Liverpool supporters spent so long revelling in the comic misfortunes of their departing Judas to Chelsea that it took them quite a while to realise they had their very own costly butt to numerous jokes. At first Andy Carroll’s failure to transfer his explosive form from the north-east to Anfield was understandably put down to a settling in period, but as weeks became months – that crucially included a full pre season that was considered a necessity – it became abundantly clear that the pony-tailed hit-man was no longer a beast but a burden.
More worrying still, unlike Torres who bafflingly lost his golden touch but was still doing all the right things only to see very different results, Carroll’s turmoil was not down to a loss of form but rather an inability to integrate. He was evidently a square peg in a round hole.
Where recently he bestrode around St James’ Park like he owned the place now he lolloped around aimlessly with his ridiculous barnet flopping like a dead ferret stalling any moves of promise with a clunky touch and pedestrian intent. He was a useless lummox; a bull elephant that had strayed from the herd. Surrounded by nuanced ball players in Adam, Gerrard and Downing he resembled a nightclub bouncer thrown onto the dancefloor where his only party-piece was to incongruously mosh to The Las.
For someone whose reputation was so entangled in an exorbitant fee and seemed to be plummeting fast to that of a laughing stock Carroll’s lack of movement and hunger was startling. In fact, as recently as last weekend, on speaking of his recent upsurge in fortunes, Carroll admitted as much himself: “I’m getting around the pitch more and getting involved”. So it took an upturn in confidence to put in the basic effort of mobility? I’m sorry but all things considered that borders on the outrageous.
And all the time his team-mates were carving out chance after chance but while the goals-to-shots ratio for the reds this term is staggering what also jolts is how few have fallen to their burly number nine. Crucially most have been spurned by their troupe of midfielders with Downing being particularly wasteful.
If Carroll was spooning six-yarders over the bar and missing a litany of glaring opportunities that would at least provide hope for the Kop residents, an indication that only his touch – and not desire – was temporarily awry. Yet on so many occasions he has loitered, seemingly with disinterest, by the far stick waiting for the perfect high delivery. Even on the rare occasions one is floated over he is far too static to capitalise except at best nod it down to an empty space and protest in vain to the ref at being closely man-marked while the ball is hoofed clear.
Just as the club and fans’ patience was being stretched thinner than lycra over Adele, there are finally seeds of optimism.
Carroll can be forgiven for being leaden and ponderous during intricate build-up play because that’s not what he was bought for but to resist from making darting runs across the box – or to generally make a nuisance of himself in there – is nothing short of criminal.
Now though, just as the club and fans’ patience was being stretched thinner than lycra over Adele, there are finally seeds of optimism being laid. A noticeable hustle and bustle has returned to his overall play and, most encouraging of all the burly Geordie has begun seeking the ball out, showing signs that he could indeed become the focal point to the prized pass and move propagated by Dalglish.
Two goals in three games is a testimony to this as too is the smile on the big man’s face. Even the monstrosity that warms the back of his neck appears to be wagging.
Some have credited his new-found prosperous form to the run of games he has enjoyed in Suarez’s absence and while there may be some validity to this the rejuvenation certainly wasn’t immediate. I witnessed at close quarters Carroll’s dire display during the first game Liverpool were deprived of their mercurial Uruguayan; here was an opportunity against Manchester City to make a real statement of intent but instead there was only apathy and sulking amongst the excellent football his team-mates engineered. So it’s fair to suggest that it would be unwise to get carried away at this point. The turn-around has only just begun and may yet prove to be a false dawn.
Granted he looked the business during last week’s cup win over Brighton but Poyet’s side were a shambolic shadow of their early season ingenuity. Battering a seagull with clipped wings is only a start.
At times Liverpool have played some delightful fluid fare this season but all too often it has come to a standstill at the size 13s of their lumbering oaf. It’s exasperated the supporters who are desperate to see an end product – their team is a playboy skilled in foreplay but who suffers from erectile dysfunction. And at £35m Carroll is an expensive flop.
What the past couple of weeks has illustrated however is that we cannot yet write off the player who may still might have a significant part to play in King Kenny’s revolution. With a Carling Cup final ahead and a possible second trip to Wembley in May who knows, the high profile misfit may ultimately carve out a place in Anfield folklore and become a hero.
At this point in his rejuvenation though even if he’s a pest and puts himself about that will suffice.