of his attacking options, and it would be wrong to say that the Liverpool team of Shankly played long or direct ball football.
Current manager Dalglish has always—and still does—used many of Liverpool's "old school" ideas when it comes to its style of play.
The arrival of Carroll will not turn the Reds into a long or direct ball outfit, but it will take them back to the style of play that hugely successful Liverpool teams of old employed.
Furthermore, it would be doing the towering striker an immense disservice to suggest that he is only suited to long balls being hit to him. Carroll has shown the Premier League, while at Newcastle and in the short time at Anfield, that he is actually a very talented and technically gifted footballer.
Rather than making the Reds a one dimensional team, Carroll has given Dalglish what all managers crave—options.
Will Andy Carroll turn Liverpool into a long direct ball team?
Dalglish has more attacking options with Carroll than without him.
Under Dalglish, Pepe Reina has, more often, rolled the ball out to his defenders to play out of the back with. He still uses his lightning-quick distribution when that option is available, and with Carroll as a target, Reina now has both options open to him.
Having a true target man means he can now also knock the ball to his man, as well as into a space for other forwards to run on to, as was the case with Fernando Torres around.
So much is written about Liverpool needing to bring in wingers. This was the case even before the big striker's arrival on Merseyside; it is not his aerial ability that has prompted the club's desire to sign quality wide players.
But the introduction of width to Dalglish's attacking options, supplemented with a target to pick out, gives the Reds a bigger goal threat.
Liverpool will no doubt now become a genuine goal threat at set pieces and corners. Against Sunderland, it was interesting to see how Carroll has been instructed to use his own teammates as a shield for him to run off.
Already, fans are seeing how Liverpool's coaching team are developing his formidable talent into a more potent attacking force.
What Carroll provides Liverpool is the choice of going long and direct when it wants to mix it up and change the style of play.
Carroll will indeed change Dalglish's preparation, approach and style of play, as his arrival gives the Reds a variety of attacking options that were simply not there before him.
The irony of the situation may well be that the arrival of Carroll, rather than making Liverpool a long, direct ball team, will take it back to the true "pass and move" days of old and give the Reds what successful past Liverpool teams had—a huge variety of attacking options.
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