Saturday lunchtime Liverpool will take on Man Utd in what is still THE fixture of the English football calendar. The two most successful sides in the game up against each other for the first time this season. A rampant free scoring Man Utd against a resurgent Liverpool. It promises to be an excellent encounter, but the main question that puzzles me is whether Andy Carroll should, would or could play.
Big old Andy Carroll, a guy who promised so much rampaging through defenses for Newcastle like some big, old rampaging thing. But is he all that? Was his performances a myth, or was that Newcastle team just designed to bring the best out of him?
He has scored a few goals since arriving at Liverpool, and put in a couple of good performances, most notably against Man City last season with a couple of excellent goals which were typical of his time with the Geordies, and also at home to Wolves a couple of weeks ago, when his performance really deserved a goal. He also scored the important first goal against local rivals Everton, which could just be the catalyst to better things.
These performances and goals have so far been few and far between. Why is that? Liverpool paid an enormous amount of money for him (though in the context of selling Torres and making £15million it isn’t quite as bad as it seems), and you expect there to be a plan to incorporate Carroll’s talents. He is strong, good in the air, a cracking shot especially with his left foot, and with a bit of coaching his hold up play will become genuinely excellent. So why has it not happened for the Geordie hero?
Liverpool’s football has flowed much better when Carroll has not been on the pitch. A combination of Suarez, Kuyt, Maxi, Downing and before he left, Meireles buzzed with movement and intent. Is the problem for Carroll that Suarez is just so bloody brilliant, that the team demands to be built around him rather than Carroll? And Suarez is that good. He dominates games, with his movement, skill, touch and sheer effort, and needs to be involved continuously.
Dalglish has a real dilemma. Does he persevere with Carroll and Suarez together, with the long term goal that the more they play together the better the combination becomes. Or does he play Suarez up front on his own, with Kuyt, Gerrard and Downing behind, which at the moment would give the team a much more balanced threatening appeal.
This dilemma comes to a head this weekend, Liverpool play their biggest game of the season, a win will put them just 3 points behind their rivals from up the East Lancs road. At around 11.45am on Saturday we will know the answer, and Dalglish’s selection will tell us all a lot more about the direction his Liverpool team is heading.
Carroll or no Carroll, that is the question.