While Luis Suarez has quickly become a fans’ favourite and has wowed the general watching Premiership with a series of impetuous and talented displays, Carroll has taken more time to find both his form and a regular starting spot in Liverpool’s team after injuries, lack of fitness and a loss of form have stopped him reproducing his true abilities in Red.
As a result, Suarez has often been paired with Dirk Kuyt or deployed as a lone front man with Carroll forced to look on from the sidelines or the bench as Liverpool’s new No. 7 struck up an understanding with his new teammates in instant fashion.
Against West Brom, however, there were definite positive signs that the partnership between the two was starting to bear real, deliberate fruit.
Suarez: by far the more mobile, the outrageously talented, the constant threat.
Carroll: the powerful, the hard, the aerial threat and the juggernaut moving forward.
A classic “little man-big man” front two isn’t enough for Liverpool. The demands of winning games in the Premier League on a regular basis as to enter the top four requires more from the front men than merely outjumping and outrunning the defence.
Suarez has already proven that he can bring plenty to the table with his quick feet, improbable switching of direction in an instant and narky, irrepressible menacing of the back line.
Carroll now is starting to show exactly why Liverpool splashed out a record fee on him.
He has plenty more to do still, true; his movement and anticipation in and around the 6-yard box is way below what it needs to be, and he is taking a longer-than-hoped-for time to get his body back to full sharpness.
But he is on his way, and in the last two matches, has shown as much.
Against Stoke City in the League Cup, he showed flashes of determination and ability which will be seen more often as time goes on, and again against West Brom, the increment of improvement was clearly visible.
Most importantly of all, the link up between both players, lacking in many games until now, started to show real signs in last weekend’s game that it could be one which works well for Liverpool over the long term.
The most obvious example of all was Carroll’s goal—Suarez’s first time pass released Carroll, who finished well despite a slightly suspect first touch, though it was a relatively straight forward piece of combination play thanks to some awful West Brom defending.
Several other times during the course of the match though, both players linked up neatly between the halfway line and the edge of the penalty box.
Suarez himself scored a goal—correctly disallowed for offside—after latching onto a flick-on from Carroll, while some neat interplay and one-touch approach work was evident in both halves.
The Uruguayan hit-man has gotten frustrated in previous games with his English teammate’s lack of anticipation, but there were several signs in the West Brom game that the duo are getting to be on the same wavelength.
Carroll has begun to understand that Suarez will be looking to get on the end of, and give in return, first-time passes in the area between the midfield zone and penalty box; the more they continue to work at it, the more likely it is that such combinations will lead to goalscoring chances.
Eleven goals for Suarez, five for Carroll—those totals (goals scored for Liverpool since joining in January 2011) are not entirely impressive for either player when looked at on their own, but eight goals have been scored by the pair between the two when starting up front with each other—in just ten games.
There is much more to come from this pair up front for Liverpool in the games to come, and Andy Carroll is just getting towards his optimum match sharpness; it is clear that he will never be as swift and agile in his movements as his shorter colleague Suarez—but it is equally clear where Carroll’s own strengths lie.
Not only is he a potent aerial force, but Carroll’s best play comes when he is facing goal and driving towards the area from around the 25-30 yard mark.
His powerful presence and forward motion makes stopping him risky for defenders, by fair means or foul, and he can deliver a wonderful driven shot from around the edge of the penalty area—as evidenced by another moment of link-up play in the second half of the West Brom game when Suarez teed up his partner for a driven shot with a neat piece of hold-up work.
The duo have started Liverpool’s last two games in tandem, and between them, they have scored three goals in those matches—both away from home.
If they continue to work on playing together and continue to get the opportunity to do so in league matches on a consistent basis, Liverpool fans can rest assured that we haven’t even begun to see what amount of havoc these two boys can wreak on Premiership defences yet.