The Blind Hammer Column
*Blind Hammer looks at a new twist in the long running Carroll saga *
Last Saturday’s wearyingly predictable defeat at the hands of Manchester city was, in the end, somewhat more interesting for what it showed about Pellegrini’s thinking about his squad.
Like most, before the game, I commented that Cresswell must be training an absolute stinker to enable Masuaku to force his way in. The relative defensive calmness Cresswell offered in the second half made the decision to start Masuaku even odder. All Managers appear to have blind spots, remember Billic persistence with Antonio at right back? Yet Pellegrini’s hooking at half time seems to indicate his myopia will not persist.
The other striking decision was Noble’s exclusion in favour of Obiang, Confirming the suspicion that Pellegrini sees our Club Captain as a squad rather than a starting option.
However, arguably, of most interest was Pellegrini’s decision to deploy both Hernandez and Perez from a bench top heavy with strikers, in preference to the rowdier talents of Carroll.
There was a time that Carroll’s return from injury would presage an automatic stroll into the forward line with an immediate adjustment in style to suit his talents.
No more, Carroll’s previous squad authority was conspicuously absent. This was despite the fact that, once 3-0 in arrears there seemed little point in risking the talents of Arnautovi?. He should have been preserved for the upcoming challenges of Newcastle, Cardiff and Palace. Pellegrini’s lack of pragmatism in protecting Arnautovi? from injury, despite a hopeless match position, does give me some concern.
Arnautovi? consequent, unnecessary, struggle to recover fitness has sparked speculation that Carroll may feature against his erstwhile teammates at Newcastle. Pellegrini’s preference for both Hernandez and Perez against City belies this. Currently both seem ahead of Carroll in the pecking order. A bench position seems the most Carroll can hope for.
Carroll’s reported £85,000 wages has prompted some to claim that he should therefore be release in January at whatever price.
Yet despite all the previous disappointments Carroll may, with the advent of VAR, just become an Ace in the hole in the second half of this season and potentially as VAR expands, in the seasons ahead.We saw, last summer, how in the World cup, England deployed the advantages of VAR to become lethally effective from set pieces. Ironically it was future Hammer Carlos Sanchez who was suckered into grappling with Harry Kane and conceded a crucial penalty.
As VAR enters the game it will transform the potential for creating havoc from set pieces. Whilst VAR will provide some peril for Strikers, especially those who dive, in all other respects it will heap more pressure on defenders. The option to grapple opponents will become not just less effective but also self defeating. The ability of defenders such as Leicester’s Morgan and Huth to rely upon the strengths of their arms in holding attackers will diminish.
VAR will radically transform the relative risks of holding in the penalty area. Forwards who hold a defender will at worse concede a free kick and possibly a yellow card for persistent offending. A defender, in contrast, risks a penalty every time they grapple with forwards. Referee’s past tendency to give defenders the benefit of the doubt will come under increased pressure.
Carroll’s extraordinary physical characteristics may just then become one of West Ham’s most potent weapons in the upcoming age of VAR. There is no doubt that, physically, he is one of the most difficult forwards to deal with. Certainly in a VAR age I would far rather have Carroll as an option for us rather than see him deployed against us.
The first opportunity to test this hypothesis will come in the New Year and the FA Cup. VAR will continue its trial at Premiership Grounds. Carroll’s £85,000 a week wages translates into just over £4 million a year. This is relative small potatoes in today’s transfer market valuations. VAR may just provide the opportunity to revive Carroll’s flagging career and finally provide some value for money.