One man will be absent from this weekend’s fixture between Liverpool and West Ham at Anfield, despite dominating the news in the build-up to the clash – on-loan striker Andy Carroll – but the topic of where his future lies, with the end of the season in sight, is once again a source of much debate for Britain’s most expensive ever player, but could he still be a success on Merseyside?
The Daily Mirror published a report today claiming that Carroll is likely to be offered a lifeline by manager Brendan Rodgers in the summer, with the crucial caveat that the England international will have to settle for a squad role and place in the pecking order predominantly as an impact substitute. This supposed turnaround is born partly out of circumstance and the fact that the 24-year-old has started just 15 league games so far this season after struggling with injury, meaning that West Ham will be reluctant to go anywhere near the £17m agreed fee clause in his current loan contract.
In an interview with Yahoo, Rodgers revealed that the club would like to press ahead with regards to bringing in a few fresh faces over the summer, but that he wanted to avoid a repeat of the ‘operational issues’ that dogged the club’s transfer policy at the start of the season: “We would have liked to bring in a few more players in the summer but we didn’t. The group were admirable with what they coped in that period because we had a lot of games. We knew we had to bring in reinforcements in January and the board worked superbly to get those players.
“We are hopeful that come the summer we can make more additions that will take us on to the next level. So there was no vindication really, just that Andy [Carroll] wanted to play games every week and at the time there wasn’t the availability to bring in a replacement. The business we did in January however was excellent and that’s a great credit to the club.”
It’s a tacit acknowledgement that Carroll may have perhaps had a future at the club this season had he not been so eager to have a guaranteed role in the side. The suspicion that the club would take a rather hefty financial hit on any sale has obviously brought the issue front and centre and with the net debt increasing by a third from £65.4m in July 2011 to £87.2m in May 2012, they may not be so hasty to cast off a perfectly serviceable option, with Rodgers transfer budget set to be reduced.
The January business that saw forward Daniel Sturridge brought in from Chelsea and diminutive playmaker Philippe Coutinho signed from Inter Milan will have seen the club taking on even more debt, and while they would clearly still like to sell Carroll for as much as possible, as a potential face-saving measure, he may simply be put on some sort of mobility training programme and forever used as the much-vaunted plan B option the club have at times required this term.
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After Carroll’s double against West Brom last Saturday at Upton Park, which included a wonderfully-taken volley on his weaker right foot with the ball coming over his shoulder, Sam Allardyce hinted that the club are still interested in the target man, but not at the £17m price agreed before the season started, telling reporters: “There is always a possibility. We will look at the end of the season and we will see what negotiations can be done.”
In all honesty, this eventuality has been a long time coming – nobody in their right mind would fork out £17m on a striker that’s started just 15 league games for them the year before, especially one with limited resources like West Ham. The list of potential alternative clients is short, well, really short aside from the Hammers, and it includes just Newcastle. If his name was Adriane Carollé, he’d be a veritable shoe-in, but they may deem him too expensive also, despite Alan Pardew’s willingness to bring him back.
Essentially, Rodgers could be placing the ball in Carroll’s court, much like he did last summer, and backing him into a corner by letting him know that he will never be a regular in the squad therefore forcing him to declare his desire to leave. It’s a risky move that would surely drive the price down for a player that always desired to prove himself at Anfield before his loan move away.
Carroll clearly doesn’t fit Rodgers philosophy, while his 4-3-3 system is heavily built around a fluid attacking style and a mobile centre-forward comfortably with interchanging out wide or dropping deep to collect the ball – both Sturridge and Luis Suarez fit perfectly, but with the Uruguayan’s future still up in the air, at least until that guaranteed bumper deal is agreed which will see him stay one more year before leaving, the hierarchy could just be erring on the side of caution in trying not to repeat the mistakes in the transfer market which hindered them at the beginning of the campaign and left them with just one fit senior striker.
This transfer saga, and it will be one of those, no doubt, looks to have plenty of twists left before it comes to its logical conclusion. It’s difficult to see a route back for Carroll at Anfield and the club look as if they’re bluffing, trying to flush out some interest in their unwanted striker. His return wouldn’t be the worst move in the world for what looks an unbalanced squad capable of being bullied out of games at the moment and his physical presence could come in handy against certain sides, but while a return to Merseyside looks assured this weekend, he has plenty left to prove between now and May about whether he deserves another shot at Liverpool.
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