Was Carroll leaving on loan really a mistake?

After the Arsenal game Brendan Rodgers came out with one of the most surprising post match quotes that I’ve heard for some time as he admitted that Carroll would not have left if he had known there would be no replacement.

We live in an age where admitting liability is like handing someone a baseball bat and painting your scrotum so that it resembles a pinata. Whether it’s a personal injury claim after you cover the floor in slippery bananas and forget to put up the “careful, banana’d floor” sign. Whether you cause a pile up on the A1 after making an emergency stop to take a really cool Instagram picture of the Angel of the North. Or whether you’re a young manager, recently appointed head honcho of a club with the Premier Leagues most clinically insane following and you give away a striker who cost the club £35 million just a season ago. Generally it’s best to go with “It’s a shame this happened to you” and make a hasty retreat, obscuring your face and/or number plates.

The admission of liability came as a surprise to me as I couldn’t understand the logic behind his claim. If it was so crucial to Brendan Rodgers that he had another option in attack then why not do either of the following?

Option 1: Agree the loan in principle, with the deal only completed after your expected signing is signed.

Option 2: Have a clause that allows Carroll to be recalled at any time.

As it stands he did neither. Carroll was allowed to leave before a bid for Dempsey had even been made, and seeing as Fulham and Liverpool are hardly “best buds” at the moment it’s slightly hopeful to assume they would simply bid Clint farewell and book him a taxi/helicopter/hovercraft to Liverpool. Yes, Carroll has a clause which allows him to be recalled in January. But then if a backup striker is so important that an injury on the 1st of February or the 1st of September leaves you without a striker for half a season this seems a pretty  poor option.

It was only when Gabriele Marcotti suggested that it may have been a political ploy by Rodgers that it started to make sense.

By bidding Carroll farewell and then bemoaning his loss Rodgers effectively shrugs off any responsibility for a difficult first season. If Liverpool “underachieve” and finish in 8th place: “well, not having Andy Carroll really left us short. It was a silly mistake we won’t be making again”. If Carroll goes to West Ham and flops, or if Liverpool end up doing quite well, Rodgers has saved them a years wages which can then be spent on a better player. If Carroll goes to West Ham, flourishes and  then returns ,or is sold, then he either “needed game time” or “couldn’t handle the pressure”. In any scenario Rodgers comes out smelling like a lovely Welsh rose.

I’d imagine the response at this point will be that of “that’s ridiculous, we only have two strikers now!”. But similar situations exist at Tottenham and Arsenal without the same level of panic.

If you look at the pure strikers (excluding midfielder’s playing as strikers) then at Tottenham you have Adebayor and Defoe.

At Arsenal you have; Giroud, Podolski and Chamakh. With Podolski much more suited to being played on the wing than in the middle, and Chamakh with one goal in his last 1000 minutes of football (more than twice as bad as Carroll). They have also loaned out those who would likely be the last resort options in; Bendtner, Afobe and Park Chu Young.

If Liverpool suffer one injury to a striker then they could easily revert to a one striker formation like that favoured by Rodgers at Swansea. Two injuries and they could use their new signing Yesil who, while raw, is a promising young striker. In the unlikely scenario of three injuries they would be in the same position as the other teams, resorting to deploying an attacking midfielder as a striker.

Now admittedly the midfield as a striker options available to Spurs and Arsenal are probably better than the options available to Liverpool. At Spurs you have Dembele and Dempsey who could probably slot into CF quite easily. Less so at Arsenal. I’d be less than confident in handing Gervinho or Walcott the CF position and Chamakh looks like a man who has solemnly pledged to abstain from the natural sin of slotting one in the net.

My point being that, while slightly better scenarios, there seems to be almost no concern from either Spurs or Arsenal. Whereas Liverpool are treating their lack of strikers as if it has the potential to derail the season. Rarely has such concern been raised over the loss of  a striker who averages a goal every 420 minutes, or approximately a goal every 5 games.

A cunning ploy or a foolish oversight? The motive seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

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