Wolves 01/31/2012: In Which He Came Of Age

After an uninspiring start to life back at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish oversaw a 3-1 win against Wolves that got the ball rolling. Raul Meireles hit a peach of a volley, and Fernando Torres scored his first under a former striking legend. Things were certainly on the up.

Then Torres put in his transfer request. And no matter what anyone at the Club did to mask his departure, and no matter how the Club emphasized the incoming transfers of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, the headlines were always going to be around Torres.

A painful transition of #9s ensued. Out went the poster boy of a briefly glorious generation. In came England’s new superstar forward.

That was a year ago. It’s fair to say that neither has set the world alight since their record-breaking moves.

On Monday night, Liverpol repeated the same fixture just over a year ago, with an almost entirely different teamsheet, and on the back of encouraging results in two competitions already nonexistent in the January 2011 calendar.

Fears that this would be another case of two steps forward, one step back were quickly allayed. There was nothing at Molineux that hinted at another away collapse a la Bolton.

But it was a first half that saw plenty of end-to-end football. As Dalglish’s side have often done this season, the visitors took on the mantle of a dominant home side with the majority of ball possession and chances created.

Dirk Kuyt’s lack of a first touch, Jordan Henderson’s lack of a creative footballing brain and Charlie Adam’s Scholes-esque lack of a half-decent tackle were equally as impressive as the indomitable defending and attacking of Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, the rock-solid defending of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, and the terrier-like defensive workrate of Jay Spearing.

Then there was Craig Bellamy, who, in the absence of Luis Suarez, proved probably the only creative outlet in a Red shirt. A Craig Bellamy who has put in performances that have shattered all expectations that came with his free transfer arrival, who has established himself a mainstay in the starting eleven, who has proved to be one of the signings of the season.

And then, there was Andy Carroll.

As staunch of a supporter of Carroll as I have been, and as much as I’ve insisted that he be given a chance to bed in and really show his worth, I will readily acknowledge that he has been a disappointment, especially given his massive reputation.

But at the same time, any stern critic of Mr. Carroll would have to admit that he has been on an upward curve in terms of recent performances, only with no goal to show for his efforts and improvements.

Not on Monday night.

This might not have been a powerhouse Andy Carroll at his scintillating best, but here was a #9 working his socks off for the team. Bullying defenders in the air and tormenting them on the ground, turning them with a touch and leaving them for dead, laying off long passes and turning them into attacking movements, making a nuisance of himself and buying space for his fellow colleagues.

And this time, he had a goal to show for his efforts. A predatory striker’s finish, one that he used to be known for while wearing black and white. Not unlike a certain former Red.

But a year on, on Transfer Deadline Day 2012, the talk of the town was not of Torres drawing another blank in a blue shirt against Swansea.

Because a year on, Andy Carroll finally exhibited his potential.