Suarez relishing Carroll partnership
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez believes playing alongside Andy Carroll makes his job easier, despite critics suggesting they cannot function effectively together. There have been some encouraging signs recently that both can be paired together successfully, but questions still remain over the suitability of the England international to fit into the Reds' system and style of play.
Difficulty in breaking down teams and a lack of goals this season has focused attention on the forwards, with £35m club record signing Carroll in particular coming under scrutiny. But he has scored late winners in his last two appearances, and his partner up front thinks he is also benefiting from the presence of the 6ft 3ins former Newcastle United man.
"I think it's great for us to have a player of his ability and style," said Suarez. "His height and his ability in the air and to bring the ball down makes it easy for us smaller forwards in the side to link up with him. You only have to be running alongside him and you find the ball at your feet."
Carroll's last two goals, against Blackburn Rovers in the league and the FA Cup semi-final win over Everton, have both come from headers, but Suarez - who scored Liverpool's first at Wembley last weekend - sees improvement in his all-round game.
"I think he's showing that his technique on the ground has really come on," he told Liverpoolfc.tv. "And I think in the games where he has featured recently we are now seeing the Andy that we've all been wanting to see. He's really contributing, which is important."
Encouraging statistics, Dalglish plaudits
Manager Kenny Dalglish's prediction from 12 months ago that Carroll and Suarez could work as a partnership appears to be coming to fruition.
On 10 April last year, the day before Carroll opened his account for the club with two goals against Manchester City, the Scot said: "This time next year would be the better time to judge that when they have had time to settle in."
Statistics certainly point to something along those lines, with the nine fixtures in which Carroll has scored since joining from Newcastle in January 2011 all resulting in victories. The ten league matches the pair have started together this season have brought five goals, and when cup games - admittedly some against lower-league opposition - are included those figures increase to 12 goals in 15 starts. And when Carroll, Suarez and Steven Gerrard are on the pitch together one of them scores a goal on average every 57 minutes.
Liverpool's problem this season has been consistency, almost typified by Carroll's experiences. Against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, the 23-year-old is hoping to enjoy his third successive start, something which has occurred only three times this season.
The last occasion was on 6 February, coinciding with the conclusion of Suarez's eight-match suspension. And Carroll's longest run starting with Suarez is four matches, between late March and mid-April last season when he had just come back from a thigh injury which had kept him out for nearly three months. But after being the match-winner in his last two outings, the big striker is rightly feeling good about himself.
"The goals have been good for him and his confidence," said Dalglish. "He has always believed in his own ability and that is what we say about everyone who has come in or who has been here a while.
"We believe in them, and if they believe in us and we all stick together, we are in with a good chance. I don't see any reason why we would have to change that principle or train of thought."