Andy Carroll is so much more than a cosh in football boots. Yet here we are talking about a contribution in the fixture with Manchester United that Gary Neville pitched somewhere between WWF and assault.
The challenge on David De Gea, where once again his head was the principal tool of engagement, attacking the space where he thought the ball might be from a corner, was crude at best. He was a little unfortunate with the nudge he received from Nemanja Vidic, with whom he had arm wrestled all night in good spirit, nevertheless he would not have landed like a butterfly on the nose of De Gea in any circumstance.
Sir Alex Ferguson argued that the challenge was a red card offence. Sam Allardyce thought not. Either way the challenge was the result of the culture in which Carroll was raised and which he is re-inforced every step of the way by the methods adopted by Allardyce to utilise his aerial ability.
West Ham’s opening goal was forged via Carroll’s head. There is no doubt it is a useful device, but it is not the only skill he possesses. Carroll can play. He has good feet, moves well and intuits space. If he were not trying to connect with balls travelling through the air at 100mph every five minutes we would see more of this all-round ability.
The template would be Fernando Llorente at Athletic Bilbao, a tall player whose team value his height but do not lump all balls in that basket. Llorente is treated as a footballer first not a freak of nature whose first duty is to flick the ball into the path of others.
As a tactic that went down the divisions with Wimbledon. It is not precise enough and as often as not results in the surrender of possession. There are enough West Ham fans frustrated at the methods adopted by Allardyce to verify its lack of aesthetic charm. They are, of course, grateful that Allardyce has kept them in the Premier League for another season, but to a man would prefer to see the ball on the deck not in the hair band of the big lad up front.
It is the Academy, after all.
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- Manchester United
- Nemanja Vidic
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- Sam Allardyce
- Stephen Carter
- West Ham United