I understand why Slaven Bilic feels inclined to fall back on Andy Carroll when things aren’t at their best and therefore it’s tough to call him out too loudly.
We all know AC is extremely good at what he does. He scares many Premier League defenders and, as the cliche goes, offers a different option. I am, however, beginning to fear that he will soon, based on pronouncements from the manager, become our first and only option up top and this I find pretty worrying.
Slav has been full of praise of him since his return from injury – discussing how he believes in him, that he is finding ways of keeping him fi t (nothing wrong with that) and regularly suggesting that he is the long-term leader of the line.
All well and good but based on his injury record, it’s a dangerous road to travel because should he break down, the team has to find an entirely different way of playing and that can take a few games. There has been a pretty heated debate on social media about how the manager is using Javier Hernandez.
Nobody since Sam Allardyce it seems divides the West Ham fans more than Carroll or perhaps Bilic himself. What concerns me most in Slav’s approach is that it doesn’t appear to take account of the fact that different games need different approaches.
It shouldn’t need to be said that if we use the same striker in every game – should he be fit – then opposition defences know what to look out for and find ways of combating it. In Carroll’s case, cutting out the supply line from left and right is the very simple option. Starved of aerial service AC loses perhaps 60 per cent of his game. That may be a generous appraisal.
I’m not convinced that Carroll is a better striker than Diafra Sakho who offers a far more subtle approach or Chicharito whose goal poaching qualities and stealth has regularly unsettled top defenders for years. Don’t get me wrong, I like Carroll. I accept that he’s good at what he does. He is a very useful member of the squad when fit but let’s hope we see some really flexible thinking in the days ahead.
Hugh Southon is the founding editor of ClaretandHugh claretandhugh.info