To describe Chelsea and Liverpool’s start to the season as ‘turbulent’ would be an understatement. Both sides possess sizeable squads littered with talent and yet both have so far struggled to meet the fluctuating expectations placed at their feet.
At Liverpool, Luis Suarez provides the only genuinely reliable presence in an ever-evolving team, which is stark contrast to Chelsea, who have discovered their most valuable asset is in fact their weakest link. This begs the question, should both clubs risk ridicule and recall Andy Carroll and Romelu Lukaku to improve their ailing fortunes?
The modern loan transfer arrangement is a complex beast, complicated by the intricate financial details associated with each deal. However, despite the defiance of West Ham and the reluctance of West Brom, I can’t see how they could prevent the parent team from extracting their respective players in January, even if they had to dig deep into their wallets to do so.
Sir Alex Ferguson recently dubbed Brendan Rodgers naïve for allowing Carroll to depart without a confirmed replacement already on his way. While this was an obvious attempt to goad his favourite rivals, it’s difficult to contest his assessment.
Liverpool dithered over their valuation of Fulham star Clint Dempsey to such an extent that the Cottagers launched a complaint in protest of their transfer antics. As deadline day reached its climax, Tottenham swooped in the eleventh hour, highlighting how quickly a deal could and should have been done. In the meantime Andy Carroll had already signed on the dotted line with Sam Allardyce, leaving Brendan Rodgers to rue a series of bad judgement calls.
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Rodgers may have fallen foul of false promises concerning incoming reinforcements, but he only has himself to blame for the way he handled Andy Carroll. First he was a valued member of the squad, then a back up, before reverting to his original stance when respectable offers failed to flood his inbox.
His constant stream of contradiction was epitomised when he revealed it ‘would take a special offer’ for him to allow his burly target man to depart on loan. In reality, all it required was a relatively measly £1m loan fee plus the bulk of his wages from the bank of Gold and Sullivan. Hardly an exceptional offer and one that Rodgers would certainly turn down looking back, but then again hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Rodgers only succeeded to reinforce the growing consensus that the striker has no future in Merseyside. In London however, Carroll has been treated like the £35m striker Liverpool once thought he was. He has thrived in a team that harbours no apprehension in resorting the direct style of football that will utilise his best assets. Alongside Kevin Nolan, his partner in crime, the Hammers have hustled and bustled their way up the league and currently sit three places above the Reds in the table.
Many devout Liverpool supporters have echoed Rodgers’ opinion that Carroll is incapable of conforming to his new passing philosophy. However I would argue that he doesn’t need to, it wouldn’t be in the teams or the player’s best interest. Carroll performs the unsightly aspects of football, the aerial duels, hold up play and set-piece defending, incredibly effectively. Just imagine how Luis Suarez or Raheem Sterling would benefit from the increased number of flick-ons or free-kicks that Carroll could manufacture.
Granted, Liverpool need a proven goalscorer in their ranks but while Carroll’s record this season is far from spectacular, he has never been prolific throughout his career. In the unlikely event that both parties agree to cancel their arrangement, I fear the bridge back to Merseyside may have already been burnt beyond repair.
Over at the Hawthorns, Steve Clarke has masterminded a remarkable start to the season, with the club sitting perilously close to the Champions League places. The former Chelsea assistant has managed to get the best from the diverse attacking trio of Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and the on-loan Romelu Lukaku.
At just 19-years-old, the Belgium international has already been tipped for stardom and has flourished in his new, less demanding surroundings. The comparisons to Didier Drogba may be somewhat premature but they are not without merit. His robust, powerful presence is perhaps the only element lacking in the current Chelsea strikeforce.
Interim-manager Rafael Benitez was quick to dismiss speculation of a potential recall and instead insisted that it was best if the player continued his development elsewhere. However, while this is completely understandable, there is the underlying feeling that the Spaniard has been bought in with the primary task of restoring the faltering Fernando Torres, and Lukaku’s return would certainly hinder that process.
With the club set to depart for the Club World Cup after their match against Sunderland, there will be real onus on Torres to rediscover his form against significantly inferior opponents. Failure to impress will surely force the club to consider their options, especially if Benitez refuses to remain contempt with this babysitting gig and instead wants to make a real go if it, for his sake as much as the clubs.
When the two sides met in November to contest a particularly uninspiring 1-1 draw, statistics showed that the average height of both starting line-ups didn’t exceed six foot. Carroll and Lukaku could provide the strong aerial presence both sides seem to require and while both clubs have been linked with unproven transfer targets from foreign shores, perhaps its time they took advantage of the players already at their disposal.