Three days later, many around the footballing world are still wondering how West Ham United striker Andy Carroll didn’t score when presented with the simplest of chances. During the 0-2 Premier League loss to Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Today, we’re going to be analysing the anatomy of the miss, which helped to contribute to Manuel Pellegrini’s Hammers first defeat of the year in all competitions and only their second away one since early October. Taking an in-depth look at the sequence of events, the consequences of the spurned golden opportunity and whether or not the tall forward will be able to redeem himself after it.
The sequence of events
Firstly, we will carry out a tactical analysis on the sequence of events that saw Carroll fluff his lines from point-blank-range with Artur Boruc’s goal gaping. Thus, missing the opportunity to score his first PL goal since April 2018 and only his second in all competitions since then.
In order to do this, we bring you the below eight images from our good friends over at wyscout.com. And as you can see from the first, the final moments of what was an impressive team move from the visitors-to-the-south-coast started with club-record signing Felipe Anderson spraying a short pass out to captain Mark Noble on the right side.
The 31-year-old skipper took a touch and assessed his options, with Michail Antonio ahead of his in the penalty area and Anderson about to make a run into it, looking for a give-and-go. With the game yet to see score just after half-time, these were crucial moments in the complexion of the eighth Premier League meeting between the Hammers and the Cherries.
In the end, spotting Carroll in the danger area, Noble decided to go for the cross with five Hammers bodies in and around the box if the delivery didn’t reach its intended recipient. At this point in the encounter, neither side had managed a shot on target and the East Londoners were eager to get their first, here.
Having been given more than enough time and space, the ball from the veteran was perfect and picked out the former England international one year his junior. As we can see below, before it has even reached Carroll, he’s winning the aerial battle, as expected, with full-back Nathaniel Clyne. And is preparing to tower over him to get to the ball.
This is exactly what the Newcastle United academy product does, winning the header with ease. Many would predict Carroll to go for goal from here, well-positioned in the centre of the box against a goalkeeper who hadn’t started a league game in over 19 months. But instead, we see his 6 ft 4 in frame angling the ball back across goal, in Antonio’s direction.
The cushioned header is ideal for the man called up for Three Lions duty three times in his career but still uncapped, as he reaches the ball and immediately looks for the far corner with a volley. Hoping to score his second career goal at the Vitality, luckily for Carroll at this stage, he can only scuff the ball back into his path.
Inadvertently, Antonio’s failed effort has given the Geordie a remarkably straight-forward chance to score and get off the mark in the English top flight under Pellegrini. From what seems like inches out, all he must do is find the back of the net and despite the presence of the goalkeeper and defenders, any forward at any level would be expected to score.
However, as our eighth and final image reveals, there is no ripple in the net. And whilst the whole of the smallest ground in PL history is virtually already seeing Carroll wheeling away in celebration in their minds, the ball is sailing over the crossbar and into the stands. A combination of an unconventional bounce before the strike and a poor, rushed technique from Carroll has meant he’s fluffed his lines when it looked harder to not put the Irons one to the good rather than keep the score 0-0.
The consequences of Carroll missing what was undoubtedly the best chance of a chilly afternoon in Bournemouth became apparent just five minutes later, when a different striker showed the Hammer how to do it at the other end.
Following Josh King’s deflected cross, Callum Wilson smashed home a volley from the edge of the area into Lukasz Fabianski’s top right-hand corner to make it 1-0. The theme of Pellegrini’s men being regularly punished for their sloppiness in front of goal in 18/19 continuing.
In the space of just a few moments, the Hammers had gone from almost certainly taking the lead to one-goal down and it was something they never really recovered from. In spite of the Irons throwing on three more attacking options and pressurising the Cherries to the last, they could never equalise and eventually conceded King’s second in added-time.
Had Carroll scored. He would have not only swung things heavily on his team’s favour on their quest to surpass last season’s points tally on the road of 15, 14 being their record this campaign, but also kept the feat of them scoring in every meeting ever with Bournemouth, going. The consequences meant a second away defeat in three for the club, a fall from ninth to tenth and a loss of momentum. We have to assume things would have panned out very differently on the day if this guilt-edged chance had resulted in a goal.
Will he redeem himself?
On a personal level for the player, it was not hard to see that this miss hurt him, the emotion clear on his face. Much like it was at the start of the month when he netted his first in nearly a year in the Emirates FA Cup third-round victory over Birmingham City at London Stadium.
Saturday was his big chance to impress his new manager, coming in for the unsettled Marko Arnautovic to make only his second league start of 2018/2019. The devastating miss, along with a sub-standard overall performance, helped him to seemingly blow it.
Redeeming himself from the miss will prove a tough task for the man who’s been forced to come back from almost 20 injuries in his career to date, especially when you consider the reaction from the Claret & Blue Army. Though, he will more than likely get the chance to in the next round of the FA Cup at AFC Wimbledon this Saturday evening.
That’s if he’s still in east London by then, with rumours emerging in the hours after the match strongly linking him with a move to West Ham’s London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. With his contract up in the summer, Carroll will have to redeem himself quickly in the eyes of the fans and the staff, if he wants a future at London Stadium.
As our statistics-driven tactical analysis has proved today, from whatever angle you view it from and whichever way you look at it, Carroll’s miss doesn’t get any better. Even after scrutinising and analysing it frivolously, you will still be asking yourself how the former Liverpool man didn’t score.
It was a moment that, in all likelihood, cost the Hammers three points or at least a point and stopped what looked like the start of another scintillating run of form dead in its tracks. But if there’s anyone who can come back from something like this, as he has done in the past, it’s Carroll and he will be keen to forget about the miss as soon as possible. Although it will always live on in his nightmares and those of the supporters.
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