Last season Andy Carroll well and truly proved what a handful he can be on the football pitch. Unfortunately for Hammers fans, it’s not just on the field where the big Geordie can cause problems; just ask the medical team at Upton Park. Due to Andy’s misfortune with injuries, this summers recruitment in the forward line couldn’t have been more important for the season ahead. Carroll, when playing, was a revelation in the side last term and his end of season form merited the Hammers to open the cheque book and splash £15 million on the big man; and rightly so. The majority of fans were delighted with the permanent acquisition with everyone looking forward to seeing the striker play more games in the 2013-14 season.
The problem was and is, we haven’t got a back up to the injury prone Carroll making us vulnerable, very vulnerable. As the contract was signed, Andy was already carrying an injury which was a clear and obvious sign that we needed options in the strikers department. The West Ham fans waited for Sky Sports to announce the latest hammer to wear the claret and blue shirt but would have been disappointed to see no strikers come in. It wasn’t for the want of trying though. We believe from various sources that the club were persisting with loan deals for Chelsea duo Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku right down to deadline day but were ultimately left frustrated. We also understand that Fabio Quagliarella and Nicklas Bendtner were close to coming in on loan but no deal materialised. The release of Carlton Cole seemed more and more like a decision made to soon by the club. Desperate times were shown when the club tried to bring the loveable Carlton back to the Boleyn but he somehow failed a medical. We have finally been able to bring a striker to the club in the face of Mladen Petric on a one year deal. Whether the 32 year old can be a threat to the opposition defence remains to be seen but it does seem a bit too little too late.
Modibo Maiga is occupying the ‘Number 9’ role at the moment which frightens me to say the least. Although the Mali international is technically gifted, defenders won’t mind facing him in the Premier League this season. The way Big Sam sets the side up in the 4-3-3 formation, it is pivotal that the man in the middle has a physical presence about him with the ability to win headers, dominate centre halves and generally be a real target man for the rest of the team to hit. These are all qualities Maiga lacks as a striker. Maiga likes the ball at his feet so he can run at defenders and cause problems in that manner. This preference from the Malian means an attacking playmaker is crucial as this allows Maiga to get plenty of possession and the ability to get picked out when trying to run in behind the opposition back line. Kevin Nolan is no playmaker. In my opinion, worrying times are ahead if Maiga is to continue as the main striker.
The questions, and there are many, have to be answered by the club. Why was Carlton Cole allowed to leave without a suitable replacement other than Carroll lined up? Why did the club spend £5 million and a hefty chunk of the wage bill on Stewart Downing, a winger, when we had plenty of options in his position already at the club? Why were the strikers we targeted such ambitious deals when time could have been spent chasing more realistic options?
Andy Carroll is a fantastic player. But he is one man; one man that will have a lot of pressure on his broad shoulders when he returns from the injury table. Will we be in a real relegation dogfight by the time he returns? Only time will tell but if the game against Stoke City was anything to go by, it could be a long old season for everybody involved at West Ham United.