As a season ticket holder at Anfield, temporarily based in the North East until June (a years training course), I must admit that I was extremely happy when Liverpool signed Andy Carroll on the last day of the January transfer window. I conceded that we had paid over the odds but felt that this was necessary due to losing Fernando with little time left in the window. The comparisons with the Keegan-Toshack partnership were rife and this caused a great deal of enthusiasm to rise up on the red side of Merseyside. Due to injury however, we had to wait a while to see even glimpses of what Andy is capable of, and these most notably came in the 3-0 win over Manchester City. Unfortunately these were somewhat of a rarity due to more niggling injuries and a lack of match fitness…
I have brought Andy Carroll up as a topic of discussion as it is one that I think needs to be looked at. The lad is quite clearly one for the future but with a £35 million price tag, has to be for the right now too.
It is clear to everyone that, bar the City game at Anfield, Liverpool played their best football when Carroll was NOT in the side. Obvious examples here include the away game against Fulham, the home game against Birmingham and even the home game against Newcastle (where Carroll only made a brief cameo appearance). For me, there are various reasons for why this was the case.
Firstly, when Carroll is not in the side, Liverpool play a much higher tempo, pressing game from the front and this is shown by the drastic upturn in form of one Maxi Rodriguez. It can also be seen by the very successful understanding between Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez. When these players are the focal point of the attack, defences such as Fulham’s found it extremely difficult to cope with the rapid movement and interchange between the three.
Secondly, when Andy is brought into the side, this splits up the successful triumvirate. We then lose the high tempo that was so effective. Against Spurs we dropped Maxi deep to accommodate Carroll and this not only weakened midfield, making it easier for the likes of Modric and Sandro to dictate play, it also meant that Kuyt had to drop back as well. This basically changed our formation from an attacking 4-3-3 vs Fulham to a 4-4-1-1 with Suarez buzzing in around Carroll. At times this left Carroll isolated up top and also completely nullified the threat of Maxi who had been used to devastating effect in the previous three games.
Now I am NOT saying this all adds up to Andy Carroll being a bad signing. What I am saying is what every Liverpool fan is saying at this time of year. To get the best out of our record signing, we need to buy one or two wingers who can supply the big man with the ammunition to harm other teams in the league, but we also need to make sure that we do NOT become a team of long-ball merchants. This was clear to see in the match vs Braga at Anfield. We went long far too often.
I also feel that Andy is better along the ground than he is given credit for which is why I also believe a play maker in the middle of the park is vital to helping him realise his true potential.
At the end of the day, our transfer window dealings in January have seemed to have given the club a lift, but if we wish to keep the momentum going, we need to build our team around our shiny new strike partnership. Only then will we start to see Andy Carroll begin to pay back some of that £35 million.
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