So, how's that crossing toward Carroll thing going?
Through the first 17 league games, Liverpool averaged just under 19 crosses per match. In the three since, Liverpool are averaging exactly 35 crosses per match, with 43 against Blackburn, 26 against Newcastle, and 36 against City. Aside from an aberration at Blackburn, when Liverpool completed 16 crosses, the side hasn't delivered more than eight successful crosses in a single match. And all those crosses have led to just two league goals this season.
The change in tactics isn't totally down to Andy Carroll's inclusion. Prior to Blackburn, Liverpool's crossing habits barely differed whether the big striker played or not. Carroll featured in slightly less than half of Liverpool's first 17 games – 750 minutes, starting in eight. Liverpool attempted 165 crosses with Carroll on the pitch in those 17 games, completing 34, a success rate of 20.6% and an average of 4.54 minutes per cross. Liverpool played 780 minutes without Carroll during that span, attempting 154 crosses and completing 29 – 18.8% successful and an average of 5.06 minutes per cross. A negligible difference, at best.
However, with Carroll completing 90 minutes in each of the last three matches, twice without Luis Suarez, Liverpool have attempted 105 crosses, completing 26 – 24.7% successful and an average of 2.57 minutes per cross. A slightly better success rate, but with almost twice as many crosses attempted. The tactic led to exactly one goal – the equalizer against Blackburn, when Maxi (!) headed in Skrtel's (!!!) volleyed cross after a broken-down corner.
That was one of just two Liverpool goals from crosses, according to Guardian's chalkboards.The other was Suarez's header against QPR, assisted by Adam, after a corner was initially cleared. Corners (Bolton, Villa) and free kicks (Sunderland) do not count. Why Enrique's chipped cutback to Carroll against Everton isn't included is beyond my comprehension, but that'd make it three instead of two. Which is hardly better considering Liverpool have attempted 424 crosses this season.
With Suarez out for the next seven matches, Liverpool will invariably continue blasting crosses toward target-men, primarily Carroll. The mocked and maligned striker's finishing has to has to has to improve, but Downing, Kuyt, Johnson, Enrique, Adam, Henderson, etc, etc also need to provide better balls. Gerrard's cameo against Newcastle at least gives some encouragement that Liverpool's delivery can and will improve.
Hopefully, practice makes perfect. Liverpool don't have much margin for error anymore.