17th April 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
By scoring a scintillating hat-trick in just seven minutes and 14 seconds, in West Ham's entertaining 3-3 draw with Arsenal, Andy Carroll became the first player to notch a treble against the Gunners since Wayne Rooney back in 2011.
A fantastic achievement indeed for Carroll who's endured a frustrating, injury riddled campaign, which has seen him suffer and be debilitated by groin, hip, ankle and hamstring ailments throughout the campaign.
So by also scoring the fifth fastest Premier League hat-trick in history, and the second triple of his career, six years after his first for Newcastle United, Carroll would have certainly seen this as the perfect reward for all his perseverance and hard work.
Starting his first league game since January the 2nd, Carroll demonstrated why on his day, he's one of the hardest forwards to stop in Europe. He battered Arsenal's two centre-backs, Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny, with his hulking 191cm frame and his aerial prowess, in a match where he proved too much to handle for his adversaries. With the benefit of hindsight, Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, would've undoubtedly been wondering whether deploying the towering Per Mertesacker would've been a wiser selection.
In his post-match comments, Wenger somewhat saliently argued Carroll was lucky to remain on the pitch following his nasty tackle on Koscielny less than four minutes in, while also bemoaning the inescapable fact that his side had no answer for West Ham's powerful no9.
"He [Carroll] is lucky to finish the game," Wenger said. "That doesn't mean we have to concede goals with the headers if he stays on the pitch. I'm disappointed we didn't [have an answer to Carroll]."
All three of Carroll's goals arrived through a combination of excellent judgement, timing his runs superbly, athleticism and his unwavering attack on the ball. The first arrived following a whipping delivery from left-back Aaron Cresswell, where Carroll read the flight of the cross beautifully and showed terrific desire to rise above Nacho Monreal to head the ball powerfully, and with exquisite placement, past a hapless David Ospina.
For his second, he astutely peeled off his marker, Gabriel, to latch onto Mark Noble's speculative ball in. Carroll proceeded to chest the ball down and launch a volley at goal, which Gabriel admirably blocked. With the ensuing rebound falling nicely for Carroll, he didn't make any mistake with his second opportunity, blasting home with a technically sublime scissor kick. The moment of magic sent the home fans into raptures, with the goal drawing the home team level on the stroke of half time.
Somewhat predictably, his third strike also came from a delivery into the box. On this occasion, Michail Antonio was the provider after his spectacular run saw him manage to push beyond Monreal. The former Nottingham Forest star then swung in a well placed looping delivery right into the path of the big Englishman at the back post. Carroll met the ball with customary ferocity, propelling himself over Hector Bellerin to smash his header into the back of the net. His hat-trick now complete.
Although the Hammers couldn't hang on for what would've been a famous victory at the Boleyn Ground, Carroll's man of the match performance was a massive positive for Slaven Bilic's side.
On top of his goalscoring exploits, Carroll deserved further appreciation for the way he pressed and harried the Gunners' central defenders, comfortably held the ball up while waiting for a passing option to eventuate, craftily picked out little openings between the Arsenal backline to receive possession and by virtue of his clever use of the channels in behind Arsenal's onrushing fullbacks.
A delighted Bilic fittingly praised his forward's tremendous showing when speaking after the final whistle, commenting: "Andy Carroll has everything. It's impossible to stop him.
"Watch how many times he tried to get the ball off them. He was keeping the ball, laying it off.
"Heading - he's maybe the best in the world. He has to stay away from those injuries. He's professional but he's got to be totally dedicated to his career and football."
In the aftermath of such a glistening outing, Carroll inevitably faced questions regarding whether he still harbours dreams of going to the Euros in the summer. "Without a doubt," he emphatically responded.
"I have to keep that in the back of my head, but I have to play each game here and see how it goes."
Knowing how fickle football can be, for now the 27-year-old will just be ecstatic that he's fully fit and once again contributing to this exciting West Ham outfit. The main challenge confronting the former Newcastle and Liverpool hitman will be maintaining this kind of form until the end of the season.
If he can, not only might he be able to propel his side into a coveted Champions League qualification position, but he just might be able to secure himself in Roy Hodgson's 23.
With Carroll being arguably the premier target man in England on his day, his unsettling impact could even see him be a real game changer in the summer showpiece.
The closing weeks of the campaign are certainly of huge importance on many levels for West Ham's towering colossus.
Andy Carroll Back to Full Fitness and Performing to the Max
17th April 2016. By Edward Stratmann.