Struggles that sum up Liverpool's Andy Carroll

The giant forward has so far failed to justify his £35-million price tag, as well as his manager's faith in him, writes Richard Jolly.

Andy Carroll has scored just six goals in 32 games since his move to Liverpool last January.
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As a metaphor, it was pretty much perfect. In a promising position, Andy Carroll tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face. This, it appeared, was his Liverpool career encapsulated in the space of a few seconds.
That, Kenny Dalglish would argue, ignored the burst along the touchline at Manchester City on Wednesday to trouble the league leaders and precede Carroll's unfortunate tumble. Nevertheless, the inability of the most expensive Englishman to score - an early, glorious opportunity was directed rather too close to Joe Hart - means his total for Liverpool stands at six goals in 32 games ahead of today's clash with Stoke City.
It is a wretched return, no matter how Dalglish seeks to deflect attention. "He worked fantastically hard for us and sacrificed himself for the sake of the team," the manager said after the Carling Cup semi-final first leg.
At various points, the Scot has also cited the injuries that have made Carroll's a stop-start introduction to Liverpool life and has refuted suggestions, made by the England coach Fabio Capello, that the striker needs to improve his lifestyle and that he is not fit enough.
The company line formerly had been that Carroll, 23, was signed for the five-and-a-half year duration of his contract at Anfield, not for a game or a month. But as Dalglish approaches the first anniversary of his record-breaking deal, that has disappeared from his rhetoric.
Another of the manager's observations is that Carroll is the "minus £15 million man", a figure he arrived at by subtracting his £35 million (Dh196m) fee from the £50 million Liverpool recouped for Fernando Torres.
Rumours of Newcastle United's interest in re-signing the striker could have offered an exit strategy, except that Carroll's agent denied it and, given Newcastle's owner Mike Ashley's fondness for prudence, any deal would end in embarrassment for Liverpool; the vast majority of Carroll's huge fee would have to be written off.
Yet mention of Newcastle is not coincidental, and not just because Alan Pardew remains an admirer of the forward sold behind his back on transfer deadline day last January. There is a paradox in Carroll's character; a fearless terroriser of defenders during his time on Tyneside is something of a home bird, hankering for his native north-east.
Shyness turns the warrior striker into a more apologetic figure. Dalglish has imbued plenty of players with confidence but not, seemingly, Carroll. His actions can count for more than his words, however, and the attacker has spent some of the season on the bench. Now his reprieve is the result of extenuating circumstances. With Luis Suarez suspended for racially abusing Patrice Evra, Carroll has been thrust back into the side.
Today's game brings Liverpool to the halfway point in Suarez's eight-game ban; so far, Carroll's opportunity to impress has yielded a goal in a brief cameo against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, sandwiched by two uninspired outings against City.
He is deemed cumbersome, less suited to Liverpool's pass-and-move game than Newcastle's more direct style last season, even if Dalglish's summer spending appeared to have him in mind. Charlie Adam arrived at Anfield with a reputation as one of the premier set-piece specialists in the country, but he has disappointed from dead-ball situations, finding the tallest target in the penalty area all too rarely.
Stewart Downing seemed the supply down the line, an old-fashioned winger aiming for an old-fashioned striker. Yet their alliance is yet to produce a goal.
Instead, the most encouraging passage of play of the season came in the final half-hour against Newcastle on December 30 when Steven Gerrard seemed to be on a personal crusade to provide Carroll with a goal. The captain's penchant for defence-splitting passes and arcing crosses offers some solace.
Yet a long-term problem persists.
There are precious few signs of any chemistry between Carroll and Suarez and the Uruguayan will be eligible again for Tottenham Hotspur's visit on February 6. Suarez's ability to operate as a one-man forward line means this is far from the conventional big man/small man strike force that Dalglish may have envisaged. It has become a choice, and Carroll's form has made it a simple decision to opt for Suarez.