2 February ~ Unsurprisingly there has been a lot of debate and comment in the hours since Andy Carroll’s transfer to Liverpool took place, pretty much all of which has centred on the price and how much of a gamble it is for Liverpool to spend such a colossal amount of money on a relatively unproven player. Speculation has been rife as to how he will be accommodated, with the more pro-Dalglish commentators of the opinion that the Carroll-Suarez partnership will be the making of Liverpool and others seriously questioning the wisdom of the transfer for the club. What no one seems to be questioning is the wisdom of the move for Andy Carroll himself.
This isn’t some sort of glib "my club’s bigger than your club" nonsense. Even the swivel-eyed loons who are routinely dredged up by Sky Sports News to comment on all things Tyneside would acknowledge that Liverpool have a better long term chance of actually winning trophies. It isn’t an issue around remuneration either, for a club that is willing to shell out £35 million is unlikely to skimp on the contract. It is, however, a serious issue relating to Carroll’s long-term development.
One of the reasons for his success this season has been the fact that he has been playing in a side that has been set up around him. Two wide men and full-backs pushing forward has been the norm at St James’ Park and the quality of the crossing, especially from Joey Barton, has been a major factor in Carroll’s effectiveness. He has also been surrounded by players prepared to put in an unselfish stint around him, especially Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi, which has unquestionably helped.
It is difficult to see Liverpool adopting the same approach, not least because they suffer from a dearth of decent wide players and will also be looking at ways to accommodate Luis Suarez, as well as pandering to the whims of Steven Gerrard. There is a very real risk that Carroll will find himself a fish out of water while Liverpool alternate between trying to play the ball on the ground and hitting aimless long balls somewhere in the vicinity of their new centre-forward.
There is also, of course, the price tag. Carroll has yet to play a full season of Premier League football and will almost certainly suffer a dip in form at some point, especially given the potential issues outlined above. When he does he will no longer be "promising Newcastle striker Andy Carroll" but "£35 million striker Andy Carroll" – given that his transfer hasn’t exactly been greeted with fanfares of Kopite trumpets then it will be interesting to see how long a dip in form would be tolerated for by both fans and owners.
If he starts poorly, and bear in mind that he will be coming back from injury, then the knives could be out very early on. £35m is quite a gamble for Liverpool but it is also more of a gamble than the media seem to think for Carroll. James Thomson