As I write this, Andy Carroll is making his debut for West Ham following his season-long loan move on Thursday. At half time they are 3-0 up, and the general consensus is that the striker is terrorising the Fulham defence. He has since gone off injured, though not seriously it would seem.
All is well, then. Carroll will once again play regular football in a style that suits his game, West Ham have a frontman who can surely propel them up the table, and Liverpool have shipped out a player who Brendan Rodgers obviously doesn’t want. Of course, it isn’t all that simple.
18 months ago, Liverpool made Carroll the most expensive British player in history – £35m from Newcastle for a player with little top flight experience but bags of potential. Since, he has scored just six league goals and has gone from being the brightest young English talent in the country to a misfit loaned out to a newly promoted side.
It has been quite a spectacular fall from grace, though not one that can be blamed entirely on the player. The price tag has no doubt been a burden, but that was the fault of Damien Comolli and the Fenway Sports Group. And it’s hard to argue that Liverpool ever played to his strengths – when teams did (England at Euro 2012, for example) then he showed what an asset he can be. And when I say play to his strengths, I don’t mean just lumping the ball aimlessly into the box – his movement, technique and skill are far greater than he is often given credit for.
But it seems that Brendan Rodgers had decided almost as soon as he set foot into Anfield that Carroll was not suited to the Liverpool that he wants to build. Perhaps in the long term, that is a reasonable assumption to make, but to leave his new side worryingly short of firepower at this stage must surely be considered complacent, not to mention arrogant.
I, like most people in football, admire the way Rodgers instructs his sides to play and I hope he succeeds at Anfield. But such a radical transformation takes time, and there will be many an occasion this season when the Merseyside version of tiki-taka just doesn’t work. With Carroll gone, it’s difficult to see quite what ‘Plan B’ is, where Liverpool turn when things aren’t going their way.
The plan developed by Kenny Dalglish and Comolli last season, though lacking in a clear playing philosophy, was based around buying young, British talent to secure a prosperous future. To jettison that approach after just one season, particularly given the huge financial backing it was afforded, is dangerous. Carroll is gone, probably never to return, as is Charlie Adam, while Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have just about clung on to their Liverpool careers.
Carroll’s departure marks a clear stance by FSG to abandon their previous plans and follow Rodgers’ will. The funds to deliver the rumoured signings of Walcott, Dempsey and co. would have been helpful, but it may be time to accept that Liverpool are not yet capable of spending big again. What is apparent now is that the new boss will need to be given as much time and patience as he requires to make his vision of Liverpool a reality.
Rodgers’ success at Swansea suggests that he can do it, but it will undoubtedly be a rocky road back to the top of the English game. And letting Carroll go without bringing in a replacement has certainly made his task all the more difficult and put his style of football well and truly under the microscope.