West Ham United striker Andy Carroll blew his chance to impress new manager Manuel Pellegrini on Saturday afternoon, as the Hammers lost to Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium in the Premier League, 2-0.
The former England forward started only his second league game of another injury-affected season on the south coast, taking the place of the unsettled Marko Arnautovic in the starting Xl. However, he failed to impress and made the headlines with one glaring missed opportunity. Today, we’re going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis on his poor performance.
First of all, we will be analysing the aforementioned miss, which was branded “miss of the season” by many. It arrived just after half-time with the match still evenly poised at 0-0 and had Carroll scored, it would have set the cat amongst the pigeons for the Irons in taking the lead so early in the second period.
To be able to take an in-depth look at it, we bring you the below four images, provided to us by our good friends over at wyscout.com. As you can see from the first, the Newcastle United academy product is meeting a cross, which came from his captain Mark Noble on the right flank, with his head, inside the Cherries penalty area. Rising above right-back Nathaniel Clyne.
The header aimed to pick out his nearest teammate across goal, fellow member of the East Londoners’ front three, Michail Antonio and was successful. Below, we see the fellow ex-Three Lions star having just made contact with the ball in an attempted shot. He was looking for a fourth goal of 2018/2019 in all competitions.
Instead, Antonio fluffs his lines but gets away with it, the ball not flying out of play for a goal-kick, rather trundling back across goal and into the path of Carroll, no more than half-a-yard away from the goal-line. The Geordie wastes no time in striking it and from this angle, it appears to be harder to miss than to score, despite the pressure from defenders and 38-year-old goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
Whether it was the actions of the Bournemouth players putting him off or the fact that the ball slightly bobbled up onto his shin area of the time of striking, the ball didn’t bulge the back of the net. It careered over the crossbar at breakneck speed and almost cleared Bournemouth’s Ted MacDougall Stand, to the shock, amazement and bemusement of the entire stadium.
Had he managed to score the chance that any striker would have felt confident of putting away, Carroll would have not only crucially broken the deadlock in the 48th minute, but netted his first PL strike since April 2018, following a lengthy injury lay-off. It’s the time on the sidelines he spent with the major ankle problem, having only returned in early December, that can perhaps be blamed for this miss. However, in spite of Carroll’s rustiness, he’ll undoubtedly never miss a chance this severe in his career again.
As we’ll find out in this, the next phase of our tactical analysis, it wasn’t just the golden opportunity spurned that led to Carroll getting much post-match criticism two days ago. His overall 66-minute performance was under-par, prior to being replaced by the returning Javier Hernandez from the substitutes’ bench.
To convey this fact, we have acquired the above graphic, from Wyscout once again, which contains the tall forward’s key attacking stats from the Cherries defeat. As we can see, it also features his career average attacking stats per 90 minutes, but it’s just the Bournemouth figures we’re going to be focussing on today, although it does make for an interesting comparison.
Our first stat, beside a column displaying the centre-forward position Pellegrini was operating him in, alongside Antonio and Felipe Anderson in the front three and one detailing the mere 66 minutes he featured in Bournemouth, is goals scored. Although he should have had at least one, Carroll failed to score for the 12th Premier League appearance in succession.
The man being linked with a shock move to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur this week also couldn’t register an assist, however, did manage to record two shots, neither on target. One was the aforementioned miss, fluffing his lines from point-blank range, and the other, a second-half header that flew comfortably over the bar.
There’s no taking away from Carroll that he did pose some kind of threat to the Cherries back four throughout the match, as is evidenced by an eye-catching 0.89 expected goals. Although again, he let himself down as a creator with zero shot assists and zero crosses, but he can probably be forgiven for the latter, as a central striker.
One figure from Saturday that may surprise a few was Carroll’s 100 per cent dribble success rate, having completed his only one. Meanwhile, the disappointing stats from the match never seem to be too far away, winning only one of three offensive duels, that’s roughly 33%.
Impressively, however, and as beforementioned, the nine-cap-and-two-goal England international was a nuisance to the opposing defence with four touches of the ball in the box they were trying to defend. This is coupled with a strong zero offsides, above-average one progressive run, and zero fouls won for his team.
Overall, despite the odd glimpse of excellence here and there, these stats are simply not good enough for a player of Carroll’s standards, and he will know that, as well as his manager. They will especially annoy the player as it was a real chance to step up and stand out in Arnautovic’s absence.
Heatmap and touches
We finish by taking an in-depth look at the 30-year-old’s heatmap and number of touches from the smallest ground in Premier League history. This time, they come in the below image, provided by whoscored.com.
First, we will focus on the heatmap, which is found in the right-centre of the image. The map shows that while Carroll may have been lacking in some things during his 66 minutes on the pitch, energy wasn’t one of them. He popped up here, there and everywhere, getting up and down to cover various different areas of the pitch. However, some will argue this was simply another downfall of his dismal display, the fact that he often strayed from his position.
Above the heatmap, we can see the physical frontman’s number of touches, an uninspiring 32. To put it into context how disappointing this number is, it was the 11th fewest of any West Ham player on the day and the fewest of all the starters. Only goalscorer Callum Wilson had marginally fewer on his return to injury, out of all the players that featured in the matchday-23 PL clash. This says it all for Carroll.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that by not taking his chances, not contributing to the match enough and putting in a statistically sub-standard display. Carroll blew his big starting chance to impress Pellegrini, generally thought to have not been very keen on him as a player, in the first place.
It’s going to take a lot for the injury-prone former Liverpool star to come back from this performance and win back the faith of the Claret & Blue Army, and more importantly the boss and the staff. With rumours of a January exit intensifying after the game and his contract up in the summer, he may never get the chance to do so. But Carroll knows all about coming back from adversities, don’t bet against him taking the next chance he gets to re-prove himself, which is likely to come at AFC Wimbledon next Saturday evening.
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