Ian St John and Roger Hunt. Kevin Keegan and John Toshack. Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley. Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore. Michael Owen and Emile Heskey. Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
Liverpool have a magnificent history of strikers. Rapid, giant, ingenious and lethal, they’ve come in many shapes and with a lot of success. All of the above enjoyed success with Liverpool, and based on the last few games, there’s a new addition to the list.
Carroll’s performance against the Citizens epitomised him. Fernando Torres, for all his goodwill (or not) to Liverpool after he left, was phenomenal for the Anfield crowd, but they never saw him score a goal as raw, powerful or instinctive as Carroll’s first goal for the club. It was just a snapshot.
Most strikers would have seen it bobble over their feet, roll weakly through to the keeper, or land in Row Z on some poor sod’s head. But Carroll’s shot was good enough to beat the England number one, supposedly the best keeper in the league. His second was just determination and presence. It was a decent cross in from Meireles, perhaps a little too close to the defender and perhaps a bit too floaty. It’s the kind of ball that 9/10 strikers wouldn’t think about going for, and of those left, 9/10 wouldn’t get to it. But Carroll ran for the ball, Carroll dominated the defender, and Andy Carroll got his name on the score sheet.
If Carroll is the artillery, then Suarez is the walking hand grenade. Diminutive but explosive, Suarez racked up the goals in Holland and looks set to continue that way. Rounding the keeper with ease against Stoke on debut, and then scoring with an amazing acute-angled shot against Sunderland, it’s fair to say he’s been unlucky so far in the League. Playing for an inconsistent team, he was denied twice by the woodwork against Wigan, twice by wonder saves from the West Brom defence and goalkeeper, and by a combination of Joe Hart and the post against City too. 2 goals and 3 assists is not a bad return in 7 games, but anyone watching his performances will know that he’s deserved more. Suarez has the deadly finishing, the effervescence and the aggression to succeed in this league. Dirk Kuyt has been likened to the Duracell Bunny before, but Suarez would definitely give him a run for his money (bad pun not intended).
The classic ‘little and large’ partnership has worked well for Liverpool before. Michael Owen and Emile Heskey led Liverpool to 5 trophies in the 2000/01 season, Heskey scoring 22 goals in a fantastic debut season. They’ve already shown signs of working well in tandem, and this will only improve throughout the rest of the season. By the time Andy and Luis come back in August, they will have developed a good understanding, through the mentoring of Dalglish, who himself formed the greatest strike partnership in English football history, with Ian Rush. Despite this, both of them can lead the line alone, and give Liverpool different options. Suarez has the pace and finishing to be able to play up front alone if required, and Carroll can easily hound defenders in the way that Didier Drogba does.
There will be problems, the language barrier for one (and no, it’s not just because Carroll speaks Geordie), and no strike partnership ever hits it off so quickly. Both have been guilty of being a little too aggressive before – Suarez really taking the honours (h)ere, Carroll merely beat up his girlfriend. Both will struggle if the rest of the team don’t perform. But crucially, they are both talented enough to succeed by themselves, regardless of the other’s performance.
Despite these setbacks, both of them have developed into fantastic players, capable of developing a fantastic with each other. Liverpool look revitalised under Kenny, with Meireles and Suarez leading the charge. Europe may be just out of reach this season, but the budding partnership between the two most expensive footballers in the club’s history will undoubtedly make them competitive next year, and for many seasons to come.