Andy Carroll: Do Liverpool Gamble Or See Him Excel Elsewhere?
Now there's a name to divide opinions.
As Liverpool prepare to entertain our number 9's current loan employees, West Ham, this Sunday, rumours are starting to gather pace that Carroll may well return to Anfield next season. Brendan Rodgers is reportedly prepared to give him another chance as long as he is willing to accept that he would be a squad player and has no guarantee of regular football.
This outcome has seemed likely for quite some time now with the £17m fee supposedly agreed for the striker with the London club having become a remote possibility due to his injury hit season.
So, if 'the big Geordie striker' (copyright every tabloid in the country) were to return to Anfield could he fit in and would he be welcomed?
In many ways, Carroll seems the figure most emblematic of the failure of the Dalglish/Comolli era. Overpriced, underused, unfit when signed, perceived as unwilling to work. His first six months at the club were a write off, arriving in January with an injury that was never truly shaken off before season end despite having made his debut as a substitute against Manchester United in March.
The first half of the 2011/12 season saw him struggling to adapt to life at Liverpool, in and out of the side, apparently never completely trusted by Dalglish, apparently never completely settled. His positional play for a centre forward was erratic at best. he could be an extremely frustrating watch.
The turning point for Carroll seemed to be the heckling he received from his former fans in the away game at Newcastle. His early substitution in a game which he had started brightly but faded quickly to the point of being unable to do anything right seemed the final straw.
There seemed to be a realisation that he couldn't go home and suddenly we began to see the Andy Carroll that we believed we were receiving when we set a record fee of £35m for an English player.
Ah, the fee. I prefer to think of it as Carroll plus £15m for a disenchanted, possibly broken, Fernando Torres - it doesn't seem as mad that way. I also like to think that Comolli told Dalglish he could get him Carroll if he wanted him but neglected to mention how much money would be involved.
Carroll, in the latter half of his first full season at Liverpool, became unplayable. He was bullying defenders, showing his control, scoring. Every Liverpool fan believes that if he had started the FA Cup final we would have won two trophies last season.
Rodgers seemed sure from his arrival that Carroll would not fit his system and that if he wanted regular football then he should move on. You would imagine this is still the case but clearly there is no chance of us recouping even half of the fee paid for him now so can we use him instead?
There is a fine argument for integrating Carroll back into the squad. His return to fitness at West Ham has seen a return to form, his volleyed goal at the weekend showed the technique that he is capable of and it should always be noted that his best work is on the ground. For me, Carroll works most effectively outside the penalty area, for all the hype about his aerial prowess he has never convinced as a header of the ball but his footwork and his biliary to hold up play can be excellent when he's on his game.
Part of his problem last season seemed to be that he failed to learn to read Luis Suarez' game in Dalglish's system. He hasn't had the chance to learn to read it this season but we can take some positives in the current form of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. Both similarly overpriced, both formerly lacking application, under Rodgers management (and having had the time to settle in) both have adapted to the club and a case could be made for both currently being among the first names on the team sheet. Perhaps a returned Carroll could benefit from the same approach from Rodgers.
There is also the argument that Carroll wouldn't fit into the Brendan Rodgers system because our manager doesn't 'do' plan B. We've seen enough this season to know that he is more than happy to adapt plans A through somewhere past J, there must be a plan in there that could accommodate a more physical approach up front for the periods when we are unable to pass our way through a Stoke type team.
Lets be honest, we're not going to get a great deal of money for a striker who has sat out most of the season at his loan club through injury. There is a gamble to be made here - do we keep him and hope that his injuries are behind him or let him go on the cheap and see him excel elsewhere.
It could yet be that Andy Carroll becomes another piece of Damien Comolli business that comes good long after Comolli has left the club - like Downing, like Henderson, like a great deal of the current Spurs team. We may yet realise that the Dalglish/Comolli era wasn't a failure but a stepping stone.