Although silky smooth headline-grabber Dimitri Payet won man of the match for West Ham in their grinding win at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace on Saturday (October 17), manager Slaven Bilic made time to praise sub Andy Carroll.
Although the striker, inching his way back to full fitness, didn’t appear on the scoresheet, Bilic says what a key player he is, making a nuisance of himself in the box.
Carroll has played only 20 minutes of Premier League football before Saturday’s match, when he more than doubled that tally and he was key in the late goal that broke down a Crystal Palace side that, with 10 men, had put up a doughty fight. Two late goals made the final score 3-1.
Carroll has been in danger of being the forgotten man, left injured as a welter of crafty, technically accomplished players joined the Bilic bandwagon. But, before the match the Geordie striker was dragged back into the headlines when former manager Sam Allardyce, now of bottom of the table Sunderland, said he was squandering his talent with his laid-back attitude.
The new boss ran to his defence and his efforts on Saturday will have underscored the point. Carroll was key to the late goal that took the wind out of Palace’s sails. Mauro Zárate crossed, Carroll rose highest – as he always does – to get the far post knockdown and, after a scramble, Manuel Lanzini fired from close range.
After the match, Bilic said: “He’s got something that is very hard to cope with. I played as centre-half and know that position. In the box, when the ball comes in, it’s more about you. You are the one who has got more chance. But when the ball comes to him, it’s more about him than you the defender and that’s why we won today.
“He’s skilful, he’s got good vision, he’s got good ideas, he’s a great player. His biggest problem was his fitness due to injuries, but he has been training for eight weeks and it’s been very boring training to be fair: individual work, but he’s done it well. We are so happy that he is back.”
Meanwhile, Lanzini, on loan from UAE club Al Jazira, was full of praise for his team-mates.
“I think it is easy to play with players like Sakho and Dimitri Payet,” said the 22-year-old. “I have to work with them to make sure we can keep the ball well, create chances and keep scoring goals.”