Goals win football matches and, however cliché that old adage is, we can’t run away from it. Whether Andy Carroll can be a reliable source of goals for Chelsea, however, is another thing altogether.
To say that the Blues haven’t scored a whole lot of goals in recent times would be a big understatement. A goal drought of over 300 minutes ended against Championship outfit Norwich on Wednesday night, as Michy Batshuayi gleefully turned in Kenedy’s low cross for Chelsea’s 55th-minute opener. It was a moment of great joy not only for the maligned striker but also the club, having for the first time in their history seen three goalless draws before that FA Cup replay.
But even with that hard-sought goal, Chelsea didn’t manage to win the football match. A late goal by the Canaries ensured that the Blues, the current champions of England, no less, were held at home by a side that is currently ranked 13th in the second tier. It is further testament to how remarkably important goals are in soccer.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte no doubt understands that, which is why he has the club’s transfer machinery working tirelessly to tie up a deal for none other than Andy Carroll. The lanky England international striker, scorer of 25 league goals in 86 appearances since 2013, is being seen by the Italian as a suitable competitor for first-choice Alvaro Morata, a player who is not providing as many goals nowadays as during those first few weeks of the season when he lit up Stamford Bridge, as well as every Chelsea fan’s heart.
Carroll would not be most fans’ first choice, obviously, which is why eyebrows are being raised all around. In fact, the 29-year-old would probably not be the choice of any top club in England at the moment, and not just because he underwhelmed so fantastically when he caught what was supposed to have been his big break with Liverpool in 2011. Carroll is ageing, injury-prone and not a prolific scorer, they say.
Those with a bit more technical knowledge, such as Chelsea legend Dennis Wise, go further to explain that the Hammers forward’s link-up play just doesn’t cut it. The former Chelsea captain, who is seventh on the Blues’ all-time appearances list with 445, simply doesn’t believe the West Ham man is “the answer for Chelsea” or “the type of player” that the defending champs should go for.
“He is a handful on his day, he really is, but no, I do not think he is (the answer for Chelsea) to be honest,” Wise explained on Wednesday during an insightful interview on Sky Sports’ The Debate. “I think Chelsea like a striker who runs in behind and stretches teams and he will not be that person if they play with one up front, he will be more of a hold-up.
“His link-up play is not the greatest and they need someone up there who can link things who you have to go into him.”
Wise’s reasoning is not off, but there are a few questions his hosts should’ve asked him, just to feel out his theories. How is Morata when measured against the former midfielder’s metrics for a striker likeable by Chelsea?
- Does Morata run in behind well?
- Does Morata help stretch defences with his clever movement?
- Does Morata link up well with the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro and the rest of the team?
The answer to all these questions is likely to be a big, resounding yes. Morata is quick and tricky on the ball and, at times this season, his understanding with Hazard, in particular, has been hailed by pundits and the media as “telepathic”. For a striker to have an understanding with others in the final third that is “telepathic” is undoubtedly the very definition of having excellent link-up play.
The question then becomes, why are Chelsea struggling, even with such an excellent striker as Morata? Why were they unable to score even once against Norwich (away), Arsenal and Leicester, even though they fired in 56 shots? Why are the Blues failing in the very objective of the game, which is scoring goals?
The last goals Chelsea managed to get before their record-breaking, three-game goalless spell was against Arsenal, and it earned them what seemed like a golden point in what was a pulsating 2-2 battle royale at the Emirates. It was in that game, however, that Morata earned most of the bad rep that dogs his fledgling Chelsea career at present.
His three missed one-on-one’s, classed by WhoScored.com as a feat no other player has managed in an EPL match this season, were as a result of his brilliant link-up play with teammates and his great ability to run in behind. Problem is, none of that helped. None of that got him and Chelsea the goals.
Wise argues that, “Chelsea like a striker who runs in behind and stretches teams”, and that’s clearly not Carroll. The Blues, then, are out chasing a player they do not “like”, something of a gigantic absurdity in the eyes of any rational thinker.
Do Chelsea like Batshuayi? Did they like Fernando Torres? Morata is not doing too well currently, but is still well-liked. What good has liking them done Chelsea in the past and currently?
What the legendary midfielder needs to realise is that Carroll is wanted for that same reason – he is not in the mould of Chelsea-likeable strikers. That means he offers a completely other set of weapons from “liked” Morata. He is different. And with these alternative tools, he can succeed where Morata won’t.
Getting another striker that can run in behind and play elegant link-up with the number 10s is not the answer for Chelsea. Let’s get Carroll and throw him on in the 75th minute of those games where we have 75% possession, 20 off-target shots and zero goals. Let the crossers swing the balls towards him.
Chelsea don’t have to like Carroll. He can get the goals, those goals can win them games and that’s really all that counts.