By Paul Culff
First and foremost, I think the current outcry from “Liverpool supporters” about the fact the season is over and that we are no better off this season than last is ridiculous. Enough has already been written about this but these so called “supporters” are looking for quick fix solutions rather than realizing that it will take time. I’m not expecting people to be patient for the next five years but one bad day at the office is not the end of the world. Many great teams over years have had days to forget and we should count ourselves lucky that this was in a league and not a cup competition. Many games are still to be played and I have no doubt that Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City will all have bad days at the office before the season is out. Tottenham were most recently mauled by both Manchester United (3-0) and Manchester City (5-1) and look how they responded. The answer to this season will be in our response over the next few weeks, beginning Wednesday with Brighton.
Secondly I want to talk a hotly disputed topic in Andy Carroll. Let me start by saying I am a fan and I want nothing more than for him to succeed. Has he performed admirably? No, not really however I want to defend him slightly. I feel like we are changing our pass and move philosophy to accommodate him. Is this really necessary though as the big man is very capable with the ball in at his feet? Granted, he is a beast in the air and wins most headers sent his way but anyone that plays soccer, especially up front will know how hard it is to direct headers on target when you are getting battered and targeted by defenders.
I want to go back to the Manchester City game last season as to why this guy can be so valuable. His left footed strike in that game was powerful and effortless, his header under solid defensive pressure was also huge. They were two totally different goals and were a preview of his all round ability. His goal against Exeter this season in the Carling Cup was also a glimpse of the talent he has with a nice step over and another solid strike.
So far, in the games I have seen him start, be it alone or with Suarez up front, we continue to try to pump the ball forward to him and expect him to WIN and DIRECT every header. Every time he doesn’t complete both of those tasks, Liverpool fans in the background moan and say he is a waste of money. The price tag is hurting him but that is not his fault and we got way more $$ for you know who than he is proving currently. The statement when he didn’t play much last season was that “we didn’t sign Andy Carroll for a couple of games but for 5 seasons” and it is so true because his best years are ahead of him.
My question is, why don’t we play in to his feet more? Carroll is a very strong hold up player. He is a beast of a man and it is hard when you are so big to not be a little clumsy. However, his footwork is not that bad when needed and he also has a solid passing game. Just on Saturday I saw him release Stewart Downing with a defense splitting pass to open up Tottenham and launch an attack. I sense he is getting frustrated with his aerial service and it is also extremely tiring to be asked to win and direct every header. We also know that he possesses a powerful shot (even on his left foot). Strikers want the ball in to their feet and we haven’t afforded Carroll that quality. If Suarez was always getting balls pumped long to his head, he would have had nowhere near the impact he has had. Suarez is also a completely different player to Carroll. He thrives for the ball and wants it at his feet and will take them on, almost like the focal point of the team whereas Carroll is more of an old school striker, like Alan Shearer. Granted, we did buy Stewart Downing to provide quality in wide areas and I fully endorse using the width but we shouldn’t forget the pass and move philosophy just because we have a big target man in the middle. Our big target man has good feet too and this is where I am sure he would want the ball.
Now I’m not saying that Andy Carroll has been razor sharp. I actually think he has been off the pace a little and his touch isn’t there yet but I don’t think it is time for him to be hung, drawn and quartered. I think he has value, quality but needs time to show it. Maybe by giving him more balls in to his feet, it will see him with the opportunity to show it. Kenny needs to find the right balance in his squad and the reaction of him and his players will tell us a lot about the season ahead. Cue, the reaction from the readers….