Striker Light: Send For Gerrard?

Whilst no Liverpool fan would particularly wish to re-live the horrors of transfer deadline day, the fact remains that the club is facing something of an issue regarding its striking options (and that’s putting it mildly). But could the answer to their problems already be on their books?

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Liverpool Summer 2012 Transfer Review

Now that the transfer window has closed for another four months, lets take a look at Liverpool’s dealings. Regular readers will know I tend to focus on the positive, but hopefully the below provides a balanced view on the various deals that have taken place at Anfield this summer.

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Andy Carroll: Finding Form

Now that Carroll appears to have played his last game for Liverpool, I thought I’d bump this piece up to the front of the blog. His form for the Reds wasn’t as bad as you might think…

Andy Carroll has just completed his first full season at Liverpool, but his return of eleven goals and four assists in fifty-six appearances in all competitions since signing from Newcastle hardly seems good enough for a £35m striker. It breaks down like this: Continue reading

Carroll and Crosses

In Michael Cox’s weekly chalkboard round up for The Guardian this week, he pointed out how Liverpool’s crossing had been poor in the draw with Manchester United at the weekend.

The suggestion was that without Andy Carroll on the pitch, there was often no-one for the wingers to aim for in the box.

Using the statistics for each of Liverpool’s league games this season, I thought I’d see if there was any correlation between the amount of time Carroll has played in a match, and how accurate the Reds’ crossing has been.

Broadly speaking there has been. It’s important to remember that the crossing accuracy figures are for the whole match, and not just the time that Carroll has been on the pitch though.

Similarly, the data is not available to show what percentage of the crosses the Geordie striker got himself on the end of, so it’s impossible to state definitively what Carroll’s influence has been.

But it does seem that if Carroll is not on the pitch, then Liverpool need to find a different way to feed chances to their other strikers.

Statistics sourced from EPLIndex. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

All I Am Saying is Give Carroll A Chance

A lot of Liverpool fans have been voicing concerns about how Liverpool play when Andy Carroll is in the side. With the £35m man up front, the Reds resort to hoofball tactics which would shame the likes of Bolton these days.

Or do they? In the seven league matches that Carroll played last season, Liverpool, on average, attempted 45.14 long passes (defined as a pass straight from defence to attack), and 45.86 in the seven matches he missed after he signed for the club.

Similarly, accurate long balls increased in number during the games Carroll missed, for an average of 30.14, as opposed to 27.71 when he did play.  Small margins granted, but those numbers would suggest that the Reds weren’t playing route one football just because Carroll was in the line-up.

Looking at last weekend’s match with Sunderland, Carroll won all of the nine aerial duels he contested, so is the issue him, or is it Jamie Carragher (as an example, but probably the club’s king of the long ball hoof)?

Does Carragher hit it long because Carroll is there? Because Kenny tells him to? Because there are lack of options close to him? Because he’s not a very good ‘footballer’? Probably a bit of all of these things, but to lay the blame at the Geordie striker’s door seems unfair to me.

I’m not going to sit here and say we played better in the league games Carroll played in compared to those that he missed last season, as it’s just not true. His case has not been aided by the dazzling five goal romps against Birmingham at Anfield and Fulham away, when he was entirely absent from the line up.

He has also only scored two goals for Liverpool so far. However, in the interests of fair play, I think some context is required.

Carroll featured in seven matches last season. These included matches against Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Spurs. Or four of the five teams who finished above Liverpool, if you prefer. That clearly is a disproportionately difficult selection of matches.

Twice Carroll was brought on as a sub when the Reds were already 3-0 up (Manchester United and Newcastle at home). Not impossible that the team or Andy himself would have scored more of course, but they were hardly busting a gut to do so.

Another of his matches was Arsenal away – not a happy hunting ground for Liverpool since the early days of the Premiership, when they won five times in their first eight visits. Since Titi Camara secured a 1-0 win in February 2000, the Reds have only scored nine goals in 11 league visits, and only scored twice once. Even then they were soundly taken apart by a Thierry Henry hat-trick in a 4-2 defeat.

So to blame Carroll in any way seems a little off when much better Liverpool teams than the vintage of 2010/11 have hardly done well at Highbury or The Emirates in recent times.

Carroll also had the misfortune of playing against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns with Martin Atkinson as the ref. Big Andy complained about after being kicked from pillar to post, to which the referee laughed and told him to get on with it as he was a striker. Who is the ref for the Arsenal match today by the way? I wouldn’t expect miracles from Carroll today if I were you.

In short, I think the two key questions and answers on the Carroll debate are:

Has Carroll been a resounding success yet? No.
Has he had a fair chance to prove himself yet? No.

I’m going to keep the faith for the time being. The final key question is: will Kenny and the majority of the fanbase do the same?

Statistics sourced from EPLIndex. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.