Andy Carroll's Liverpool Adventure
By Alex Fairchild
Transfer policy is one of any club's most important behind-the-scenes operations. While building a proper youth academy is important, it is more realistic for dominant clubs to bring in players from separate backgrounds. Buying the elite is how Chelsea and Manchester City have made their names in the past decade and it is how Paris Saint-Germaine and AS Monaco will develop their franchises.
Two years ago, Liverpool's Damien Comolli made an ambitious move, pulling in Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in a last gasp attempt to right Liverpool's ship. In the former, he found one of the game's great attacking talents, while the latter turned out a flop - for many - and understandably so.
Any player labelled the most expensive in his country's history or league is bound to have huge expectations. Stan Collymore was transferred from Nottingham Forest to Liverpool for a fee of over £8 million. He left Merseyside with a lesser value. Carroll can join the club. His £35 million price tag is engraved in the minds of all Liverpool supporters, just as Fernando Torres's £50 million one is for those at the Bridge.
But it was not all bad for Andy Carroll. The 24-year-old offered Liverpool a brace against Manchester City in one of his opening appearances. He was brilliant that night. His first was a screamer, while the second was a flick off his locks. At that time, everything looked bright for the Englishman, but injuries continued to keep him from his reaching his potential. While Luis Suarez made mazy dribbles by helpless defenses, Carroll became some what of an unfortunate friend. Somebody who was good, but never really given credit. His EPL form in 2011-2012 was definitely sub-par, but it was improving.
Without Carroll, Liverpool would may not have made the FA Cup Final. An 88th minute nod to Dirk Kuyt saw the Reds defeat Manchester United at Anfield in the competition's fourth round. Would Liverpool have been able to advance from Old Trafford in a midweek replay? Probably not. He did it again at Wembley. After going down 0-1, the Reds fought back through Luis Suarez and defeated Everton via Carroll's last gasp header. Weeks later, he roofed his shot by Petr Cech to half Chelsea's lead in the final. His defining moment came near the match's conclusion. Another header from the pony-tailed man was sure to have gone in, but an outreached arm from Cech kept it out. Or did it? Looking at replay after replay and over analyzed picture after over analyzed picture, it is still not clear whether the ball crossed the line in full. Liverpool had a tremendous amount of momentum in that match and had the goal counted and the game gone to extra time, the Reds looked the favorite to walk up the Wembley steps.
Perhaps if Michel Platini and Sepp Blater were not such stubborn suits, goal-line technology would exist, and maybe just maybe, King Kenny and Andy Carroll would still be at the club. Nobody in their right mind would sack a manager that brought the club a trophy brace, nor the striker who contributed heavily to their FA Cup victory. Unless that man is Roman Abramovich. Months later, Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll would connect in the European Championships.
When Brendan Rodgers came to town, Carroll was immediately outed by the media and all his skill ignored. He had a few step-overs in his time at the club, but it was always going to be hard for him to stay. It seems foolish though to push Carroll out. A club would be naive to limit itself to one strategy when it has the option of another. While a primary one is necessary, a backup is always needed. Barcelona possessed for years, but once they went down late in a match, they were stymied. In their loss to AC Milan in the first leg of last season's Champions League tie, Milan took a 2-0 lead. Barca looked to salvage a goal from the match, but could not. They failed to break out and score a quick goal. Their long balls were picked out quite easily, as their players had little experience sending them in desperation. Barca also lacked the personnel to do the trick.
For Rodgers, it would be fine to possess, but sometimes your primary tactic fails. It is okay, as long as one can adapt and try something different. That is what Carroll could have become had Rodgers not been so fast to dismiss him. A target man thrown on in the 80th minute would force the defense to deal with a physical presence when they are already tired. It would give the team a direct route to get a goal at the death. It is not guaranteed to work all of the time, but why restrict yourself to one style. Mix it up.
Carroll is a perfect fit at West Ham. He meshes into Big Sam's system flawlessly as a rough-and-tough striker. Next season, he will be able to enjoy his football without the pressure of answering to one of the world's most storied clubs. Perhaps Carroll can return to form in the coming years for club and country in order to turn around his dream, which suddenly became a nightmare.
After what was supposed to be a new beginning a few years ago, it seems that having sold Carroll, that fresh start has turned into yet another reboot. The rebuilding phase is in its second part on Merseyside's Red half and only time will tell whether or not a third change in policy is necessary.