[ Whether he stays at Liverpool or not, Andy Carroll is stuck between a rock and a hard place. ]
“At what point is it acceptable to feel a little bit sorry for Andy Carroll? Flogged by the boyhood club he didn’t want to leave for a fee that invited ridicule and proved to be not so much a monkey on his back as a silverback gorilla on his face.”
It seems unusual to feel sorry for Andy Carroll. It feels like I’m being certain of decisive peace talks in Gaza or excited for an episode of Miranda. It just doesn’t happen. And yet, the 23-year-old striker – whose Anfield exodus now looks more likely than not – has my deepest sympathies.
Carroll, who enjoyed a mini-renaissance period for Liverpool at the business end of last season, left the Anfield pitch following their final home game of the season to a gratitude from the stands that seemed so genuine, it bordered on the heartwarming. It appeared to be the Englishman’s perfect send off as he embarked on an unlikely trip to Poland and Ukraine – as though he were being primed to make the kind of impact as Rooney’s cover that would see him permanently settled in English hearts and minds. And yet, just a week before the start of the Euros, a tournament in which he went on to impress, his situation – club-wise – was being radically altered.
The unveiling of Brendan Rodgers as the new manager of Liverpool was never going to be good news for Carroll. Rodgers, who’d successfully implemented a graceful and technically-pleasing style of passing football at Swansea last term, is a known advocate of quick-thinking players who harbor brains and not brawn. The types that play in ecosystems and divulge in ‘artistic football’. Naturally, the Ulsterman’s appointment sprung forth the idea that Liverpool are to benefit in adjusting to his preferred 4-3-3 style of play, and thus far his known transfer targets have been a good indication of it being quite accurate. Fabio Borini, the first signing of the summer for Rodgers, is most likely the man to compliment Luis Suarez and become the goalscoring number nine that has been missing from recent Liverpool squads. Where this leaves Carroll remains to be seen, but reports that he and Rodgers have come to an understanding on “exactly where he stands” are most ominous.
“Much is made of the precise passing routines and possession play demanded by Rodgers at Swansea, which will form the basis of Liverpool’s approach next season, and that technique-based system would hardly appear suited to tapping into Carroll’s strengths as a line-leader and old school English centre-forward.”
Carroll is obviously more suited to utilising his immense strength and aerial ability with a midfield passer finding him direct. Are these components of a tiki-taka striker? Not really. But, there remain many Liverpool supporters, and indeed a number of others, who believe Carroll is still an option for Rodgers. In fact, in a poll hosted by The Liverpool Offside, posing the question ‘What should Liverpool do with Andy Carroll?’, a 62% majority of the 714 votes favored him staying. The common misconceptions that he is both slow and has poor ball control may be disproved if given the chance, but even those who may think he’s a one trick pony have cause to believe he would make a viable ’Plan B’ for when tiki-taka frustrates. But the problem here is that cameos would only lead to the same disjointed performances that kept his critics busy after he first arrived. In order for him to develop and live up to his undoubted potential, Carroll needs regular football, played in a style that suits him.
And so we’re at the crossroads. To sell or not to sell, that is the question.
There’s no ignoring this £35million elephant in the room. It’s hard not to step on toes and repeat what has already been said about the Carroll/Torres equation, and it’s mostly irrelevant to Liverpool now anyway. But while the Fenway Sports Group may be suffering from cognitive dissonance, they might as well accept that they paid it, he joined, and that’s that. (In fact, astute observers will argue a consideration of sunk costs.) But for Carroll, that fee will follow him around and will forever cast a shadow over his ability. It presupposes talent in a way mere scout reports can’t; it demands return and it’s fodder for detractors.
Rodgers has already laughed off a loan move from the club who supposedly ‘pushed him out the door’ and initial demands of £20m are likely to scare other clubs away. So it looks like it’ll just get more uncomfortable before a solution can be found. I’m sure the Gateshead-born forward will not be at Liverpool for much longer, but where and how he goes could be interesting. Either a fairy-tale knight-in-shining-armor will ride in and rescue poor Andy with a mega-bucks deal or – and I fear this is much more probable – Fenway Sports Group will have to suffer the embarrassment of having a £35m striker unused and unwanted on the sidelines.
Either way, Andy Carroll doesn’t win.