Andy Carroll: 10 Ways the Big Man Can Save Liverpool's Season
Robbie Fowler. Ian Rush. The Liverpool No. 9 is a coveted shirt.
For three glorious, albeit injury-riddled seasons, the Reds faithful thought Fernando Torres would join that hallowed list as well. However, he decided Chelsea was a bigger club, so his 65 Premier League goals in just 102 appearances over three and a half seasons for Liverpool are officially forgotten. Mainly because it's hard to remember when the last one came at his point.
Torres' departure ushered in a new No. 9 at Anfield: former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, and Liverpool fans haven't looked back. Carroll was recovering from a hamstring injury, so he only made his debut for the Reds coming off the bench Sunday against Manchester United, but it was enough of a glimpse to get Reds' mouths watering.
Carroll was the darling (OK, maybe not so darling) of the EPL the first half of the season thanks to his 11 goals for Newcastle, and Kenny Dalglish and new Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group snapped him up in January for £35 million, a record fee for a British player.
Ignore the fee. Yes, it was outlandish for such a young player with so little Premier League experience, but Newcastle knew Liverpool had the money having just sold Torres to Chelsea for £50 million (another outlandish fee), so they could take a bit of advantage.
Onto Liverpool's newest No. 9, Andy Carroll. He's got plenty of pros and a couple cons, and I'll go through all them now and explore the 10 ways the future of England can save Liverpool's season and become the future of Liverpool as well.
1. Europa League
Because UEFA has some pretty ridiculous rules, Liverpool's other January signing, Luis Suarez is ineligible for Liverpool's Europa League campaign. In Liverpool's tie against Sparta Prague, the Reds were clearly lacking some attacking prowess, only escaping with a late goal at Anfield to win 1-0 on aggregate.
Andy Carroll, however, is eligible, and he can fire the Reds all the way through to the final in Dublin.
Carroll hasn't seen much action since late December and being a natural goalscorer, must be dying to bag some as soon as possible.
Liverpool's next matchup is against Portuguese club Sporting Braga March 10, then March 17 at Anfield, and Carroll could very well see his first start in Red in Portugal Thursday.
Expect him to bang in the goals in the Europa League even without his striker partner Suarez and possibly fire the Reds to their first trophy since the 2006 FA Cup.
2. Set Pieces
Andy Carroll is 6'3" and is a beast of a center forward. He's got a strong upper body and quick legs, and most importantly, he uses them.
He uses them most often in set pieces.
Liverpool haven't threatened any team from set pieces over the last few years, except for when Fabio Aurelio is behind a free kick. Corners, on the other hand, just haven't been productive for the Reds.
With Carroll, the Reds finally have a reason to actually try for corners! Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles and Fabio Aurelio finally have someone to aim at in front of goal instead of hoping for an error from the goalkeeper.
Fernando Torres was a good header (his goal at Old Trafford, March 21, 2010, was fantastic) , but it most often came from open play, not set pieces.
Carroll uses his height and his strength to get around his defender and get his powerful head to the ball first. His first touch as a Liverpool player was a header off an Aurelio free kick. He easily out-jumped his defender and sent the ball toward goal. It may have landed right in Edwin van der Sar's hands, but Liverpool fans loved it just the same.
Liverpool can finally make defenders fear them from set pieces, and that is a tool you've got to have in the EPL.
3. He Takes the Scoring Burden off Others
The Reds haven't dazzled anyone with their scoring prowess this season, and Andy Carroll can help with that.
Steven Gerrard hasn't really had his scoring boots this season, and Dirk Kuyt is the leading scorer on the season with just nine. Especially away from home, the Reds have had all sorts of trouble finding the back of the net.
Kenny Dalglish has fixed this problem somewhat, and Carroll should be able to do the rest.
He scores goals from all over the pitch, and if he's got the ball, wherever he is is a danger area for the opposing defense.
Liverpool really need to score a lot of goals if they want to entertain the idea of finishing fourth, but moving into next season, Carroll's goal scoring expertise can help get the Reds off to a flying start next season and back to the top of the table where they belong.
4. Great Partner for Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez's Liverpool transfer ended up a little quiet thanks to Fernando Torres leaving and Andy Carroll coming in on the very last day, but Suarez immediately changed that.
He scored a goal in his first appearance for the Reds and quickly kicked his way in Liverpool hearts. His excellent footwork and trickery won the game against Manchester United, and the applause he received upon being substituted will have showed Carroll where the bar is set.
But these two just look built for each other, much more so than Torres and Suarez, and a great strike partnership is just what Liverpool fans want.
Suarez has been unlucky not to score more goals for Liverpool yet, but that will change soon and his assists will go up too. With Carroll always in and around the box and moving with the ball and his teammates, he'll be the perfect complement to Suarez's skill and will reap the rewards.
