Luis Suarez’s 8-match ban for racist remarks towards Patrice Evra gives Andy Carroll a fantastic opportunity to prove to Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool fans, and general doubters of his ability that he really is worth the lofty investment made by Dalglish last January. He has received a lot of stick recently, and with only 4 goals in the EPL since his move, the criticism is inevitable – he simply hasn’t performed to expectations. Now that he is likely to have a prolonged starting place for Liverpool, while Suarez is banned, can Andy Carroll prove his worth to Liverpool, by getting the goals they so dearly need to push for the top four?
Realistically, the answer is no, but this is no fault of Carroll’s. He simply does not suit Liverpool’s style of play. The high intensity, fast-paced and short passing style that Dalglish has implemented, since his appointment, suits Suarez undoubtedly but has left Andy Carroll as a spare part. To reach his potential and resume the fantastic form shown at Newcastle, the 6ft 3 Geordie needs long, direct balls that he can challenge for, making life difficult for defenders, with runners ready for knock-downs. Without Gerrard available indefinitely, due to various injuries, Carroll has not had a willing runner to link up with him, and the service to him has been poor anyway. When he signed for Liverpool, he surely dreamt for the same sort of partnership with Suarez or Gerrard that Crouch and Van der Vaart formed at Spurs last season, but instead, when he is thrown on, the Reds generally stick to their style of play, in which quality movement is needed by the striker, or resort to lumping the ball in Carroll’s general direction with no one supporting him.
Liverpool have been solid in defence this season, but they just cannot score goals even with Suarez on the field. They have scored just 20 times this season, and have only scored 3 times or more in a game once this season, and this against Bolton – a side with the worst defensive record in the EPL. Compare this to Man City who have scored 53 goals this season, and have scored 3 or more goals on 12 occasions in the League this season. They may have spent vast sums on strikers, but so have Liverpool, and Aguero (13), Dzeko (10) and Balotelli (8) have all scored more than top goal scorer Suarez (5) this season, with Carroll (2) not even close to the trio. It is not that the Reds are not creating opportunities to score – they’ve hit the woodwork 17 times this season – they just cannot convert chances, and, if they are to challenge for a Champions League spot they must rectify this.
If Carroll is not scoring freely within his first few games, during Suarez’s absence, Carroll may find himself on the bench yet again, as Dalglish brings in a replacement for Suarez. They will most likely then accompany the Uruguayan up front when he returns. Potential signings could be Loic Remy, the talented Marseille forward, Lukas Podolski, who is heavily linked with Arsenal, or the return of Fernando Torres, the Chelsea flop, for a reduced price of £20 million. All three would be fairly expensive, with no guarantee that the replacement will perform any better than Carroll, but if it means Dalglish’s side are still challenging for a top four place come May, it’ll be worth the investment.
If Carroll does not give any indication of an improvement in performances over the next 6 months, it would be unsurprising if Kenny Dalglish attempts to cut his losses and recoup at least some of the money lost on the chain reaction signing of Andy Carroll. However, if Carroll can force himself into the starting line up even after Suarez returns, perhaps in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, the future could be brighter for the £35 million man.