Denial can be a difficult thing in football. The admittance of error is something we seldom hear in the Premier League and in an industry where mistakes often cost millions, perhaps it’s easier to skew our opinions and beliefs into believing what we’re witnessing is right.
There is always a nature of blind faith supporting any football club and Liverpool fans aren’t any different from any others in the league. Although there has to be a cut off point. A backdrop of cultural and ethical implications may have shrouded the support of Luis Suarez, but there are no blurred lines in the support of Andy Carroll’s place in the team.
If Brendan Rodgers wants him out, then that is the only stance supporters should be buying into – that of footballing principles. Because at the end of the day, transfer fees, bruised pride and idyllists aren’t going to win you football games. The vision of the manager and the way his players perform in his set-up, will. Nothing else should matter.
The Andy Carroll situation has fast turned into something of a burning dilemma up at Anfield. It’s been quipped a million times, but it wasn’t the Gateshead born striker’s fault he cost £35 million. He wasn’t worth that much and probably never will be. Although the fact is that it has played its part in his difficult last 18 months at Liverpool.
But there is also a fact that you don’t become a bad player overnight. Form is temporary; class is permanent, so they say. Some may be ready to ridicule such a statement, but his time at Liverpool doesn’t mean that he can’t still become a massive Premier League success.
Carroll showed enough at Newcastle to suggest this and towards the closing stages of last season at Liverpool as well. His overwhelming gift is of course an immense aerial prowess, but he has a decent ability to hold the ball up too and a sincerely powerful shot as well. What he needs is a team that is willing to base their entire side around him. Play to his strengths and there are rewards to be reaped. It might not be tiki-taka football, but what does it matter?
There is more than one way to play football and just because Carroll epitomises the strengths of a less favourable style in today’s game, it doesn’t mean that a Premier League team can’t be successful with him in their side.
But that also decrees that Carroll’s game isn’t going to be suited to all set-ups. And the question has to be, does Brendan Rodgers have a need for an archetypal English number nine in his new Liverpool set-up? In the fluid, mobile system Rodgers will look to play, the emphasis is going to be all around possession; pass, pass and pass again. The ball is going to be kept on the deck, as opposed to launched into the air. His frontman is going to need to bestow intelligent movement and technically excellent hold up play. You can see where this is going.
You can’t force the shoe on if it doesn’t fit. If Brendan Rodgers doesn’t see Andy Carroll as part of his long-term plans, and unless he has some really quite drastic change of philosophy, then he has to be moved on. New managers arrive at clubs all the time and when they do, players who don’t fit into their conception of a team that will win football matches, are usually moved on. It doesn’t matter that it’s Andy Carroll, it doesn’t matter that he cost so much money and it doesn’t matter that Kenny Dalglish signed him either.
There is a school of thought that Brendan Rodgers is naïve in shifting Carroll without giving him a chance or looking at him in close quarters. Rodgers might learn the intricacies of Carroll’s game a bit better and there will be elements that may well surprise him.
But the bread and butter of Carroll’s game is there for the world to see. It’s not as if he is some shrinking violet with a hidden aspect of his game that has been restricted through playing out of position. Rodgers knows exactly what Carroll’s game is all about and if he doesn’t, it’s only going to be a stay of execution if he does.
This isn’t to say that there is any form of bad feeling around Carroll and not everybody wants to see the back of him. But if he was to stay, he needs to be backed to the hilt and have Rodgers craft his team around him. Rodgers has made the right noises about having Carroll in his team, but it’s difficult to tell whether the Northern Irishman is simply indulging in good PR. Luis Suarez will of course play a prominent part and the singing of Fabio Borini represents a tried and tested player for Rodgers. There’s no smoke without fire and if the club have indeed accepted a bid from West Ham then the gaffer must be happy to let him go. If that’s the case then Carroll is fighting a losing battle staying at Liverpool.
When you cost your club so much money to acquire, the subsequent focus and expectation is unavoidable. Andy Carroll has become a victim of a transfer fee that he had no control over. One of the unfortunate sideshows has been the media’s continuous stirring of his situation and the added exposure certainly hasn’t done him any favours. It may seem like pedantic critique, but did a man as wily and experienced in the game as Kenny Dalglish not wonder what effect the title of most expensive British signing in history might have on Carroll? It’s academic now, but still food for thought.
But there is no more time for posturing and denial. Perhaps it’s time Rodgers made his intentions crystal clear. Because the current hesitation and indecision are only going to cost Liverpool and Andy Carroll dearly.
Carroll needs to play in a team that aren’t going to be afraid to back him all the way. Liverpool can’t pour any more time into something if their heart’s not truly in it.
Stick of twist with Andy Carroll? A simple question, but what would you do? Tell me how you see it all on Twitter, follow @samuel_antrobus and bat us your views.