Liverpool’s Dilemma Of Whether to Keep, Trade Or Sell Andy Carroll

That he has found himself sailing too close to the wind is something Andy Carroll has been accused of before but Brendan Rodgers recent comments has left the towering striker closer than walking the green mile to the precipice of the Anfield cliff.

Carroll, a striker seemingly reborn once the credits rolled on last season, could now find himself in great danger of having his yet still brief Liverpool career terminated just at the stage where, to many observers, he had begun to find his feet on Merseyside.

While it would take a Johnny Cochrane-inspired defence for anybody to argue that the player has been anything but an overall disappointment during his time at Liverpool, it would understandably frustrate the towering striker that the justification for his probable demise lies not in the poor form that he looked to have finally eradicated but rather one of conflicting footballing philosophies.

Once Rodgers long winded arrival at Anfield was eventually confirmed, any seasoned onlooker worth his salt could see the disparity between Rodgers, an ambitious young manager indoctrinated in the art of quick possession football, and Carroll, a physical, raw, target man whose mere presence on the pitch invites his team-mates to look to find him aerially.

With Fabio Borini now signed and delivered from AS Roma, a pacey number nine with a Pippo Inzaghi-style inspired eye for the back of the net, who looks to have all the attributes required to thrive not only alongside Luis Suarez but also within a Brendan Rodgers team, Carroll is now the proverbial elephant in the room.

The question of not merely where but how exactly Carroll could fit in within the framework of a fluid passing structure has seen him increasingly linked with a move away from the club. This question was put to the Liverpool manager just a few days ago. Rodgers responded: “Andy’s always going to be linked with clubs, whether he was here or not. I have spoken to him on his holidays and he knows exactly where he stands but I have had no enquiries about him.’ If the player was looking for a ringing endorsement of his immediate future then it was not to be worth forthcoming. When the question of a rumoured loan move arose, ‘It’s something I would have to look at, I have to be honest’ said Rodgers.

An exit from L4 would complete a desperately disappointing eighteen months for the Gateshead born striker. Signed on the back of a hugely encouraging initial six months in the Premier League for Newcastle, Carroll’s career stalled awkwardly once his home town club were obliged Liverpool’s still astonishing offer of £35 million pounds. Carroll came to symbolise a head scratching transfer philosophy for the then Liverpool regime. Suarez apart, their recruitment drive was focused purely upon the Premier League and young, promising British players in particular. However, the transfer negotiations were handled with all the skill of a tourist carrying a white flag into a Marrakech market place. The bloated, unrealistic, transfer fee’s paid for the likes of Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing and the subsequent public guffawing due to this did these players no favours at all.

While Downing is an experienced professional that has undergone several transfers already in his career, Henderson and Carroll were both twenty-one years old and moving away from their home-town for the first time. Certainly in Carroll’s case there has always been an underlying air of a player not feeling totally at home in Liverpool, perhaps because he was not entirely comfortable in making the move away. Carroll himself stated to the editor of a Newcastle fanzine, ‘I’m gutted to be leaving my home town club, I was told to go. I didn’t want to leave that’s why I signed a 5 year deal. I was pushed out of the door.’ In fairness to Newcastle, the incredulous, Championship Manager on acid, offer that Liverpool made is the type that just could not be ignored. Carroll found himself whisked away in owner Mike Ashley’s helicopter before he had scarcely blinked. Liverpool’s Damien Commoli, the negotiator extraordinaire, was to pay for such transactions with his job a little over a year later.

Injured upon arrival and then injured again quite soon after his return, Carroll offered a tantalising glimpse as to what he might bring to the table the following season with a storming performance and a brace of goals versus Manchester City. With this in mind, Liverpool supporters could have reasonably expected their fully-fit front man to hit the ground running come the new season and pay back a chunk of that transfer fee. Carroll, the most expensive British player of all time, barely got out of the starting blocks, taking until October to open his account for the new season. He appeared sluggish, unsure of what he should be doing within a side that was not obviously set up to play to his strengths. Each game that went by, each pass that was misplaced, each chance that was not taken, the jeers from the opposing supporters became louder and more gleeful. He and Luis Suarez played together as though only introduced to each other just before kick-off. Soon, Carroll’s confidence appeared to reach rock bottom and he began to find himself becoming increasingly familiar with the substitutes bench. His then-manager, Kenny Dalglish, repeatedly defended his star striker, but that support did not extend to an unbroken run of games in the starting eleven.

