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Andy Carroll: Why are Chelsea chasing the West Ham striker?

West Ham United striker Andy Carroll

Chelsea have made contact with West Ham about the permanent signing of Andy Carroll, according to Sky sources, so what's the attraction of the former Newcastle and Liverpool striker?

Carroll has struggled with injuries for much of his career and only scored twice in 14 appearances for West Ham this season, but Chelsea are reportedly eager to make him their second signing of the January transfer window after Ross Barkley.

The 29-year-old is an unexpected target for the Premier League champions, so what is their logic behind it? Here, we look at some of the reasons why it might make sense...

Chelsea make contact for Carroll
Chelsea make contact for Carroll

Chelsea have made contact with West Ham with the intent of signing Andy Carroll on a permanent deal.

The home-grown factor

Chelsea have been making a concerted effort to increase their home-grown player quota since the summer. Premier League clubs are required to submit 25-man squads containing no more than 17 players over the age of 21 who don't meet the home-grown criteria, but the exits of John Terry, Nathan Ake, Asmir Begovic and Nathaniel Chalobah have left them with an imbalance.

Who qualifies as home-grown?

According to Premier League regulations, home-grown players are defined as those registered with any Football Association-affiliated club in England or Wales for three full seasons before the age of 21.

Chelsea are near their limit for non-home-grown players, but have room for three more who meet the home-grown criteria in addition to Gary Cahill, Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas and recent signings Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley. It helps explain their previous interest in signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and it's also a factor in their pursuit of fellow England international Carroll.

A different dimension

Of course, signing Carroll would not simply be a box-ticking exercise for Chelsea. The 6ft 4in striker is a towering aerial presence who would give Antonio Conte's side a different dimension in attack.

Despite injuries limiting him to just 33 Premier League starts from 99 games over the last three seasons, Carroll ranks fourth for aerials won (351) and seventh for headed goals (eight). And while he is a formidable weapon from set pieces, he could also help Chelsea in general play.

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Chelsea have made 366 crosses from open play this season
Image: Chelsea have made 366 crosses from open play this season

According to Opta, Conte's side have made more crosses from open play than any other Premier League side this season. Alvaro Morata has benefitted from that service, scoring more headed goals this season than any other player in the Premier League, but who better than Carroll to truly capitalise?

The stats certainly suggest they would benefit from another target to aim at. Chelsea may have made the most crosses but their accuracy rate of 15.6 per cent is in fact the sixth-lowest in the Premier League. It is easy to imagine that total rising with a target man like Carroll, who would also allow Conte to use a direct approach when the short passing is not coming off.

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It would not be the first time Conte has turned to a big man up front. The Italian signed Fernando Llorente at the start of his final season in Juventus, and the Spaniard duly scored 16 goals as they won the Serie A title with a record points tally. "We have changed our game for his characteristics," said Conte at the time. Could he now do the same with Carroll?

Better than Batshuayi?

Carroll would provide Chelsea with a much-needed alternative to Alvaro Morata, whose form has tailed off after a bright start. The need for back-up is even more acute given Conte's reluctance to use Michy Batshuayi. "The problem that Chelsea have is that Conte has no faith whatsoever in Batshuayi," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher in the latest MNF Extra.

Andy Carroll and Gareth Barry compete for possession at The Hawthorns
Image: Andy Carroll has only scored twice for West Ham last season

"If he had a good back-up striker then Morata could have been taken out of the firing line and come back fresher for the next game. But Chelsea are so reliant on him that when he is not there, they don't actually play with a striker, they go to the false nine with Hazard."

Carroll could change that, easing the pressure on Chelsea's £75m man and perhaps allowing the club to move on a player in Batshuayi who seems unable to win over Conte.

The risks

Carroll would, of course, come with considerable risks. His injury record has prevented him from reaching 30 appearances in five of the last six seasons, and his absence from West Ham's recent 4-1 win over Huddersfield with an ankle problem was a reminder that fitness is still an issue.

West Ham 'must not sell Carroll'
West Ham 'must not sell Carroll'

Former Hammer Nigel Reo-Coker says West Ham should not sell Andy Carroll during January's transfer window.

He failed to meet expectations at Liverpool in his only previous stint at a top-six club, and his scoring record is patchy too. Carroll has not reached double figures for Premier League goals in a single season since scoring 13 times for Newcastle and Liverpool during the 2010/11 campaign.

For Chelsea, however, it seems the potential rewards outweigh the risks.

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