Why Andy Carroll’s return cannot come soon enough for West Ham
Having scored the same amount of goals as Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool combined so far this season, it may sound odd, but West Ham are desperate for striking reinforcements.
Injuries, departures and misdemeanors look set to further besiege the Hammers’ attacking ranks in the coming weeks, and boss Slaven Bilic will be hopefully to come through a tricky period relatively unscathed.
Given those problems it could be the turn of Andy Carroll to prove the saviour of the east London club, as he approaches ever closer to a return from a long-term ankle injury.
The Upton Park outfit were already hurting from the serious injury to Enner Valencia that could be set to keep him out until Christmas, before Mauro Zarate succumbed to a minor knock.
Then came the arrest for the Hammers’ main attacking threat Diafra Sakho, the second time the Senegalese striker has faced the local constabulary in the space of a month.
And despite the ridicule he is faced with from a section of the West Ham support, the imminent departure of Modibo Maiga to Saudi Arabia reduces the options further.
But the addition of Carroll in the side’s starting XI goes further than being just another body on the pitch.
So far this season, the Claret and Blues have put 66 crosses into the penalty area, more than 15 of the other 19 top-flight clubs.
However, from those balls into the box, they have managed just four headers on their opponents’ goal, fewer than 16 of the remaining 19.
The fact that some of those crosses may have been attacked with other parts of the anatomy is a moot point, but it is clear that this Hammers side need more aerial threat, and Carroll is the man that can provide it.
Some of those 66 crosses will undoubtedly have been errant, restricting the number of potential shots on target, but possessing the ability to get onto the end of crosses that he perhaps has no right to will stand the former Liverpool striker in good stead.
Of his 13 goals in his stop-start career at the Boleyn, seven (53 per cent) have come with his head.
To put that into perspective, Christian Benteke and Peter Crouch, two other players reknowned for their heading abilities scored 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their 2014-15 top-flight goals in that manner.
That was before he had the perennial assist-maker Dimitri Payet to work with. The Frenchman played a major role in more goals than anyone else in Ligue 1 last season.
He’s already provided one assist this season, teeing up Cheikhou Kouyate’s header to get his side off the mark against Arsenal.
What Carroll will be able to achieve with the former Marseille man pinging the ball into the box may help Hammers fans get over their embarrassing defensive display against Bournemouth last Saturday.
He may have taken a lot of stick due to injuries and the price tag he has commanded in the past, but that is the fickle nature of football fans.
The likes of Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney have both suddenly become bad players after a dip in form in the past according to some supporters, but that is simply not true.
And with Carroll back in the West Ham side (injuries permitting) he can show he retains the ability he demonstrated at Newcastle, and help Bilic’s men back to a consistent footing.
The wait to see his long locks on the pitch again for the Irons’ faithful did, however, take another step back last week when it emerged he had rolled he ankle when putting on a pair of trainers.
Bilic was key to point out that it would add just a week onto the 26-year-old’s recovery time, saying “It’s nothing serious, nothing major”.
The weekend’s fixture against Liverpool or September 14th’s match against Newcastle was apparently pencilled in for his return, but now it looks certain that it will be after the international break that he returns to the Premier League.
While that would be nearly a month away, for West Ham, it cannot come quick enough.
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