West Ham are in good shape after eleven Premier League matches, but as the season draws on returning striker Andy Carroll will be key to helping them sustain a European push.
The towering no.9 made his first appearance of the campaign with a brief cameo in the goalless draw with Aston Villa last week, where he once again reminded us what a handful he can be.
The 25-year-old managed to complete a whole 90 minutes in a behind closed doors friendly against Fulham on Thursday, scoring in a 3-3 draw, and he will be desperate to remain injury free for the foreseeable future to ensure he gets a good run in the side.
Due to the excellent form of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, though, he may struggle to break back into the team instantly, but what a great option he is to have on the bench. Sam Allardyce won’t want to throw him straight back into the mix either, so easing him in with a few substitute appearances may best suit everyone involved.
Furthermore, with the African Cup of Nations scheduled in January and Sakho set to represent Senegal, Carroll will be needed to fill the void, so with that in mind the Hammers will want to wrap him in cotton wool.
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West Ham’s record signing will slot straight back into the team seamlessly, despite having adapted their style of play this season. The Irons have scored the highest amount of headed goals, with eight, and they amount to 42% of their total goal tally.
Put the robust, aerial ability of Carroll in this team and it would not be a surprise to see these stats continuing to increase. Sakho and Valencia have both demonstrated their excellent heading capabilities, but Carroll poses a much more physical challenge to defenders.
The former England international has scored six headed goals for the Hammers in the past - he nearly added to that against Villa last week - which means 46% of his goals are headers.
With the amount of chances this West Ham team are creating Carroll will surely thrive, he looked sharp in the friendly with Fulham as he won headers at will and created a number of chances for himself and team-mates alike.
This is a positive sign that will put Hammers fans at ease as it has been feared that the Geordie’s return from injury would see them revert back to ‘hoof-ball’ tactics, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.
If anything, the new positive style will suit Carroll more and if he can find his scoring boots quickly he will be key as West Ham look to sustain a challenge for a European place this season.