Ironically, the turning point in Carroll’s Liverpool career, at that point, was his return to St James Park in April. Subjected to a torturous seventy-nine minutes by a baying Newcastle crowd, a section of whom appeared to disregard the game almost entirely to focus upon jeering their former striker relentlessly, he found himself booked for diving before his final, crucifying, substitution. As he trudged off the field, he appeared close to tears before subjecting his manager and the away dugout to a volley of abuse as he stormed past them into the away team’s dressing room. If anybody required convincing that this was a player with too much on his shoulders then this particular afternoon confirmed it. Many expected it to be the seminal moment that marked the end of Carroll’s Liverpool career.

However, in the aftermath of this torrid afternoon, there was a subsequent noticeable improvement in Carroll’s form. It can be argued that the demonstration of the contempt, dare I say hatred, displayed by a vocal number of the Newcastle crowd dispelled any yearning the player may have still held for the comfort of his hometown team and the manner in which his sudden exit was conducted. Newcastle showed that they had moved on past Carroll, and Liverpool too for that matter, and the player himself appeared to have accepted that he had to move on too.

The player whom so much had been expected began to find his feet, though it was his forehead that once again did the talking. The last-gasp, bullet header, against Blackburn at Ewood Park to steal three points was a good start. The glancing header in the semi-final at Wembley versus Everton followed – a goal that guarantees him a place in Liverpool folklore whatever happens now. He wreaked havoc upon the Chelsea defence in the FA Cup final as well as the following league game. Rarely has John Terry appeared as flustered. If ever there was a player that did not want a season to end then it was Carroll. To complete the renaissance, a place in England’s Euro 2012 squad was secured and a thunderous header versus Sweden in the group stages followed. Carroll was a surprise inclusion in the squad, making the plane not due to the paltry four league goals he scored that season but purely down to his devastating form in the closing stages.

With this in mind, it is odd to some that the player Liverpool have spent eighteen months trying to coax out of a dark spell, akin to that of the one suffered by Theoden, the King of Rohan, in the Lord Of The Rings, perhaps with Grima masquerading as that £35 million pound cheque, and once he has awakened it looks as though he need not unpack his bags once he arrives back from his summer holidays in Brazil.

Nobody could argue that Carroll is an obvious, ready made fit, for the type of tactical system that Brendan Rodgers hopes to employ in his Liverpool side. Carroll, even on his best days, can still be somewhat ponderous on the ball and his movement is not in keeping with what Rodgers presumably expects from his forwards in a 4-4-3 formation. However, what Carroll does offer is something different. The dreaded term ‘Plan B’ is applied here.

For all the deserved plaudits that Swansea City received last season for the easy on the eye passing philosophy employed as newcomers to the Premier League, the stats show that while Swansea enjoyed a pass completion rate only just below that of the overall top five teams last year, the majority of their possession came outside of the final third. Taking an average percentage of completed passes in the final third, where risks have to be taken, Swansea do not feature nearly as favourably. Conversely, Liverpool under Dalglish was second highest in this regard but that more speaks volumes regarding the standard of finishing displayed at Anfield last season. This is not a slight on Swansea’s or Rodger’s achievements last year. As the club with the smallest transfer and wage budget in the division, it is realistic that a team bases it’s success upon a strong base of defensive resilience. That they did so while embracing overall control of the football is something to be admired.

However, what these stats do show us is that perhaps there is something to be said for having another option in the side or from the bench. There is nothing wrong if, when all else fails, a passing side can betray their philosophy by using an effective battering ram if a castle gates have yet to be breached. This is what Carroll can offer Rodgers and Liverpool. Swansea failed to score in fifteen of their thirty eight matches last season – more than any other side in the division. Clearly, with all due respect to Swansea, Rodgers will be working alongside a better standard of player overall so this particular stat is unlikely to be repeated next season but the argument still stands that there is nothing wrong in utilising another type of strength when required.

Carroll is destined to carry the £35 million transfer fee like an albatross around his neck for the rest of his career. It is doubtful that he will ever be able to justify it. Few footballers could. However, one must distinguish between the expectation of what we expect a player of that sum to display and see instead what he can actually offer. It’s true that Carroll is a player that has thrived upon good service, something even his detractors would admit he has rarely had at Anfield since the move. Yet, given the opportunity, he may well yet be able to adapt as well as offering something different to his team given the right situation. There will be times next season when Liverpool will look to somebody to offer this. Whether the pony-tailed forward will be that person is looking increasingly doubtful.

