THERE was a time, a moment, when all that money Liverpool shipped off to Newcastle for Andy Carroll, suddenly made sense, writes GREG STANLEY.
In the sheer euphoria that followed not just his thunderous long-range strike that almost took Joe Hart into the net with it, but also the looping header that completed his brace in the same game, it felt like every single one of those 35 million pounds was worth it. The roar of The Kop that night indicated the arrival of a new talisman and sounded like a big ‘who the fuck is Fernando Torres?’, as our big money man scored his first goals for us before our former favourite did for Chelsea.
It was an odd time for the club — players from the title challenging side of 2009 had flown the nest, inadequately replaced by the likes of Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen, with Kenny Dalglish left to clean up a Roy Hodgson-shaped mess at Anfield. The club needed a boost. So, when this long-haired giant of a man smashed in two against Manchester City, it gave everyone just that.
Six years on from that 3-0 win, the reality is that Carroll and Liverpool weren’t the perfect marriage that this game, or that last minute FA Cup semi-final goal against The Ev promised. When Brendan Rodgers walked through Melwood’s doors in the summer of 2012 and spoke of philosophy and attractive football, it seemed that any use of Carroll would be deemed as ‘Plan B’ at most.
His permanent move to West Ham eventually came to fruition in 2013 — the fee of £15m representing a cutting of losses from Liverpool. Him and Sam Allardyce looked a far better pairing than he could have ever had with Rodgers. Since then, the signing of target men hasn’t been particularly well received by supporters.
Rickie Lambert was the first to flop under this tag, joining his boyhood club off the back of an outstanding season at Southampton, then swiftly departing in a blur consisting of a lack of goals, ability to run and that last-minute goal at Villa Park. Then, Liverpool went back to Aston Villa, this time to throw money at them in exchange for Christian Benteke. Despite enjoying more success than Lambert, including the odd crucial goal or piece of individual brilliance — notably that overhead kick at Old Trafford — the big Belgian struggled to make an impression regularly enough and didn’t show the legs to fit Jürgen Klopp’s gegenpressing system. Allardyce once again the beneficiary of a Liverpool cast-off, this time at Crystal Palace.
So what now? There are some calls for the Reds to invest once again in a big man.
If we’re struggling to put one past West Brom at The Hawthorns this weekend, or at some other mid-to-lower table side in the future, those calls may become louder. A forward who at least gives the option to go long, when the kitchen sink needs launching. Of course, there’s substance in this opinion, but there’s no reason such a striker should come off the bench and only bring brute strength and headers. Right now, with a still improving but unfinished article in Divock Origi, and an enigmatic but too often injured Daniel Sturridge, the Reds have played most of the season without a traditional striker — a traditional striker that great Liverpool sides have always been built around. Deploying Bobby Firmino as a swashbuckling false nine has epitomised our ascent into modern football as much as our fluorescent third strip has. Firmino is the undisputed leader of the press and brings hard work that troubles defenders and creates chances in abundance but his goal contribution leaves a little to be desired at times.
On the anniversary of a day when it may have seemed the Reds had found their new number nine, perhaps it’s time to consider finding the next one. A ‘Plan B’ signing would be a sideways step. Liverpool need a ‘Plan A’. A selfish frontman to bang in goals regularly at The Kop end.
Rush, Fowler, Owen, Torres,