What is a ‘decisive goal’? One that decides a game, of course. A late winner that nabs a one nil victory or a equalizer that makes it 2-2, ensuring you take a share of the spoils. Those are the most decisive goals you can score in football.
There are levels of decisiveness, however. If you win by three or four goals, then what makes one more decisive than the next? In a 2-0 win, which goal is the more important? The first or the second?
These are some of the questions I had to confront when doing research for a topic has been an ongoing discussion on The Final Third podcast. In our Whatsapp group it had been mentioned that whenever Andy Carroll scores, West Ham tend to win. Rob Canavan said, “I’d love to know how many points Carroll has won for them.”
I got the hint, Rob, and dove into the data. What I found was this.
- Carroll has scored 17 goals in 52 games for the Hammers;
- In the games that he has scored, they have taken 29 points out of a possible 45;
- He has a goals per game rate of 0.30 at West Ham, while his career ratio is 0.27.
The stats for Carroll since arriving at the Boleyn Ground are actually fairly favourable. 17 goals isn’t a bad return for the amount of games he has played, and a goal every three games is pretty good for a £15m striker. I reckon most fans would be happy with that level of points return too.
Where the criticism comes in for Carroll is in his overall game. For a target man he should be holding it up far better than he does, losing possession more often than not. His first touch could be a lot better, while his injury record appears to point to someone who fails to look after their fitness.
West Ham’s record when he scores is nine wins, two draws and four losses out of 15 games, so that answers one query. West Ham do win more than they lose when Andy Carroll scores.
But how many of those points gained is he directly responsible for? In trying to work out which goals were ‘decisive’ or not, I decided that only in instances where the ultimate result would have been changed were it not for his goal would be counted. Hence, his recent goal in the 2-0 versus Liverpool does not count.
Goals like the one he scored the other week against Southampton, where the Hammers won 2-1, do count, as a draw would have occurred otherwise. Levels of decisiveness in this instance don’t matter, just the difference between winning, losing or drawing.
With that in mind, I was able to work out that Carroll is directly responsible for 20 of those 29 points. That number goes up slightly when you include assists, but we’re only concerned with goals here. So that’s 20 points out of a possible 156. Is that a good return? It’s hard to tell without comparing to other strikers, but in comparison to players like Sergio Aguero, you would assume he’s well behind.
Funnily enough, Carroll has won as many points as Aguero in the league this season. Carroll has won 6 points with goals against Chelsea and Southampton, while Aguero was most decisive in games against Newcastle, where he scored five goals, and most recently at Watford. The Argentinian also scored a very important winner against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League, but it’s fun to think those two are on some sort of similar level this year.
The trend of West Ham winning when Carroll scores though has only really started in the second half of his Hammers career. In his first two seasons, the record when he scored is W3-D1-L4. Since the the start of the 2014/15 season, that record stands as W6-D1-L0. No losses in that time. NONE.
Andy Carroll seems to win the most of his points against Swansea. The Gateshead man has scored four times against the Welsh side for West Ham, earning seven points for the London team. He also provided the two assists in a 2-0 win over the Swans on 1 February, 2014, which takes it to ten points. He loves playing against them, basically.
Spurs, on the other hand, are a futile beast for Carroll. Twice he has scored against Tottenham and both occasions the Hammers lost, 3-1 and 3-2 respectively.
In terms of the goals he scores, Carroll seems like a useful asset for Slaven Bilic’s side, and with the onset of injuries they’ve been suffering of late, the Croat is putting him to use. As Rob Palmer described on the show, however, his deficiencies have an adverse effect on the West Ham team. If you start him up front, you have to pair him with someone because he is not good enough to lead the line solo. That potentially means taking Dmitri Payet, their best creative player, out of position and playing him further up.
It will be interesting to see how the team shapes up as Payet gets fitter and starts games. In the meantime, Hammers fans will just hope Carroll continues to be decisive as ever.