When Liverpool announced the signing of Roma striker Fabio Borini last week, the attention of English football almost immediately turned to Liverpool’s record signing, Andy Carroll. Speculation was rife that the signing of Borini would leave no room for the mis-firing Geordie. First came the rumours of a loan move to West Ham. Although it has gone quiet on that front, it is certainly easy to see why West Ham would be interested; Carroll would, no doubt, fit in perfectly with Sam Allardyce’s style of play, as Allardyce has always favoured the big, strong, tough frontman in his teams, it would also be a chance for Carroll to link up with ex-Newcastle teammate and good friend Kevin Nolan, with whom he formed a great partnership at St James’ Park, helping the club back to the Premier League and continuing their great form in the first half of the Magpies’ first season back.
However, the rumours of a move to Upton Park have since gone quiet, thanks to a bid from Carroll’s former club Newcastle. The close of the weekend brought us the news that Newcastle had offered to bring Carroll back to St James’ Park on a season-long loan deal, with a view to a permanent £13 million move next summer. Newcastle had their bid rejected, with Liverpool stating that, if Carroll is to leave the club, they would prefer that it be a permanent move, rather than a loan and that they won’t sell for any less than £20 million, which would still mean a big loss on the £35 million they initially paid Newcastle for him just 18 months ago. Alan Pardew has since stated that the opportunity of bringing Carroll back to Newcastle is all in the hands of Newcastle United chairman Mike Ashley and the Liverpool FC board. Liverpool’s determination that Carroll will only leave for at least £20 million will certainly test Newcastle’s desire to bring the striker back to his former club, but it will also be a test of Mike Ashley’s willingness to splash the cash, something he has been very reluctant to do since buying the club five years ago, preferring to spend his money on younger players and seeking bargains.
This transfer saga will bring up a lot of questions, but one of the main ones has to be: “Do Newcastle really need Andy Carroll?” Say what you want about Mike Ashley, and many people do, but he undoubtedly produced one of the best bits of business in football in recent memory when, after selling Andy Carroll for £35 million just six months earlier, he secured the signing of free agent Demba Ba, and in January shelled out £10 million on striker Papiss Cisse, a sum that looks a mere fraction of his true worth. The two strikers went on to score 29 league goals between them and guide Newcastle to a fifth-place finish last season. Carroll, on the other hand, has made 42 league appearances for Liverpool since March 2011, scoring just six league goals. It is clear to see that selling Andy Carroll has not hurt Newcastle United in the slightest, and the signings of Ba and Cisse have been strokes of genius. Is Carroll really needed by Newcastle? And another question that should also be raised is, “Where would Andy Carroll fit in the current Newcastle set-up?” One of the arguments made by those who defend Andy Carroll’s poor fortunes at Liverpool is that Liverpool play a different style of football to the one Newcastle played, which is why he was able to score more often for Newcastle – because their style of play suited him. That argument isn’t wrong, but it does beg the question, “Would Newcastle be comfortable changing their style of play?” Last season, Newcastle based their style of play around Ba, Cisse, and of course, Hatem Ben Arfa, playing a 4-3-3 formation in the second half of the season to accomodate all three of them. Where would Carroll fit in? And would Newcastle fans like to see their side switch their style of play from the attractive football of last season to playing the long ball again just for Andy Carroll, who might not even sign permanently? I can’t speak for all Newcastle fans, but as a Newcastle fan myself, I can’t say that that would be something I’d want to see. It would mean leaving out one, or perhaps two, of Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa, who have all definitely earned their place in the team. Carroll would, of course, be welcomed back by the majority of Newcastle fans, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to have him back.
Upon his arrival at Anfield, one of the most exciting prospects of his move was that he’d be teaming up with the pacy Luis Suarez. It was expected that the two, with their contrasting styles, would form a lethal partnership. However, between them they have managed just 21 league goals since they both moved to Anfield 18 months ago, and most of those have come from Suarez, who has scored 15 times in the league for Liverpool. Now, new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers may have chosen to give the partnership another chance, and many would have expected that Rodgers would be keen to keep Carroll after his good form towards the end of last season and impressed at Euro 2012. But it seems that Rodgers has his own idea of who he wants to lead his line next season, having signed Fabio Borini, a player he knows well after working with him in the Chelsea Reserves and having the player on loan at Swansea. Rodgers will also be keen to continue his philosophy of fluid, attractive, attacking football, something that would be hard for Andy Carroll to adjust to.
So where does Andy Carroll go from here? Will Brendan Rodgers give him another chance to prove himself? Does he go to Upton Park to help West Ham consolidate their place in the Premier League, and link up with an old friend in the process? The move he apparently would prefer, a trip back to St James’ Park, may be scuppered by Newcastle’s reluctance to meet Liverpool’s valuation of the player and their insistence that they initially only have the player on loan. The next couple of weeks will surely let us know more, but it will be a big call for Brendan Rodgers to make regarding the future of Liverpool’s record signing.
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