AC Milan, Fulham, and West Ham have been strongly linked with the striker recently. For Carroll, a change of scenery may just be beneficial but for Liverpool, they risk cashing their chips in at the wrong moment. Perhaps the rumoured loan only move can be seen as an insurance policy just in case the giant has been awakened. On the other hand, Liverpool could be seen as a home owner ready to move on, simply waiting for a good moment in the markets to allow them him to sell.

It will be interesting to watch what becomes of Carroll if, as looks likely, he does depart Anfield this summer. Few players have evoked such strong feelings both for and against amongst supporters in recent times. Carroll will likely always be a divisive figure for some, for many the dye has already been cast on him. He has been unfortunate in the timing of his probable Anfield demise and perhaps this would be the moment that some observers would note as Brendan Rodgers first mistake at Anfield. Whether that mistake returns to haunt Rodgers remains to be seen but it’s likely that Carroll will either soar high once again or sink even lower for, like always, there is no middle ground to be found when it comes to Andy Carroll.

24 thoughts on “Liverpool’s Dilemma Of Whether to Keep, Trade Or Sell Andy Carroll”

  1. … what Rodgers presumably expects from his forwards in a 4-4-3 formation.

    No wonder they did so well last season!

    I kid, although I’m not sure how to suggest a correction. Few can agree on just what to call the formation he did favor. 4-5-1? 3-4-3? 4-2-1-2-1!?

  2. I don’t think he’d fit in, but I’d take him at Swansea if the club played a more direct style of football. Despite what the critics say, I think he’s a gifted footballer who certainly would shine at certain clubs, given good delivery.

    The Gaffer

  3. If I was Rodgers Id be trying to get away from all this constant talk about playing like Spain or playing “total football” like the great Dutch teams as its just putting more pressure on the team and in no way can they live up to the hype. God help them if they come out the first couple of games and nothings changed from last season.

  4. Rodgers plays a zone type fluid formation, it has been called a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-2-1, but it is a zone responsible tactical approach.
    Here are his tactics, in his own words if you like

    As for wee Andy, I hope he goes to a squad that he can fit into and play every game. But he doesn’t fit BR’s philosophy, and 35 m is alot of money for a squad player for plan “B”.

  5. Has a team ever won the championship or made the top 4 with a player of limited technical ability such Carroll as its starting striker? The answer is no.

    1. It’s quite unfair to Carroll. There are dozens of footballers who would fit your description. But beauty, and technical skill, is in the eye of the beholder.

      The Gaffer

      1. you did not answer my question. I asked to name me one team that has won the league or made the top 4 with a player such as Carroll as its starting striker.

        None. If Liverpool were to set the team to fit Carroll’s “qualities”, then they will hang around mid table purgatory a while longer. Its not being unfair to Carroll, its just the truth.

        1. Here are 3 players off the top of my head that would match your criteria. There are many more out there:

          Carlton Palmer, Sheffield Wednesday — 1991/92
          Alessandro Pistone, Everton — 2004/05
          Bebe, Manchester United – 2010/11

          The Gaffer

        2. Let me start by saying I don’t support Liverpool or Newcastle so I like think I’m unbias.

          Andy is firstly not the “starting striker” at Liverpool so your question is null and void there. The starting striker is Luis Suarez. Secondly, to say that if Liverpool were to set the team to support Andy they would be a mid table team is also unfair to Carroll. When Andy has the service you can’t question his ability to bang in goals.

          Maybe you mean that that style of football that requires great service to someone who is adept in the air is mid table football at best. I think it’s pretty undeniable that Andy is exquisite in the air, I’m not sure there are many better in the air… the problem is the lack of service or desire to generate the kind of service needed for a player of his skill set.

          It’s not Andys fault Liverpool paid $35Mil for him and it’s also not his fault that he never really fit into that squad.

  6. I just do not understand the criticism of Carroll. He doesn’t have the touch of Peter Crouch, but he also doesn’t have the touch of Titus Bramble. I think he can fit into the new system if given the opportunity. Suarez is excellent, but when he played as a lone striker last season, he often drifted wide, leaving an enormous hole in behind, and for some reason, he ended up crossing the ball into the box where the likes of Downing and Henderson were making runs, while AC was on the bench.

    When you have Steven Gerrard, a lad who enjoys pinging 60 yard balls, you aren’t going to change him into Xavi or Iniesta. It isn’t his style. So, will he be sold, too?

    I’m not sold on Borini, either. I would have purchased Gaston Ramirez from Bologna, put him on the wing with Suarez on the other, Andy Carroll as the lone striker. Gerrard, Lucas, and Aquilani should be behind them (Gerrard and Lucas behind Aquilani).

