LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 08: Daniel Agger of Liverpool celebrates scoring their third goal with Luis Suarez and Martin Skrtel of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on May 8, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Talking about players that don't play for Liverpool is all well and good, but at some point we were going to have to tear ourselves away from Dempsification and talk about people that are (and hopefully will continue to be) at the club. That discussion suddenly involves Andy Carroll, who's now the subject of growing speculation about a temporary move away from Anfield, as well as Liverpool's first-choice central defensive pairing and their leading goalscorer from last season. As if that was some sort of honor.
The discussion starts with those who seem to be on more sturdy ground moving forward--each of Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel, and Daniel Agger were the subject of comments from Brendan Rodgers earlier in the day, with the new manager placing much of his focus on the Uruguayan.
"I have had a good conversation with Luis over the phone. From the outset, he has seemed a really good guy. He loves the city and the passion. We have exchanged lots of texts... There has been good dialogue (on a contract). I would hope going forward that we can close that out."
Talk of Suarez leaving for one of the big-money clubs on the continent has died down significantly, which is hopefully not just a product of the fact that his involvement with the Uruguayan squad has increased. Rodgers seems positive about the potential for a longer-term deal for Suarez, and despite the way things went over the past season, Liverpool are better with Suarez on the pitch than they are without him.
The mention of Skrtel doesn't come as a surprise after the rumors from the past few weeks, and that he--along with Agger--were picked out by Rodgers is an encouraging enough sign. Like Suarez, at this point Liverpool are much better with both around, and the biggest barrier right now is both coming back fit and ready to go when the season starts. Talk about Agger heading elsewhere has been mostly off and on, with Real Madrid and Barcelona linked, but you'd imagine that the type of football Liverpool are expected to produce by Rodgers is a perfect fit for a player who's been transparent about the fact that he prefers actual football to endless hoofs forward.
If everything works out for all three, and Lucas, Steven Gerrard, and Pepe Reina can find a way to stay on form and fitness for the coming season, that's a terrific spine (even if Suarez spends time wide) upon which Liverpool can rely. After the way the final months of the season went it's hard to remember just how good Liverpool were with Skrtel, Agger, and Lucas through the middle, much of which came with Gerrard out and Reina having one of the worst seasons of his Liverpool career. There's certainly no guarantees that all remain Liverpool players for the rest of the summer, and there's likely additions to be made, but that'd be a nice six-man contingent as the season gets underway.
Which leaves us with Andy Carroll and the suddenly necessary discussion about his Liverpool future. The brief post yesterday captured much of the actual news that there is to report, and it's given way to a conversation about how exactly he fits into Liverpool's plans.
For those who never warmed to the player it's a no-brainer--cost too much, never panned out, inconsistent, cut the losses while they can and replace with someone who's a better fit. There's elements of truth in each of those, I suppose, as the fee has proven to be inescapable for Carroll, he's not yet a lock in the eleven, he was off-form when he was, and there is probably a chance that there's a ready-made replacement out there who could fit slightly better in the short-term.
I can't help feeling like it'd be selling the player short, however, if a more permanent move is in the works, and that's not only because I've developed a fondness for Andy Carroll over the past year. He's been frustrating, yes, and the price that Liverpool paid is blahblahblah35metcetcstupidjoketcetc. But that ignores that, at least for a decent stretch of the season, he was one of Liverpool's most (and sometimes only) fully committed players, and he finished with a string of performances that provided glimpses of what his future might hold.
That's not to say that he should be walking into Liverpool's eleven, with plenty of growth and maturity still necessary. And, as I mentioned yesterday, a loan move to a club that play a more active, possession-based style would be ideal were he to have a long-term future at Liverpool, as it could be a really good chance for him with the promise of a regular starting role and an opportunity to develop into a more consistent performer.
I'm still hopeful that Rodgers decides to keep him around, though, even if it means he'll have to fight to convince the manager and others that he can fit. Towards the end of the season he showed a good touch and a decent amount of quickness with the ball at his feet, even though he's one of the slower forwards around. And, as others have noted, he can provide something slightly different if necessary while still fitting into the overall style of play and ethos that Rodgers seeks to produce. Pass-and-move was mostly a myth last season, and Carroll struggled mightily as an isolated target man up top. No secret (or surprise) that he was miles better when Liverpool provided support and activity up front, and only went over the top when it made sense.
We'll see what happens over the coming weeks, but I'll likely still be of the mindset that improvement and maturity don't have to happen somewhere else, and if he's going to fit at Liverpool, I'd prefer those things to take place with the club rather than somewhere else.