The biggest thing in football is money, we all know it. Peter Crouch comes close, Wayne Rooney’s vocabulary comes close, but money is what makes the game go round. Any owner of a club, such as Mr J W Henry, will want to see returns on their investments. Of course they would, that’s fair enough, but sometimes I do sit and ponder whether money hamstrings football too much. I’ve often heard it called moneyball, and there’s a lot of truth in this. When an owner invests a lot of money in a player, they expect that player to play, and when that player doesn’t play well, or doesn’t fit a system, then who has the ultimate say?
In a perfect world, the football man does. But as Rafa Benitez found out continually through his career, you can’t bite the hand that feeds you, or you’ll get a slap. When I watch Andy Carroll play, this quandary always pops into mind. I see the team change, our brainless defenders (Agger and Johnson excluded) see it as an easy way out, and I worry that because he’s the most expensive British player ever, ‘he has to play’.
Now, I know he’s young, and new, and I think he will score a lot of goals for Liverpool, but I would hope that the manager (presumably Dalglish) will have the power and sway to dictate the team’s style on a game-by-game basis. There will be some games where playing Carroll won’t be as effective. While I am sure he will improve as a player over the next few years, his style of play won’t. He will always be a target man, and not in the Drogba mould, because quite simply he lacks the pace.
Liverpool must concentrate on avoiding building a team solely to suit Andy Carroll, as has been mooted, but build a team based on a philosophy of good football, and ensure that Carroll fits that philosophy. Lots of chit-chat and conjecture has bandied about the airwaves and internet-waves [cit] about buying wingers for Carroll. If that was to be our ‘aim’ then we would be seriously undermining our chances of long-term success. Carroll is still an unknown quantity. He has raw assets that should be exploited, and a good crosser would of course be a great acquisition, but any incoming wingers (Sylvain Marveaux looks set to join) I would hope they have a lot more about them than just being able to stick the ball on Andy Carroll’s head.
All of the teams who play on that ‘higher level’, have an amazing fluidity about them that allows interchangeable positions making them a nightmare for defenders. By focusing entirely on Andy Carroll, we allow ourselves to fall into dependency. Everybody will know where Carroll will play, and how we will play to him.
Who knows? Maybe Andy Carroll’s biggest role could be to play the world’s most expensive red herring. By using Carroll not as a goal scorer, but as a goal creator (i.e. making space, runs, dragging defenders away) Liverpool can take advantage of this space. The biggest trouble Liverpool have had for the last two years is finding players who can create space. We’re too static, and Andy Carroll surely falls into that bracket. But, it can work. To utilize a player of Carroll’s ability, we need strong runners from midfield and players who know when to go and when to stay, a footballing brain can never be underestimated. Meireles has shown he has the potential to do it, but he can’t be relied upon solely.
Kuyt doesn’t have the legs any more and Suarez is still too early in his career at Liverpool and must be given time. Although his direct style and unpredictable nature make him a handful for any team, I’m sure he will help the ‘dream’ of beautiful football along nicely.
In summary, I hope and expect Andy Carroll to be a success at Liverpool FC. I just hope that Liverpool play to LIVERPOOL’S strengths, and not Andy Carroll’s. Andy Carroll should be a weapon wielded in a way to allow a warrior to move freely, not a weapon too heavy to be swung, rendering our metaphorical warrior over encumbered.
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