    Just some thoughts from a disgruntled Liverpool fan.


  7. Liverpool doesn’t need a plan B. The club needs a return to the pass and move philosophy of old. This style of football should never be changed regardless of how games are panning out. Win or lose, Liverpool should maintain the same style. The club needs to restore its identity and resorting to plan B (which only ever seems to mean route one football) just won’t do. Let’s restore the pride back into our football club, please.

    Andy Carroll needs to go. He’s not good enough and should never have been bought. I don’t care that we spunked £35m on him. Shit happens in life. Sometimes transfers work, sometimes they don’t. The club is doing the right thing in counting its losses and moving on.

    With any luck we’ll be able to bring in a couple more offensive players with good movement, a decent touch, the ability to get past players and fucking score goals. Dempsey would be great.

    Anyway, whatever happens, I wish Carroll the best of luck. It’s gotta’ be hard to live with that kind of unrealistic expectation every week. Hopefully, things will get better for the guy.

  8. Daily Star is reporting West Ham had tabled a £15 mil outright bid, and Newcastle have had a loan turned down…

  9. Liverpool did Carroll a huge injustice when “King” Kenny threw money at Newcastle. Carroll is an average striker who can head the ball (if it’s lobbed directly on his head) but has poor touch and trots around like a carthorse. He was never going to bag a hatful of goals and be the saviour of a team that lives in its past. He’ll be much better off in a mid to lower premier league team or even in the Championship.

  10. Given all the talk about Carroll leaving and Liverpool not saying they will not sell only means it’s only a matter of time before he moves on. I think as soon as Liverpool get a bid of anything above 20 million they will sell him. One thing that has not been mentioned is Andy’s off-field problems and attitude. His injury when he joined Liverpool was as a result of an altercation outside a nightclub, if I remember correctly. According to Reina he is also one of the worst trainers in the squad. Even Capello spoke of his poor attitude.

    In the right system he would be a good addition but with the way Liverpool are intending to play he would be a substitute in most games. It’s not his fault that Liverpool paid 35 million and put such high expectations on him. He was never then and is not now a 35 million pound player.

  11. Excellent post, David.

    I’m on the fence about what to do with him. I’m not a big fan of Carroll. I could see him being an effective mid-level striker in the league. But I don’t think he’s a fit at all with the way LFC are going to play. I wouldn’t mind him sticking around and seeing if he can improve on his game and prove us doubters wrong. But if a bid approaching 20M pounds came in, I’d be in favor of selling him.

  12. Given his age and that he could help a team that wants to play with a big man up front I think it is conceivable that someone will pay between 15-20 million. According to a report in the English media Sam Allardyce is interested in getting him to West Ham and that 15 million is what they are willing to pay.

    It all depends on whether a team believes Carroll he can improve or not will determine if they will pay 15-20 million or not. I don’t think Liverpool will get anything over 20 million. Liverpool want to buy Walcott from Arsenal who is priced between 15-20 million. I can see Liverpool selling Carroll for what they would pay for Walcott. Not sure Walcott will want to join Liverpool if Chelsea are interested too.

  13. Carroll will do in the right setup. Even for a bigger lad he’s got a great touch when the balls into his feet and if Newcastle do get him back at 12-15 mil it’s a snip.

    1. If he had a “great touch” Rodgers would let him stay and fight for a place in the starting 11, but you can’t spend that much money and not have in in the starting 11, unless you were Man U, or RM or Barca. Unfortunately for liverpool fans, they have not been that for a long time. I heard on talksport today that liverpool haven’t even finished paying the full 35m to newcastle. This would mean a return would cancel out any need for payment IF they come to a permanent move.

  14. This could be Rodgers first big mistake. Carroll scored one of the goals of Euro 2012 with a textbook header that was not an easy finish by any stretch but he took it well. The goals against Man City and Liverpool they keep showing on Sky Sports News clearly show he can do it on the deck, knows where the goal is, and has a decent left foot. I think he is a very underrated player who struggled to adapt to a new club in his first season – not the first time that has happened to a player. Only dig at Carroll is he probably didn’t do himself any favors in the first few months at Liverpool if the rumors about his fitness and drinking are to be believed. No way is he worth GBP35m but Rodgers should at least take a look at Carroll before unloading him.

    1. But it may be one of those golden opportunities where Liverpool can this summer get as much of their money back for him as they can. He had a good end to the season, and a good Euro 2012. His stock is relatively high right now. If they wait until January, the value for him would go down in my opinion.

      I like him as a footballer but I think Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez will do well up front for Liverpool.

      The Gaffer

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