In late December Liverpool find themselves where they’d have probably hoped and expected, right in the dog fight for fourth spot and the Holy Grail of Champions League qualification. The last time that Liverpool qualified for the competition was in 2009 when they pushed Manchester United for the title only to fall short at the death. The return of club legend Kenny Dalglish to become manager and a shopping spree to make even Paris Hilton blush was supposed to be the impetus to return the club to the heights of European nights at Anfield.
However, the season has taken a dramatic turn for the worst. Much improved Brazilian midfield enforcer Lucas has been ruled out for the season and, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Luis Suarez will face an 8 match ban for racial abuse with a further 1 match ban for swearing at the Fulham fans. What this means is that Liverpool desperately need someone to put the ball into the back of the net to keep them in with a shout for forth spot. What, Liverpool have a £35 million striker waiting in the wings? Surely they will be fine then.
Andy Carroll has been no stranger to controversy, as he has spent his whole life under the microscope. From fathering a child to booze fuelled nights in Newcastle, Carroll has seen it all. His rise to prominence was as fast as it was explosive, and he quickly became the Toon’s hero and number 9. Though, after a few productive months as Newcastle’s main striker, he was sold to Liverpool for an eye watering £35 million in January of 2011. For that kind of money he was expected to deliver the goods, and quick. So far he has been a big disappointment for the fans.
Losing Suarez will be a huge blow to Liverpool, he is the most important player in their side for one sizeable reason – he actually knows how to score a goal. The Uruguayan has scored 5 Premier League goals for the Reds this season, 3 more than any other Liverpool player. Not only does Suarez score goals, he also adds a degree of guile and subtlety to Liverpool’s attack that Andy Carroll simply cannot give the team. Thus, the focus of the attack will have to change in his absence. Instead of playing through the centre, the key will be to go wide and provide Carroll with plenty of crosses.
Worryingly for Liverpool, Carroll looks like he is wilting under the pressures of expectation. When he signed for the club he set the record for the most expensive English player ever, and as such the fans thought he would deliver goals galore. Yet this season (in 19 appearances) Carroll has only scored three goals – a paltry return on £35 million. Every time it looks like he has the goal at his mercy he either screws up the shot or the opposition goalkeeper makes a miraculous recovery. Nothing will go to plan for our hero.
So, what next for Andy Carroll? As a £35 million asset for Liverpool who Dalglish decided to buy he will understandably still be played. You don’t spend that much on a striker and ditch him in under a year. Yet Carroll simply has to start delivering. In Enrique, Downing and Johnson Liverpool have three of the best crossers of the ball in the league and Carroll has to show more desire to get on the end of the attacks. The biggest worry is that, even with Suarez, Liverpool has only scored more goals than one team in the bottom three (Wigan). Carroll has to come good, not just for himself, but for the short term goals of Liverpool.
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