You would think that any player with a £35million price tag is a certain starter. Many eyebrows were raised following Andy Carroll’s arrival from Newcastle, despite his undoubted potential. For the latter part of the 2010-2011 season, Carroll was blighted by injury in a red shirt, limiting him to sporadic appearances. Fast forward to this month and Carroll has come through a pre-season campaign unscathed and is fully fit. But it’s not been all plain sailing.
In the first league match of the season, Luis Suarez ran rings around the Sunderland defence before understandably tiring after a summer of brilliance for Uruguay at the Copa America. Carroll was unable to provide the same spark as his strike partner and as Suarez became less effective, Liverpool’s threat diminished.
The following league game saw Carroll start as a lone striker against Arsenal, but yet again it was the introduction of Suarez that changed the game – forcing a mistake for the first goal and scoring the second.
Liverpool’s best performance of the season came in the most recent league game against Bolton. Dalglish decided to leave Andy Carroll on the bench, preferring a two-pronged attack of Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt – a partnership which worked brilliantly in the second half of the 2010-2011 season.
The fluidity of Liverpool’s attacking play was mesmerising at times, as Stewart Downing often drifted off the left wing, Dirk Kuyt dropped deep and Luis Suarez drew defenders out of position with his menacing movement.
Without Andy Carroll on the pitch, the team didn’t rely on the easy option of hitting it long to the target man and were encouraged instead into playing more patiently.
When Carroll entered the game, with the scoreline already at 3-0, he looked sluggish. On one such occasion, Stewart Downing – who had yet another superb game – whipped in a delightful cross for the Geordie to attack, but he was caught on his heels and got nowhere near the ball.
In the absence of Luis Suarez’s darting runs, Liverpool suddenly looked a more one-dimensional and predictable team.
By all means, Andy Carroll is an excellent centre-forward. He will score many goals for Liverpool this season and in seasons to come, but from the evidence seen thus far, a Kuyt-Suarez strike pairing looks far more potent.