Andy Carroll made his first appearance of the season as West Ham United triumphed over Huddersfield Town. It was the club’s first win of the Premier League campaign and it relieved the pressure on Slaven Bilic, who has been a talking point in the media recently. A loss against the newly-promoted Terriers could have spelt the end for the Croatian, but the Hammers were comfortable 2-0 winners in the end.
The game-plan was clear from the first minute, as they looked to bypass the Huddersfield press and use the aerial ability of Carroll. Javier Hernandez and Michail Antonio were playing alongside him. Both have the pace and mobility to cause problems, but it was the 28-year-old striker that was expected to win the knockdowns for the two of them. The number nine fared well and had an influential role as the home side finally managed to get off the mark for the season.
His aerial ability was the reason he was selected and he didn’t disappoint. Huddersfield are a physical team and they hadn’t conceded a goal all season until yesterday. They were full of confidence, but Carroll managed to win 14 aerial duels and ended the match with a 78% success rate in the air. This shows how he can dominate and the tactical value he offers to a team when deployed correctly. The visitors were always going to try to press high up the pitch, but the Hammers successfully bypassed that and that was a personal victory for Bilic
Carroll doesn’t even have to be involved in the play to cause problems. His presence on the pitch draws attention to him from set pieces and West Ham offered a bigger threat from them as a result of him being selected. The second goal came from one and this is going to be an avenue that West Ham look to exploit as the season progresses.
Although he didn’t get on the score-sheet himself, he wasn’t short of confidence in front of goal and attempted six shots during the match. This was an encouraging sign and if he can stay fit, it is likely that he will score goals this season. Despite his size, he takes up good positions in the final third and is more than useful with his feet. There were a couple of occasions where he shifted away from a challenge to get a shot away and that will encourage his manager.
The arrival of Javier Hernandez does cause a selection issue for Slaven Bilic and his choice of shifting the Mexican onto the wing isn’t a long-term answer. It is possible that he can strike up a good partnership with Carroll as a two and that could be worth exploring. The big man, little man front two is a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be effective now. Based on this performance, the 28-year-old has a huge role to play when he is fit. The Hammers just need to find a system to best utilise what he offers.