Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish played a now almost standard 4-4-2 formation against Stoke City in last night's Carling Cup triumph. More significantly, however, was that Andy Carroll was in his starting lineup, something that has been far from standard this season.
Carroll has not set Anfield and his team on fire with his goals and last night was no exception. In fact it has been his striking partner Luis Suarez who has taken the season by storm, picking up where he left off last season.
Liverpool's big No. 9 struggled for match fitness in the early part of the season and this was cited as the reason for his slow start. But with Christmas quickly approaching, most players, Carroll included, should be hitting peak fitness now.
However, Carroll has at times seemed sluggish and plodding rather than sharp and alert. More alarming is that at times he even seems a little uninterested; shades of Fernando Torres just before his move out of Anfield.
All this being said, yesterday the English striker put in a good shift and played his part in an impressive overall team performance.
In the first half, he should have done better with a fairly straight forward headed chance early in the game. A ferocious shot, which the Stoke goalkeeper found too hot to handle and Suarez to quick to turn in, was a highlight. However, another tame effort from about 10 yards out was straight at the goalkeeper, when a little composure would surely have resulted in it being in the back of the net.
There were times last night where Carroll showed a good touch and a healthy appetite for the encounter, but this was in between some rather poor and lazy work.
Overall, Carroll is living in the shadow of his strike partner Suarez, who is taking all the limelight and rightfully so. To have one striker in a rich vein of form is something that all managers hope for, to have two is almost asking and hoping for too much.
As long as the Uruguayan keeps the headlines to himself, Carroll's lack of goals will not be too much of a concern. But if Suarez hits a dry patch then Carroll will need to step up to the plate.
The Englishman is a little short on confidence and the thing that brings this in abundance is goals. This is a "Catch 22" that all strikers have to deal with, confidence brings goals and goals brings confidence. A lack of one will surely result in a deficiency of the other.
Carroll needs to get a run in the team and a chance to build up a head of steam and then the goals and confidence will come.
He showed enough last night to keep his place in Liverpool's starting lineup for Saturday's late kickoff against West Bromwich Albion. The striker needs minutes on the pitch and now would not be the time to drop him to the bench again.
Despite this argument, Carroll demonstrated that his place in the first team would be retained, for the moment anyway.