Ahead of his potential return from the injuries that have kept him out of virtually all of 2018 thus far against Manchester City on Saturday, we ask the question of whether injury-prone striker Andy Carroll has improved or worsened in the last three seasons for West Ham United.
To answer this, we are going to perform a statistics-driven tactical analysis comparing his last three campaigns in Claret & Blue, which have been severely blighted by injury. This will reveal whether ex-England man Carroll has indeed improved and worsened in form and quality of performance from 2015/2016 to 2018/2019.
For the main part of this tactical analysis, we bring you the below three graphics, provided by our good friends over at wyscout.com and containing the statistics that we are going to be basing our comparison on.
As you can see, these stats are Carroll’s key average attacking statistics in all competitions from the last three terms, 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018, his respective fourth, fifth and sixth seasons in Claret & Blue, following his initial loan and then-club-record move from Liverpool in summer 2013.
Our first step in determining whether the last three years have seen the tall centre-forward improve or worsen is taking an in-depth look at the first stat we’re drawn to in all three images, beside a mini heatmap displaying his average position for that season.
This is average goals per 90 minutes, all of these stats being per 90 minutes). Here, Carroll achieves 0.45 goals per full game during the 15/16 campaign, a season in which the Hammers said goodbye to the Boleyn Ground and recorded their highest-ever PL points total under Slaven Bilic. The striker has failed to match it since.
However, the same cannot be said of the former Three Lions star’s assists per 90 minutes, improving on his 0.1 of 15/16 the following campaign with 1.16 in the club’s first season at London Stadium, a figure that dropped to zero last term.
The pattern changes when it comes to shots, with Carroll registering 2.8 shots per 90 minutes in 15/16, before letting that number drop the following campaign and seeing it rise again under two different managers in 17/18. Although it must be noted that the percentage of them on target in that season has never been lower in the last three terms.
Carroll’s expected goals rating within these attacking stats also fell to a low last season, falling from 0.46 in 15/16 to 0.22 and the same can be said of his average number of shot assists, but the rate did rise in 16/17 before it fell rapidly.
Something the Newcastle United Academy product did average more of than any of the last three campaigns in a turbulent 17/18 for the Irons was the number of crosses, albeit with the lowest accuracy of the trio. As a target man, the 29-year-old has never been known for his crossing capabilities.
The same trend is seen as we move onto the dribbling figures, attempting the most on average last season, but completing the least, another suggestion that his confidence hasn’t declined, but his quality has.
And offensive duels are no different, the number of which he is finding himself embroiled in per 90 minutes has decreased, but the percentage of them that he has won has been decreasing. This is hardly a surprise when you consider Carroll is never one to shy away from confrontation on the football pitch.
Last season’s 2.84 touches in the opposition box are the second-highest of the three seasons and an improvement on the campaign before, but as you can see, the average of almost one offside per full match is comfortably the worst of the offside figures for the last three terms.
In spite of his ageing over the three years, a sign that his energy has improved over that time is the highest progressive runs average being last season. However, to close, out of the trio of campaigns, the fewest fouls drawn per 90 minutes also came last season.
Overall, out of the 16 individual attacking stats in the graphics, there are ten where last season, Carroll’s figure was the worst out of the three campaigns and therefore, he has worsened in over the last three terms, that’s a damning 62.5%. But it must be noted that the 6 ft 4 in forward missed large chunks of all of these seasons, playing the most football in the first of them and we’ll find out why next.
If there is one thing that has without a shadow of a doubt worsened for Carroll in the last three seasons of his career, it is something he has struggled with for the whole of his footballing life, his fitness.
Whether it’s an ankle, groin, knee or thigh injury concerning the bone, ligament or cartilage, the deadly-on-his-day striker has suffered it, so much so that the number of injuries in his professional career is staggering, an incredible 16 in little over 10 years.
In this regard, Carroll must be cut some slack when analysing him, specifically statistically as his periods on the sidelines, ranging from just seven days to a shattering 214 days have affected him, his body and his form throughout the years. This is especially relevant his last three as his body has got older and less durable.
The current injury that he is set to return from when Pep Guardiola’s reigning Premier League champions visit London Stadium in under two days is an ankle problem that required surgery to correct. It was picked up in Manuel Pellegrini’s men’s pre-season tour of Switzerland and followed an initial ankle injury, the pair have seen him make just six competitive appearances this year and none in 2018/2019 thus far.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that statistically, Carroll has worsened in more areas than he has improved in the last three seasons of his frustrating career, as he prepares to return from a 16th and look to avoid a 17th injury in his ten years as a professional footballer so far.
While speculation over whether his future lies in East London or not has certainly ramped up over the course of the last three seasons, Pellegrini has made it clear that Carroll is included in his plans, even setting him the challenge of remaining fit for the rest of the campaign. His role in the team is not yet known, but the star approaching the twilight years of his playing career will be eager to improve in the stats he’s worsened in since 15/16 and go from strength-to-strength in the others, in what remains of 18/19.
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