West Ham-bound Andy Carroll can leave Liverpool with no regrets
West Ham-bound Andy Carroll shouldn't be blamed for Liverpool splurging £35m on a player who didn't fit the club's vision
When Andy Carroll calls time on his brief Liverpool spell, the striker should head for Upton Park with no regrets from his Anfield career.
The England international is on the brink of a £15m switch to West Ham United after agreeing a reported six-year deal and passing a medical on Tuesday night.
It leaves Liverpool facing a £20m loss on a striker who produced just six Premier League goals (at a cost of roughly £5,830,000 per strike) following a club-record £35m move to Liverpool from Newcastle United in January 2011.
It certainly makes for uncomfortable reading – particularly if you’re Kenny Dalglish, Fenway Sports Group or a Liverpool supporter – but whilst Carroll failed to set Anfield alight, he was never given a fair crack at carving out a successful career on Merseyside.
Carroll is not to blame for Newcastle United’s decision to cash-in on their prized asset and Liverpool’s willingness to break their transfer record on a striker, who, apart from his age, didn’t fit the FSG vision for the club.
The 24-year-old arrived with youthful enthusiasm and set his sights on becoming a regular goal-scorer for the Reds, as he had been for the Magpies before his boyhood club decided to sell their gigantic forward to raise funds for new players.
“It was a lot of money but I need to do what I have to do to prove the money was worth it,” Carroll said at a news conference when he was unveiled in 2011. “I am here to score goals and create chances for the team and that is what I can do.”
But whilst Newcastle (under Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew) were willing to play to Carroll’s strengths, resulting in 11 goals in 19 top-flight appearances in his Premier League campaign – including a brace against Roy Hodgson’s Reds, his new employers were determined to go back to the club’s roots.
Liverpool’s ethos has always been pass-and-move, originating from the days of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisely, and the 18-time English champions were seeking to move on from Roy Hodgson’s “negative tactics”, with his replacement, Dalglish, famed for his elegant sides of the late 1980s which earned comparisons to Brazil.
And the signs were ominous for Carroll when the interim manager vowed the club wouldn’t change its “principles and philosophies” to accommodate their record signing, despite being well aware of the striker’s strengths and weaknesses.
“[Andy’s] just a young boy with a great talent,” Dalglish said on 3 February 2011. “He’s a big lad but is very good on the deck as well, he has good feet, he’s very strong in the air and he’ll give us a bit of presence up front. He’s a little bit different to what we’ve been used to but it won’t change our principles and philosophies of how we want to play.”
It was a relationship doomed from the start.
Whilst Carroll had received praise for his ability to lead Newcastle’s front-line, using his physical attributes to out-muscle opposition defenders, he wasn’t renowned for his “good feet”, despite possessing a lethal left-footed finish.
After a slow start, Carroll scored a memorable brace against title-chasing Manchester City at Anfield but it proved to be nothing more than a false dawn and a rare highlight during his blighted two-and-a-half year stint at Liverpool.
It wasn’t long before the striker’s uninspiring goal record was being called into question, with Carroll and Luis Suárez struggling to strike up a partnership. The concept of “little and large” may have worked in the 1990s, but it is now out of fashion. Gone are the days of John Toshack and Ian St John, certainly for a club of Liverpool’s stature.
The Uruguay international’s style of play focuses on intricate interplay with his team-mates, and Carroll lacked the subtly to thrive alongside the Real Madrid target, and as a result, more often than not, found himself on the bench.
He managed to make just 26 Premier League starts in 44 top-flight games, with the Gateshead-born striker limited to an impact role from the bench, which rarely proved productive, aside from his performance in a 2-1 loss to Chelsea in the 2011 FA Cup semi-final.
Dalglish’s departure in May 2012 appeared to signal a fresh start and a chance for Carroll to impress the new manager. But the striker must have baulked when the Reds appointed Brendan Rodgers as the Scot’s successor at Anfield.
The Northern Irishman’s Swansea City side took the Premier League by storm with their attractive football in 2011-12 and were nicknamed Wales’ Barcelona – the Catalans had discarded Zlatan Ibrahimovic a season earlier and the giant Swede had genuine “good feet”.
Inevitably, Carroll and Rodgers was a marriage that was never going to work, with the Reds boss showing his preference for nimble forwards such as Fabio Borini, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and current target Luis Alberto.
The Three Lions striker doesn’t fit that description, and having sent the former Newcastle man on a season-long loan at West Ham, it’s no surprise Liverpool have decided to offload the striker.
Carroll’s £35m transfer will almost certainly go down as one of the biggest flops in Premier League history, ironically, alongside his predecessor in the Liverpool number nine shirt, £50m forward Fernando Torres.
But little blame can be attributed to Carroll, who, despite his lack of goals, was not at fault for an extravagant fee and Liverpool’s decision to invest in a striker who clearly wasn’t a piece that fit in the Anfield jigsaw.