There were some fears that Andy Carroll’s future at West Ham was over when it became clear that a more free-flowing, attacking style of play was how we were going to approach things this season.
To some fans that would’ve been fine. Carroll had always represented a certain style of football that we grew so frustrated with last season and the way in which Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho connected so well at the beginning of the campaign had us all asking where Carroll would fit in.
Injury to Sakho allowed Carroll a way back in to the side once he recovered from his own problems, yet we’ve still been treated to a much more aesthetically pleasing style of play – most of the time, anyway.
The way Sam Allardyce has integrated Carroll into a system that he hasn’t been suited to in the past has to be commended, but it’s the way in which the forward has become just as effective in that system which is more impressive.
Carroll has been, quite frankly, like a new signing this season. He’s scored goals, assisted goals, hassled defenders, caused problems, held the ball up well and, more importantly, developed something of a blossoming strike partnership with Diafra Sakho. Since returning from injury, Carroll scored five and assisted three from 14 outings in all competitions.
We saw a glimpse of it at the end of our home victory against Swansea when he expertly guided a header into Sakho’s path, clear of the Swans’ defence, for the Senegalese striker to smash home, making it 3-1 and securing all three points.
And then we saw him assist Sakho again last weekend, this time looping a wonderful cross to the back post for Sakho to head in the winner against Bristol City in the FA Cup fourth round.
Those two goals are proof that Carroll is more than capable of playing alongside a strike partner, which he so evidently struggled with alongside Luis Suarez at Liverpool, albeit it in a slightly different system.
WhoScored.com have written an in-depth piece about how he has coped with adapting to our new system – it’s well worth a read if you’re in to that sort of thing.
From that analysis comes a graphic (below) that shows just how important he has been for us, which should go some way towards putting to bed the myth that he’s just a big old lump up top. Yes, it focuses mostly on his aerial game, but it shows just how good he is at it, and is evidence of how he can provide our midfield and his strike parter (whether that’s Sakho or Valencia) with the service needed to find the net regularly.
So after he was branded a complete waste of money, is Andy Carroll finally proving he was actually worth every penny?