On Tuesday, the English Football Association handed down a decision likely to be fatal to Liverpool's title hopes. Star striker Luis Suarez has been suspended eight games and fined £40,000 for allegedly racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
Suarez's suspension will keep him out of action until the 25th of January, when Liverpool face Manchester City in the League Cup. He misses the key home game against Newcastle, the Premier League trip to the Etihad Stadium, as well as the away tie of the aforementioned League Cup matchup.
Of Liverpool's 20 league goals this season, Suarez has scored five; he has also assisted on three of those goals. In other words, he has been behind 40 percent of Liverpool's goals. It would be an understatement to say he has become an influential piece of the Liverpool attack since signing from Ajax for a bargain £20 million in January 2010.
Suarez's loss is a major one, and if nobody takes over the burden of him not being in the lineup, the Reds could soon see themselves fall down the table. Liverpool will be desperate for someone to step up and fill his shoes in his absence.
That man needs to be Andy Carroll. The big striker has been little more than nonexistent since signing from Newcastle for £35 million on the same day as Suarez almost a year ago. While he is just 22 and has a bright future ahead of him, he has struggled to adapt to the Liverpool team and has not lived up to the expectations that Kenny Dalglish and the Kop fans have beset upon him.
This is the perfect time for Carroll to establish himself as a key component in the Liverpool side. At Newcastle, he was one of the most prolific strikers in the Football League, and he has made his name as a striker who knows where the goal is and who knows how to score.
Not having Suarez behind him in support him will undoubtedly make the task of taking over the goal-scoring duties harder for Carroll; but he didn't have a player like the Liverpool number 7 alongside him when he scored 30 goals over the space of one-and-a-half seasons for Newcastle. He has shown an ability to carry a team in the past, and, while the Premier League isn't the Championship, Carroll is still the same player.
He may have scored just five goals in 26 appearances for Liverpool, but the talent and potential is clearly there, and it is time for Carroll to put it on full display. This is a time of need for Liverpool, and Carroll needs to emerge as a hero. The fans are starting to turn on him, and he needs to win them back.
As much as you hate to admit it, Liverpool's season might rest on the unnaturally broad shoulders of Andy Carroll.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95
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