Whilst Big Sam’s boys were denied all three points due to an injury time Manchester United equaliser last time out, their performance nevertheless proved that West Ham don’t necessarily need Andy Carroll to be successful in the Premier League.
On the contrary, because of the impressive form of both Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, a strike partnership that has struck up a seemingly immediate chemistry since their summer arrival at Upton Park, big Andy no longer carries the burden of being solely responsible for everything the Hammers have to offer coming forward. Wins against Liverpool and Manchester City earlier on in the season, as well as Sunday’s near victory against Louis van Gaal’s expensive outfit, prove that West Ham are no longer a one trick pony in the striking department.
In light of such a positive transition from last season, can Andy Carroll still provide his team with an important outlet, or does the former Newcastle and Liverpool man now have to revaluate his style in order to compete for his place in the starting XI?
When the 26-year-old made his signing permanent at Upton Park in 2013, great things were expected of the striker, who still remains the most expensive English player ever. The powerful centre forward, whose previous £35million price tag will seemingly never leave him alone, may not be the quickest or the most mobile in the box, but his aerial ability is arguably second to none in the entire Premier League.
Andy Carroll can be simply unplayable in the air. His burley nature often makes defences quiver at the thought of facing the England striker, and with a vast array of aerial knock-ons and target bound headers already coming off for the West Ham no. 9 this season, the big man really has been playing for the shirt he worked so hard to get back in after his lengthy spell on the side-lines. With five goals already recorded for Carroll in a campaign restricted by injury, the England striker is certainly on course to having a successful season.
That said, although Andy Carroll provides the Hammers with an undeniably strong force in the air, does his overall game really warrant a guaranteed place in Allardyce’s first team? West Ham play with more fluidity when the former St. James’ favourite is not present, the likes of Alex Song and Mark Noble don’t constantly see long balls fly over their heads in the middle of the park, and with the Sakho/Valencia partnership in full flow, defenders get constantly harassed and chased down by a West Ham strike-force that has that bit more energy about them.
Carroll’s lack of movement often leaves his striker partner isolated and without many options. Big Sam also favours playing the lofty striker on his own when he is available, leaving the likes of Enner Valencia and Stewart Downing without much assistance out wide, and often with little involvement in the game as a result.
However, to discount what Andy Carroll does bring to West Ham would simply be unwise, just ask Swansea City. In both fixtures between the Hammers and the Welsh club this season, the big man yet again proved a frustrating thorn in the side of Garry Monk’s team. At Upton Park, Carroll scored two headers with another formidable aerial showing, but perhaps more surprisingly in the reverse fixture, the England striker took several touches in the final third, before smashing the ball in the top right corner of the net in true Zlatan-esque style with his feet.
It therefore must be remembered that Andy Carroll will always have a role to play in this West Ham side, for the fact that he offers something very different to Sakho and Valencia, and something very tough to deal with at that. However, because the Hammers play better as a unit with their new found heroes up front, perhaps now is not the time for Allardyce to rely so heavily upon Carroll. A place in the starting XI will have to be well fought by the former Liverpool man if he is further solidify his place within West Ham folklore.