Why Brendan Rodgers would be making a huge mistake here
One of the strangest transfer rumours this summer, quite possibly the oddest since then Bolton centre-half Gary Cahill was linked with a move to Barcelona, has seen Liverpool striker supposedly targeted by AC Milan. The club’s new boss Brendan Rodgers remains open to the possibility of allowing Carroll to depart in time for next season on loan, but what that be tantamount to career suicide, for both the player and the manager?
Andy Carroll has flattered to deceive for the majority of his 18-month stay at Anfield so far, since his staggering £35m move from Newcastle in January 2010. If you’re bored of the mention of the exorbitant fee by now, you’re not alone, but no Carroll story is complete these days without a brief nod to the lunacy of the price paid. However, this fee can often distort people’s views when talking about Carroll – he’s unlikely to ever fully justify being the joint-tenth highest transfer of all-time, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a decent player and capable of more.
Lest we forget, he scored in an FA Cup semi-final, FA Cup final and at Euro 2012 over the past few months as an out-of-sorts Liverpool side slowly but surely began to play to his strengths. By all accounts, he’s lost his taste for the nightlife recently too, a factor that so worried Fabio Capello and saw him dumped from the international scene just when it looked like he was going to be the long-term focal point for the national side. My point is that there is clearly a player there, a very good one too when on form and there aren’t too many like him about – to casually cast off such an unusual and clearly threatening talent would seem an extremely odd move for Rodgers to make.
The whole talk about Carroll leaving the club on loan this summer came about when Silvio Berlusconi’s son, Pier Silvio, stated he liked what he saw of Carroll at Euro 2012 and urged his father to ratify a move, if it suited the club financially. Here’s what he had to say: “This is a new era for Milan. We will continue to get younger while maintaining the culture. Milan still has its superstars. As a future target I’d like Andy Carroll. I must admit that, for his body build, and after seeing his header in the Euros, I would like to have Carroll at Milan” with reports indicating from Italy that Berlusconi Snr is ‘seriously considering; taking his son’s advice.
This led to Rodgers stating just a few days ago: “It’s something I would have to look at, I have to be honest. Andy’s always going to be linked with clubs, whether he was here or not. He knows exactly where he stands, but I have had no enquiries about him. There are many things to going on loan. Is it going to be beneficial for the club, that’s the most important thing? Sometimes a player going out on loan – in general, not just Andy – can benefit the club in the long term. It gets them game experience and they come back a better player, a more confident one. Certainly more so than if they’ve been sitting on the bench for the majority of the season. I’m not going to sit here and say I will never let anyone go on loan, then come in here in two weeks and a player’s gone, and you’re saying ‘you said you wouldn’t let them go’.”
This would seem to indicate that Carroll is not in Rodgers’ first-team plans for the coming campaign, despite his marked improvement towards the back-end of last season. Assuming that Rodgers adopts a similar 4-3-3 formation that he did last season with Swansea, this may mean that he wants Luis Suarez to take the central role that Danny Graham played for most of last season for the Welsh outfit.
The 39 year-old Ulsterman likes his number nine to be both strong on the ball and mobile off it, but do you really want Suarez playing with his back to goal for most of the game? Is that not a monumental waste of his creative talents? Carroll may not be as mobile as Graham, but he’s certainly better in the air, can bully defenders more and his work-rate has come on in leaps and bounds the past few months and with the right service, he’s a serious goal threat.
It may be the temptation to play it long which is hindering Carroll’s cause. England with Peter Crouch in the side suffered from this very same disease. Crouch isn’t particularly great in the air, but whenever a defender or midfielder was pushed for space and time on the ball, they’d play the easy ball further forward to Crouch, hoping he’d do something with it. Crouch’s strength was on the deck, but that didn’t matter and it was just an example of those players passing on responsibility of actually doing anything of note when in possession – a collective lack of ownership over their own and the team’s performances.
Perhaps rather than what Carroll is actually capable of, Rodgers fears that having such a big target man and useful outlet will prove too tempting to ignore for some of his new side and could compromise his new passing ‘philosophy’ at Anfield. However, there must still be a case for keeping him at the club as a useful plan B even if he’s not going to be a regular guaranteed starter under Rodgers.
Liverpool are hardly blessed with strength in depth up front either at the moment. Dirk Kuyt has left the club after six years and moved to Fenerbache in Turkey, while Craig Bellamy cannot be relied upon to either play or perform consistently due to a chronic knee complaint, which leaves just Carroll and Suarez. Even if the club do complete a deal to bring Fabio Borini to the club over the course of the next few days, there’s no pressing nor convincing argument to allow Carroll to move elsewhere in the short-term.
Alberto Aquilani has been moved about on loan to both Juventus and AC Milan over the past two seasons while the club had to put up with inferior replacements such as Jay Spearing and Christian Poulsen and they are in danger of letting the same thing happen all over again with this Carroll situation.
The giant Geordie is far from the complete player and there are still technical deficiencies in his game which may hinder his long-term future under Rodgers, but I thought the entire point of bringing in a new young and vibrant manager with a fluid set of principles was that he would get the best out of the existing talent at the club, rather than give up on it before a ball has even been kicked in anger. Is it not his job to find solutions to problems such as this, rather than simply getting rid of them altogether?
It’s clear that Rodgers is not under the same pressure to play the likes of Carroll, Downing and Henderson as Kenny Dalglish was, but he’s simply far too useful an option to simply let go to Sam Allardyce’s West Ham or wherever next season. How is Carroll expected to learn and adapt to a new style of play at Liverpool if he isn’t even there in the first place? Rarely when players are loaned out do they come back and prove themselves, especially when they are somewhat proven already and have cost the sort of figure that Carroll did.
If Rodgers wants to sell, then that’s another matter entirely, but Carroll’s stock has never been higher during his time at Anfield, and a loan move merely signifies that the player has no real sell-on value. He may not quite fit the system or the style of play, but even as just a hugely expensive plan B, Carroll deserves another season at Liverpool to prove himself.
Do you think Carroll should be given another chance at Anfield next season?
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