After the eventually creditable 2-2 draw away at a struggling Sunderland, there was obviously one notable player missing from the squad of 16 for the trip to Wearside.
Former Newcastle United and England striker Andy Carroll was, yet again, missing from first team proceedings through injury. With Ecuadorian attacker Enner Valencia still approximately one month off fitness, maintaining Carroll’s physical condition has become essential in order for West Ham United remain in, at least the top six, for as long as possible.
Carroll made his first comeback appearance in the 2-0 home win over Newcastle, but it was in the 2-2 draw against newly promoted Norwich City last week that had all West Ham fans cringing. Under a challenge from Canaries midfielder Alex Tettey, former England frontman Carroll seemed to look uncomfortable, considering he was only introduced for the latter stages of the game.
On the basis that one firm tackle resulted in the 6”2 powerful hitman hitting the floor immediately, Carroll is still fragile and another long injury setback is still in the back of his mind.
So where does this once feared striker come into the Hammers fold and will a 15 minute cameo role off the substitute bench be a common situation for the Geordie?
Especially against Swansea City, Carroll is extremely effective in providing assists as well as hitting the back of the net. Just ask Swans manager Garry Monk, as the ex-Anfield forward has scored three goals and picked up two assists against the Liberty Stadium outfit.
If you bear in mind that super summer signing from Marseille Dimitri Payet has a similar ratio to what Carroll did in the whole of last season already, the powerful striker expected to return for the tricky away fixture at Selhurst Park against an in form Crystal Palace with his magnificent aerial presence, Carroll is more than capable of making a significant difference to the side in claret and blue.
However, pending Valencia’s return to action in approximately four weeks, Carroll could find himself as the fifth choice striker at Upton Park if he fails to prove to manager Slaven Bilic that he is very capable of playing at least 25 games this season.
With Diafra Sakho the first choice forward, Mauro Zarate looking like a completely different player, new recruit Nikica Jelavic eager to impress his fellow countryman Bilic and Valencia forming a deadly partnership with Sakho last season, Carroll’s days in East London could potentially be numbered.
Nevertheless, Bilic still sees Carroll in his future plans and recently said that Carroll still has a chance of making the England for Euro 2016 next summer. That vote of confidence from the boss will most certainly encourage Carroll to return to fitness as quickly as possible.
We will not witness the same Andy Carroll that we saw in 2011 for the Magpies, however, despite an injury ravaged campaign last season, Carroll still managed to win more aerial duels than the likes of fellow former England striker Peter Crouch and 6”4 Tottenham Hotspur centre half Federico Fazio.
Imagine the Hammers losing by one goal in a match, with 10-15 minutes to go, the perfect player to bring on is Carroll because of the mayhem he causes in the opposition box.
Will this be how Bilic will utilise Carroll for the last season at the Boleyn Ground?