Saturday’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace was a significant one for West Ham United for a number of reasons.
Firstly, in the context of their 2016-17 campaign, it was vital that the Hammers secured a victory to push themselves further away from the Premier League relegation zone.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) January 16, 2017
Secondly, it was their third league home win in the space of a month, having secured just two prior to that this season since their summer move to the London Stadium.
But thirdly and perhaps most importantly it showed that there is life after Dimitri Payet for the West London side, with the talismanic Frenchman refusing to play for the club in an attempt to force through a transfer.
Bearing the brunt of the responsibility in Payet’s absence was striker Andy Carroll, who netted the crucial second goal of the game with a scissor-kick of outstanding technical skill.
The 28-year-old is unique in English football, perhaps in the world; his power in the air is unparalleled and with him in the side, West Ham have an option that no other club can field.
There are some fantastic headers of the ball playing up front in the Premier League, with the likes of Christian Benteke, Olivier Giroud and Peter Crouch just three that spring to mind.
However, whilst they are fine players in their own right, they are different to Carroll, a real bulldozer of a striker who will clean out all in his path to attack the ball in the air.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) January 18, 2017
The Englishman first came to national attention in 2010-11 with newly promoted Newcastle United, his boyhood team.
Carroll was superb in the first half of that season, scoring 11 Premier League goals and providing seven assists before an ill-judged January move to Liverpool, combined with a succession of injuries, saw his career falter.
For Newcastle though, he was truly excellent, both as a goal threat and in bringing others into play; this is what he can do for West Ham.
In Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Sofiane Feghouli, the Hammers have the personnel both to provide Carroll with service and run beyond him when required.
Fitness is the only real concern for the England international and whether Slaven Bilic will want to build his team’s style around a man so prone to injury remains to be seen.
If Carroll can stay fit and put together a significant run of games in the first team, then West Ham have a player who is simply one of a kind in modern football.