Archive for December 2011
Friday, December 09, 2011 by Paul Grech
It only takes one bad touch for the criticism to start. You know that it's coming as soon as Andy Carroll misplaces a pass or fails to control a ball; the comments that he's not worth the money spent on him, how he's a big mistake, that he's too lazy to try and make it work.
You can even sense some wanting him to fail so that they can tell everyone that they told you so.
There is a lesson about not writing players off prematurely in Lucas Leiva's transformation from Liverpool's fall guy into one of the team's most important players. Yet, judging by the negative feeling towards Carroll, there are quite a few who seem unwilling to heed it.
It is undeniable that so far Carroll hasn't really delivered. Just as there's no arguing that he has struggled to make an impact. But there have also been enough glimpses of his potential to see that there is something quite interesting there. That game last season against Manchester City where Carroll scored twice by itself should be enough to convince just how good he could become.
That is hardly surprising. Carroll has all the characteristics that you could want in a striker: incredible strength, a tremendous shot, virtually unbeatable in the air, the willingness to sacrifice himself for the team and also a good technique.
Yet in his lack of experience he is missing one very important element. Barely eighteen months of first team football - most of which were in the Championship - aren't enough for a player to have developed fully. He still has to learn about his own game as much as anything else.
What has made Carroll's life particularly hard is the £35 million Liverpool paid to get him. Had he joined for even half of that amount, there would be far greater acceptance and willingness to allow him to grow. But instead people look at the size of the fee and decide that for that kind of money Liverpool should be getting a player who is at the peak of his ability.
Yet he isn't. The fee was simply a product of the circumstances that preceded the transfer and not really an evaluation of Carroll's value at that point in time. Liverpool were willing to pay such an inflated amount because they had the cash and wanted to send out a message of their ambition.
But they were also willing to pay it because they believed in Carroll's potential. The trick with potential, however, is that it can be difficult to coax especially when the player is under pressure. Young players will go through rough patches, they will make mistakes and they will struggle. It is all part of the learning process.
That's what's happening to Carroll who has to get used to a team playing in a different manner and with greater expectations then he's been accustomed to. The potential is definitely there but the pressure is eroding his confidence. As he doesn't yet have the maturity to deal with it so the problem keeps getting bigger with every game where he disappoints.
It is a vicious cycle that only Carroll himself can break. Just as Lucas found the inner strength to dig deep and eventually prove his critics wrong, so too must Andy Carroll. With time hopefully he'll manage to do just that so that Liverpool will finally get the player worthy of all that money they paid for him.
Category Andy Carroll
Monday, December 05, 2011 by Paul Grech
It is an unfortunate reality of the game of football, one which dictates that an injury to one player means an opportunity for another. So it will be for Jay Spearing who seems to be the player within Liverpool's squad who can best replicate the job that Lucas Leiva carried out and which someone else will now have to do in the Brazilian's injury forced absence.
Ironically, in certain aspects Spearing's career mirrors Lucas'. He too has been deemed as not being good enough by fans unwilling to look past first impressions. His is a presence that many look at skeptically with the belief being that he isn't big enough to play in such a central role that is normally the fighting ground of giants like Yaya Toure.
Like Lucas, no one would have blamed him had he asked to leave or if he'd accepted one of the opportunities to go out on loan placed before him. But instead he chose to stay at Liverpool to fight it out despite the apparent futility of such a decision.
Unfortunate or not in its origin, this then represent his make or break moment. Now is the time for him to show that he is fit for a starring role and not just a supporting one.
It won't be easy. Implausible as this might have seemed two years ago he will have to play in Lucas' shadow where his every game will be analysed using the standard set by the Brazilian as a measuring stick. Which, given how well Lucas has been playing, is a tough ask.
Yet such thoughts do a dis-service to Spearing who has been playing very well whenever opportunities have presented themselves. Perhaps his displays haven't been as eye-catching as Lucas' but they have been effective, confident and determined.
Not that this should be surprising. Pushed forward by Steve Heighway as being ready for the first team when he captained the FA Youth Cup winning team in 2007, Spearing eventually progressed as one of the better players at reserve level. There he rarely failed to impress, dominating most games and showing that he was on a different level to most of the other players on the pitch.
That, however, wasn't enough to get him into the first team. It was only when Kenny Dalglish took over as manager that he started being looked at as a squad member who could be relied on, rather than simply someone for the occasional meaningless cup game. Still, with the investment in central midfield during the summer, he was the one who ended up suffering the most.
Now he can show his true value. Now he has the opportunity to prove that there's no need for Liverpool to bring someone else in that role in January. Now he can prove that he's big enough for Liverpool.