Carroll's presence will also give more opportunities for Suarez to be running off the ball. Let guys like Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles get the ball into the box where Carroll can knock it down for Suarez or Suarez can slide it into Carroll right in front of goal.
What's a defender to do?
5. Two Prolific Strikers? This Is Kenny Dalglish's Bread and Butter
As a player, Kenny Dalglish was part of a prolific strike partnership, and he's managed a few of them too. A single striker in Fernando Torres was never going to last long for King Kenny. He does his business with two guys up front.
He was part of Liverpool's most famous partnership alongside the Reds most famous No. 9, Ian Rush, and he coached another one with John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley.
This is a system Kenny knows everything about, and he'll utilize his strikers' potential to the fullest.
6. Whole New Formations Possible for the Reds
Andy Carroll will always be up front for Liverpool, but his is the only position that's absolutely set. His skill works from any formation meaning Kenny Dalglish can mess around and put out all different systems in each game.
A typical 4-4-2 is clearly possible with Carroll up front with Luis Suarez. A 4-2-3-1 is also possible with Carroll up front, Suarez, Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles just behind him and Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva holding down the midfield. Kuyt also reminded everyone of his own scoring prowess with a hat trick against Manchester United, so a 4-3-3 formation is not out of the question.
And if King Kenny wants to go with a three-man back line? Well, he may have to wait until Martin Kelly and Fabio Aurelio are both fit again, but it can work as a 3-5-2 with three center backs, Kelly and Glen Johnson (or Johnson and Aurelio) as the fullbacks/wingers, and Gerrard, Meireles and Lucas behind Carroll and Suarez up front.
So many options, so few games in the season!
7. Force Liverpool Out Wide
A commentator for Liverpool's match against Manchester United made the astute observation that United had more natural width than Liverpool. That's something we've all known for years.
Liverpool doesn't really have any wingers, and that's likely something Kenny Dalglish will work on in the summer. But, for now, Andy Carroll's physical presence in the penalty area can force Liverpool to play a wider game instead of constantly going up the middle.
Luis Suarez can come in from the wings, but if he's to really partner Carroll, Kenny will want his other players doing that job.
Carroll causes all kinds of problems for center backs from crosses because he's hard to beat in the air, so he will force the fullbacks to move out wide and give him something to head toward goal. This could also give underachieving players like Maxi Rodriguez and Milan Jovanovic, both with uncertain futures, a chance to redeem themselves.
There won't be much of a point going up the middle with Suarez and Carroll in the penalty box, so the rest of the squad will be forced to go down the flanks as ways to exploit the opposing defense.
8. He Adds Some Youth and Fun to the Team
Andy Carroll turned 22 just a few weeks before he joined Liverpool. Thank God because Liverpool was starting to get a little old and boring.
Remember the Spice Boys? They were fun! I'm not saying we need a repeat of those shenanigans (like anyone could ever repeat those hysterics), but we don't want a team with a bunch of old married guys with kids who don't know football is a game.
The Premier League as a whole has become too much of a business. This is supposed to be fun guys!
Carroll is a young guy who likes to have fun, and that'll be a welcome infusion of excitement into the squad. He does have a daughter, but he still likes his fun and seems to have learned his limits. He's said he isn't planning on becoming a monk upon moving to Merseyside, but he knows when to head home too.
Now, as long as he doesn't have too much fun, Carroll and the Reds should be OK and should have a lot of fun on and off the pitch. Just keep to the boy band concerts with Kenny Dalglish, and everything will be fine.
9. Shirt Sales
Probably the worst thing about losing Fernando Torres to Chelsea is the loss of his shirt sales. For whatever reason (actually the reason is he's gorgeous, get over it), Torres sells shirts all over the world and sells more than just about everyone else to boot. That's a lot of merchandise money.
Andy Carroll can take that crown.
Carroll is a charismatic figure who just about everyone loves, so his name should soon be on the back of a whole lot of shirts in Liverpool. If he can get off to as hot a start as Luis Suarez, it'll be a two-man race the rest of the season to see who can sell more shirts.
My money would be on Carroll, just because of the England factor, but in all the Spanish-speaking countries and more, Suarez should one-up his new partner.
10. Get the Kop Rocking Again
Anfield was silent under Roy Hodgson. The Kop wasn't much louder in the dying days under Rafa Benitez. They found their voice again under Kenny Dalglish, and Andy Carroll will keep them singing.
The Reds faithful are some of the most famous supporters in the world, and they're no doubt among the cleverest. Luis Suarez and Carroll should each have their own song by season's end, and the Kop will be rocking right up until that time.
Since Chelsea fans so crudely assumed that the "Torres Bounce" was included in Fernando Torres' £50 million price tag, that song is out, but there's no doubt the Kop will come up with something even better.
The Kop, at home and away, is the Reds biggest weapon, and Carroll gives them numerous reasons to sing and cheer.
And that's nice. They haven't had much to cheer about in the last couple years, but that's all changing now that Andy Carroll is in the lineup.