Injured for most of last season following his January transfer from Newcastle, Liverpool's record signing Andy Carroll has yet to develop into the "battering ram, prototypical number nine" that most supporters envisioned upon his arrival.
After Carroll's unbelievable start to last season for the Magpies, manager Kenny Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli tagged him as the man to replace Fernando Torres when the Spaniard forced through the infamous move to Chelsea. Despite fleeting flashes of brilliance, like his domination of Manchester City last year, Carroll has yet to get rolling and has cut an increasingly frustrated figure of late for the Reds. Seemingly healthy, "what's wrong with Andy Carroll?" has become a common question amongst supporters and pundits alike.
The biggest issue facing Carroll is the timing of his transfer, more specifically who came along with him. Luis Suarez arrived at the exact same time and, while Carroll spent last spring trying to regain fitness, Suarez took the Premier League by storm and has immediately become a Kop favorite.
Suarez's seamless acclimation to a different league, different country and different language has made it feel like the pair have been in red shirts for quite some time, when in reality Carroll has had just half a year of injury-riddled football with his new club.
Another favorite criticism of the striker is his influencing Liverpool's movement on the pitch. The duo of Suarez and Carroll was hyped as the perfect "on paper" strike tandem, with Suarez's agility and finesse balancing Carroll's brute strength. However, Carroll's strength has almost become his undoing, as his teammates, specifically a certain central defender, often abandon Dalglish's pass and move football in favor of smashing the ball toward Carroll's head.
The long balls to Carroll have caused many observers to consider him to be a square peg in a round hole, an unfair label as he is simply working with the service provided to him. It is the responsibility of the rest of the squad to maintain discipline to the game plan and patiently work the ball through midfield, not that of the striker at the end of the line.
And finally, the cat call heard today throughout White Hart Lane: "What a waste of money!"
Thirty-five million pounds ($55.4m) can buy you a lot of nice things, or one already-injured striker with limited Premier League experience who is asked to immediately replace one of the most prolific strikers in recent memory. That's not exactly the easiest situation to jump into, and one must assume that the weight of that massive price tag hanging around his neck only grows heavier every match he fails to find the net.
But then again, it's partly because of Carroll's connection to the transfer of the "Next Shevchenko" that pundits are so eager to build up the drama of their woes together. Torres found out life is pretty lonely without Steven Gerrard, and Carroll will greatly enjoy playing in front of one of the most incisive passers in the world.
Are there things that Carroll can improve upon? Absolutely. His first touch and passing ability, particularly poor against Spurs, need improvement. In addition, he needs to make a significant leap up in the quality of his runs off the ball. He and Suarez have yet to show any chemistry, while Dirk Kuyt has become the Uruguayan's favorite striking foil.
While Carroll has not yet lived up to the promise he displayed last year, the perception of him as a looming failure makes for great media, but at this point is hyperbolic. Judge Carroll after he has had a good solid run of games to get on the same page with what is basically an entirely new squad. Just look back to how vociferously Lucas was booed through the start of last year before being voted Player of the Year by the fans.
What do you think? Is Carroll good enough for LFC? Can Dalglish get the best out of him?