I'm not the only Liverpool supporter who has been critical of Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll this season, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has also been called all sorts for daring to criticise the transfer policy. Downing, above any of the other signings, was purchased as a player with considerable Premier League experience who could hit the ground running. A player who would beat full-backs, stretch the play and deliver cross after accurate cross into the box for Carroll to profit from.
A look at both players statistics will show that hasn't been the case, Downing has rarely beat full-backs and got the ball in from dangerous areas, and Carroll has been a victim of Liverpool's cut in the final third being blunt. Too many balls have been pumped at his head from poor angles and, when he has been given good service, he has often been found wanting.
Yesterday, despite the claims of fans of other clubs who are currently queuing up to laugh at Liverpool for a variety of reasons that it was 'only Brighton', the goal created by Downing and scored by Carroll was a perfect illustration of the best of both players.
After a first half spent delivering the ball far too early without engaging his marker who, to be honest, failed to get near him anyway, Downing burst down the left after 56 minutes. Arriving at pace and in a dangerous area, he had time to look up to see what Andy Carroll was up to.
Would they prefer the club to buy this type of player to cater to the needs of Carroll, or cut their losses on the big man
Carroll's part in the goal is not be sniffed at. Often this season, Carroll has made the correct first movement into space, but as play breaks drown or the ball is moved, he probably isn't quick enough to keep making those little movements. Last night he didn't need to. With the Brighton defenders too deep, he ran into the box without taking his eye off Downing, checked away from goal and met the ball with a technically perfect shot on the half-turn.
The question, of course, is can both players do this consistently against better opposition and defenders who will get much tighter? In the case of Downing you would have to think so. In a fluid front three at Villa his switching from flank to flank saw him score and assist regularly, and also known as a player who had created the most chances over the previous few seasons.
I think to help Downing, Adam or Enrique have to get in support of him quicker and overload the opposition full-back and get two on one as quickly as possible. He also has to start taking players on. He looks short of a trick at the moment. I'm not saying he should be doing that double-fake Ronaldo dribble all the time but a simple stepover at pace should surely not be beyond a two-footed player of his ilk.
Regarding Carroll, I don't think there is much more I can add. He needs the ball delivered early from areas where he can move onto it. He also needs to gamble a bit more, there was a couple of occasions yesterday when balls flashed across the six-yard box and he was five or six yards away. Saying that all of his attributes were on show yesterday. He dealt with the wrestling of that thug El Abd, chested and headed the ball into the path of Suarez and the midfielders well and was a menace.
To truly get the best out of him Liverpool need another direct winger to play on the right-hand side. The question for supporters is this. Would they prefer the club to buy this type of player to cater to the needs of Carroll, or cut their losses on the big man and look at bringing a more explosive number 9 and a couple of more highly-technical wide players?
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