A Christmas Carroll

For Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish it must seem the only time he’s not fielding questions about the behaviour of errant striker Luis Suarez is when he’s dealing with thinly veiled criticism of Andy Carroll, Suarez’s expensive goal-shy strike partner.

It’s been almost a year since Suarez, Carroll and Dalglish joined forces at Anfield in the wake of the boardroom coup that saw the club swap one set of American owners for another. The new owners have provided Dalglish with lavish funds for fresh players but though progress on and off the pitch has been steady, Kopites will start 2012 with their team no nearer mounting a serious title challenge.

Whereas critics of Suarez are at least agreed that the player possesses sublime skills Carroll’s detractors can point to a startling lack of impact on the pitch. At £35m, football’s most expensive Englishman has so far scored five times in seventeen appearances since last January – figures that only look good when set against the stats of the man who left Anfield to make way for him. Fernando Torres’ five goals from twenty-three games at Chelsea is an even sorrier return – and he cost the Londoners £50m. But his is another story and it should be emphasised that the Spaniard does at least retain some respect as a man who’s playing history has warranted big money transfers. Carroll’s does not.

With Suarez set to begin a lengthy ban, £20m man Stewart Downing, another Dalglish signing, failing to register a single goal since joining the Reds, and regular goal poacher of seasons past Dirk Kuyt, also failing to hit the net this season, Liverpool mark Christmas wondering where their next goal is coming from. Maxi Rodriguez, with a measly four goals, is second top scorer behind Suarez (eight) at the season’s half way stage.

On the plus side Steven Gerrard is back in the side but at the age of 31 his emergence from a year of injury problems is unlikely to be immediately spectacular. The Kop will have to remain patient with him.

Thus for now the weight of expectancy is likely to fall primarily on Carroll’s shoulders. The time for patience with him is fast running out. It can go one of two ways but the big Geordie has a perfect opportunity in the coming weeks to finally prove his worth. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and all that. For Andy Carroll and Liverpool, the hour is very much at hand.