Big Andy is back, and after two substitute appearances against Arsenal and Liverpool, Wednesday night’s start in the 1-0 win over Burnley was his first since August.
His influence on the Hammers is often so telling and no more so was this evident than in yesterday’s London Stadium result.
Whilst Carroll failed to score himself, he was integral in the build-up before Mark Noble’s first half strike. His towering header caused chaos in the Burnley area and eventually Winston Reid was brought down. The resulting penalty was missed but Noble was on hand to nudge home the rebound to take the Hammers in to the break one up.
In fact, Carroll’s eleven successful aerial duels were more than any of his teammates and topped only by Burnley counterpart, Sam Vokes. The big man was a constant thorn in the Burnley defence: a physical and aerial annoyance both in attacking positions and when faced with defensive responsibilities.
Three defensive clearances showed he wasn’t afraid to get back and do the dirty work in defence too, predominantly from Burnley corners. Andy was just as effective with ball at feet too though - 28 successful passes reflects that. His link up play with both Lanzini and Payet was ever-present in some of the best attacking opportunities on the night; like he’d never been away!
Of course, in winning 1-0 West Ham's defensive heroics must be highlighted too. Carroll played his part, but there were also excellent displays on the night by Cheikhou Kouyate, Winston Reid and Pedro Obiang.
Led by Carroll though, who constantly provided West Ham with an option further up-field; whether it be from defensive clearances, a ball in from wide or a threaded Lanzini through-ball, Andy was up there, always.
Sometimes disciplined attacking positioning is just as important as it is defensive. In front of goal, his six attempts were more than any other player on the pitch and Tom Heaton always had something to think about in between Burnley’s sticks. Speaking of the opposition, they attempted 19 tackles and made 15 blocks on a night where, especially in the first half, they were consistently tested defensively.
Ben Mee’s eight clearances topped the charts and the stats show that Burnley were once more right to be thankful for their goalkeeper. Heaton’s six saves were three times more than were required of West Ham’s Darren Randolph.
Carroll’s true influence on this side will be better measured in the weeks to come, but the signs so far have been positive! All eyes to Hull on Saturday…