A £35m question that only Liverpool fans can answer

Whenever a club is underachieving it seems inevitable that somebody will become a scapegoat. It is one of the few guarantees in the beautiful game with many players succumbing to this fate. And Andy Carroll is the latest to be reined in.

After joining on deadline day in January, Carroll has been unable to hit the heights expected of him as the £35 million replacement for Fernando Torres which has led to the media and some Liverpool supporters wondering whether he is up to the task.

Questions have been raised over his on-pitch attitude, fitness and lifestyle, but with Kenny Dalglish refusing to criticise the striker, it seems that people on the outside have got it in for him. So is this a case of the media sensationalising something that all players go through? Or is patience starting to run thin with the 22-year-old?

Nobody can doubt that Carroll has so far failed to live up to expectations but it is becoming redundant to read that spending £35 million on a striker should equal goals and his so far goal shy Anfield career makes him useless. And while it is obvious that strikers will be judged by how often they get on the scoresheet, it is not the only thing to consider.

His time on Merseyside has been plagued by injuries that have prevented him from showing his power and eye for goal. Having joined the club with a torn thigh muscle it took until March before he could finally make his debut and after opening his account with two goals against Manchester City and looking sharp he suffered another injury setback, which has been linked to a lack of professionalism. But many young players suffer injuries when they play a lot of football and as the main striker at St. James’ Park it was likely that his body would suffer some affects.

On top of that, England manager Fabio Capello said that he needed to control his drinking to reach the top but club manager Dalglish rubbished these suggestions. When asked by a reporter about the player’s off-pitch antics the Scot claimed that “nobody knows” what his lifestyle is and that the press “milk” an unimportant issue. It is clear that King Kenny does not believe there is a problem and if the man that sees him day in and day out has no worries, then there is little to argue.

A big factor in this debate is the lack of game time Carroll has had because of his trouble adapting to the Liverpool style of play. Newcastle got the most from the striker because they utilised their wingers, getting in plenty of crosses and long balls that allowed Carroll to use his power and top class heading ability. Now at Anfield, the fluid, attacking style of play is unsuited to his strengths and despite Dalglish bringing in Stewart Downing to get crosses in, the plan is yet to succeed and with no out and out winger on the right the goal chances are drying up.

This is why he is dropped even after scoring important goals. Grabbing a goal in the Merseyside derby was a big step in getting the fans on side but in the following games against Manchester United and Norwich he was back on the bench and prevented from building his confidence.

The reason for this has been the superb form of Liverpool’s other signings. Fellow January signing Luis Suarez has been a revelation at Anfield since joining from Ajax, scoring freely and fitting in seamlessly so when Carroll was given the opportunity to play he has been expected to do the same. And this season, Craig Bellamy has marked his return with his own passionate displays which have put unwarranted pressure on the £35 million man.

It is easily forgotten that last season was his first campaign as a first-choice Premier League striker and he was instantly thrown into the limelight with 11 goals in 19 appearances for Newcastle. His performance against Arsenal in the Magpies’ 1-0 win showed his immense potential but at just 22 he is yet to develop as a rounded football and reach his peak, and having been signed whilst injured, manager Kenny Dalglish clearly has the “six years not six months” mindset with this buy.

Andy Carroll is a superb talent going through a rough patch. He has scored 17 goals in 56 Premier League games during his career, hardly a poor record for someone so young. Every footballer has a spell like this and the best players always come through it. His injury problems have made the spell last longer and the fact that Liverpool are off the pace has left everyone wanting answers. If the club were really becoming impatient with him it would be clear to see but with the form of Suarez and Bellamy it is simply a matter of Dalglish playing his best team on the day. Dalglish is confident that Carroll will repay his price tag and so should everyone else. The fans and the media need to lay off him and let him get to what he knows best. The best years of his career are ahead of him. He will be Liverpool’s next great number nine.

What do you think? Is Carroll a good player or another for the scrapheap? Have your say. Comment below or follow me on Twitter @jrobbins1991.

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