He’s only been back for five games, yet people are singing the praises of Andy Carroll once again.
His displays for West Ham so far this season have been hugely impressive considering the amount of time the big Geordie has spent on the sidelines in recent months. Now that West Ham’s number nine is back, is he proving that he is the best striker of his kind in the league?
The answer is, rather simply, yes. The target man is becoming a rarer breed these days, but there is nobody better in the Premier League than Carroll. Out of a massive 76 aerial duels that the Hammers ace has contested in just five games this season, he’s managed to win 53 of them, showing why he’s such a good player for team-mates to aim at.
One of the main criticisms of Carroll is that he doesn’t score enough. However, he showed in the recent encounter against Swansea City that he can find the back of the net with a couple of controlled finishes with his head. The 25-year-old is blessed with heading ability that almost allows him to add finesse as well as pinpoint accuracy onto his headers, with his first against Swansea, a cushioned effort, a perfect example of this.
Of course, there are other target men in the league worth a mention. Peter Crouch has produced consistently at Premier League level over the years, taking advantage of his 6ft. 7″ structure whilst also being pretty handy with his feet as well. Christian Benteke can also be a real threat in the air, as well as Didier Drogba, Romelu Lukaku and Diego Costa.
All these players showcase excellent strength and aerial ability but they do not possess the strong aerial side to their game that manner Carroll does. His impressive record of winning aerial duels in the Premier League shows exactly why he is the best target man in the league. Against Swansea on Sunday, Diafra Sakho thrived off the supply of Carroll’s aerial flick-ons, with one of them resulting in Sakho grabbing his seventh Premier League goal of the season.
Although the other strikers mentioned are clearly excellent players in their own right, Carroll models himself into a target man mould, recognising his heading ability as one of the best around. What makes the ex-Liverpool and Newcastle man stand out is his leap; he often wins headers unchallenged due to the amount of height he can generate through his approach to the ball. Therefore, he becomes one of the hardest players to defend against, as centre-backs often cannot compete with his aerial presence.
It may take a long time for Andy Carroll to prove his worth but he has made a good start since his return from injury. In order for Carroll to truly recognise his potential, he needs to stay injury free and show doubters that he is a goalscorer. Since his 11 goal tally in 14 games for Newcastle United, Carroll has not come close to replicating that success in a Liverpool or West Ham shirt.
However, if he continues to produce performances like the one against Swansea, he will quickly show that, at the top of his game, he is unplayable and is the best target man in the league.