By Jim Kostecki
The story of Andy Carroll’s Liverpool career so far is complex and at times misunderstood. For every moment of brilliance the big man displays – from his first two Premier league goals with the club to his most recent England header during Euro 2012 – there have been twice as many blunders. His poor goal-scoring record, 11 goals in 56 Premier League appearances, often overshadows his qualities.
Goal-scorers must score goals – this is a fact. Carroll is a goal scorer who does not score goals. He joins a long list of recent Liverpool flops – an elite club containing big names like Robbie Keane, Fernando Morientes, and Craig Bellamy (Act 1). There is a broader context to this dilemma that new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers must consider:
Carroll is young, tall, and powerful. He is also the most expensive British footballer in history, a difficult expectation to live up to. With fans thirsty for the Premier League title, Carroll may be in a lose-lose situation.
Rodgers faces three options in regards to Andy Carroll:
1) Cut your losses now and sell,
2) Loan him to another club and hope he continues to develop, or
3) Start him.
Out of these three options, the biggest risk is of course is starting Carroll. The Geordie’s style of play does not fall in line with Rodgers’ philosophy of a slow and calculated build-up play. If he stays, he must start. A £35 million flower cannot continue to wilt on the bench for a second straight year. Kenny Dalglish, while endlessly publically defending Carroll, seemingly gave up on him. Even when Luis Suarez was suspended for 8 games last January, Carroll was hardly given the opportunity to shine with the likes of Kuyt and Bellamy the preferred options.
There is no doubt that bringing Carroll on as a sub time after time is unsustainable and undesirable. He needs opportunities to prove himself. He needs goals to reinforce his lost confidence. That can only happen if he is a regular fixture in Rodgers’ starting 11.
The second option, loaning Carroll for a year, appears more likely. It is low risk and takes the pressure off of the player. Depending on the structure of the loan, Liverpool will be free of his wages while allowing him to gain valuable playing time elsewhere. Many supporters may argue that once Carroll goes on loan, his probability of returning to the Reds is low. However, Alberto Aquilani and Joe Cole have shown anything is possible.
New managers often have a short window of time before the fans thrust hardened judgment on them. In fact, Rodgers will most likely be free from criticism until at least the first game of the season. Therefore, if Carroll were to be sold – option three – it is likely to happen during this short window. No one would fault the new manager for not wanting to take a risk on Carroll. By now, most Liverpool supporters accept the fact that the return on investment will be low. A transfer will not necessarily be about the right price as it will be about the right move for both parties.
Whichever option Rodgers’ chooses, it can almost be guaranteed that his mind has been made. It would be naïve to think the new manager would need time to assess whether or not Carroll will fit into his plans. Rodgers will have no desire to experiment. It has been clear from day one that Liverpool hired a man with a plan. Does this plan include the young, lumbering yet powerful forward of Andy Carroll? Only Rodgers knows the answer.
The recent capture of Fabio Borini, a young but quickly developing forward from Italy, seems to suggest Carroll’s future is at risk. Compounded with Rodgers’ lack of conviction when speaking about the big man’s future, it is hard to believe Carroll will be in a Liverpool uniform at the start of the season.
Even the most sensible football fans are guilty of over-simplifying complex issues. The Andy Carroll dilemma is far from straightforward and difficult to solve. It appears the only option is to trust the new manager’s judgment – something this author has been guilty of far too many times.
Follow Jim Kostecki on twitter @jim_kostecki