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West Ham will struggle if Andy Carroll is out for an extended period of time

A lack of options on the bench put the club in a bind.

Southampton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Every West Ham United fan probably had the same reaction to the news that Andy Carroll was to miss the West Bromwich Albion match due to an injury. “Oh no” everyone said “not again.” Since coming over from Liverpool, first on loan and then on a permanent basis, Andy Carroll has been a revelation for West Ham. However, due to persistent injury problems, Carroll has only twice in the five years at West Ham appeared in over 20 league games for the club, 24 in his first year and 27 last year. He appeared in 29 games total in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons combined scoring only seven goals in that time.

Counting on Andy Carroll to stay fit for an entire league season is a fool’s errand, but it seems that is exactly what the management at West Ham are currently doing. After a high profile failed search for a world-class striker last summer came up empty, West Ham brought in Simeone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri on loan deals. Zaza has already moved on to Valencia in Spain and Calleri is still at the club, most recently coming on as a second half sub against West Brom. Zaza never found the net for the Hammers and Calleri has only scored once, as a sub in the win against Middlesbrough, in 12 appearances for the club.

Diafra Sakho is the only other established Premier League striker on the club’s roster, but he has struggled with injuries as well. In fact, he is currently out injured after scoring one goal in the two appearances he made this season. He made 23 league appearances in his first season, 2014-15, scoring 10 goals, and 21 in 2015-16, scoring 5 goals. He even failed a medical to cancel a move to West Brom after handing in a transfer request in the summer of 2016.

Besides Calleri, the only other true striker on the roster is Ashley Fletcher, an unproven 21-year old who has only scored one league cup goal this season and in 2016 played on loan for Barnsley, from Manchester United, in League One, scoring five goals in 21 appearances. He has appeared 13 times for West Ham this season in the league, mostly as a substitute and has not scored in the league.

The seemingly endless search for a quality striker has been a regular feature for West Ham ever since David Sullivan and David Gold took over the club. And if one does the math on the strikers that aren’t named Andy Carroll, exactly three goals have been scored all season by the rest of them combined.

West Ham’s record signing, André Ayew, scored half of Ghana’s goals at AFCON from the spot, scoring twice in Ghana’s run to fourth place in this year’s tournament. However, that’s double what he has scored for the Hammers, as he has only found the back of the net once for West Ham, scoring in the 4-1 defeat of Swansea City on Boxing Day that seemed to end Bob Bradley’s time in charge of the Welsh club.

If Andy Carroll is out for any extended period of time, the club will struggle to score goals, much like the team did when Carroll was out earlier in the season. While West Ham has enough quality to stay up, Slaven Bilić is under pressure to keep the team high up in the table. Unless one of the strikers suddenly finds form or if André Ayew can play as a makeshift striker up front, the team will struggle to score. Michail Antonio is a trooper, playing wherever Bilić has put him this season, but he is not a striker. While his headed goals were brilliant in the first part of the season, he missed a few chances against West Brom.

Jonathan Calleri had a game to forget against West Brom, seeming to spend more time on the ground then he did upright after he came on the second half for Aaron Cresswell. The team seemed to miss having the physical presence of Carroll up front, with a number of commentators on BTH’s match thread noting that “Carroll would have scored there”. The number of crosses that went flying towards the box with no one on the other end of them was comically high, and expecting Manuel Lanzini to play the ball in the air is absurd. The team has looked pretty good with Carroll in the side, and without his physical presence and ball-winning ability up front, the team will struggle to score goals. Counting on Lanzini to have a wonder strike every game is a not an option that should fill any West Ham fan with confidence.

West Ham fans will hoping that the two weeks the team has off will help to heal any maladies that the current crop of Hammers might have. Andy Carroll’s health will be the top concern of the training staff, because without him the team just doesn’t seem to play to it’s best. While the West Brom game showed that the team could get a couple goals from the midfield and wingers, it also showed that the team is built to get crosses into the box for Carroll to create havoc on the opposing team’s defense. The other strikers on the roster don’t seem to be able to create the same kind of disruption that Carroll creates. West Ham travel to Vicarage Road in 10 days time to take on Watford FC and having a fit Andy Carroll will go a long way to ease the minds of West Ham supporters.