West Ham: 'Andy Carroll shows the art of being a targetman'
Match of the Day 2 pundit and former West Ham striker John Hartson expands on his TV analysis of how Andy Carroll helped the Hammers in their win over Swansea that sent them third in the Premier League.
I thought the performance of West Ham striker Andy Carroll against Swansea on Sunday was a superb example of the art of an old-fashioned centre-forward.
Carroll played the role of a big targetman to perfection, not only with his two goals in the Hammers' 3-1 win, but with his link-up play and work-rate.
He also made one goal and was behind the attack that led to Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski being sent off.
Swansea simply could not cope with him and it was the sort of display I would have been proud of myself.
Movement makes the difference for Carroll
It was interesting to hear West Ham manager Sam Allardyce talking after the game about how Carroll has been taking tips from Hammers strikers' coach Teddy Sheringham to improve his movement in the penalty area.
Carroll is 25 and an England international but I know from my own experience that you are always learning when you are a player, and that even a tiny bit of advice can make a crucial difference to your game.
I did a bit of striker coaching for Wales until this time last year, and I was working with the likes of Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale.
You are not there to teach players as good as that how to score goals, but there are always things you can do that will help them.
Working on movement, and runs to the near or far post in the box, is one example. The idea is that you do the drills in training and then certain situations in games act as the trigger to do the same for real.
So, Sheringham's appointment in the summer was something of a masterstroke and on this topic he is definitely the right person to listen to.
When he was a player, there was nobody as good as Teddy at finding space and getting time on the ball.
What he did better than anybody else was anticipate. When the ball is in the air, usually everyone watches it - but Teddy was always on the move, which gave him space to attack the ball.
You could see his influence in the way Carroll played against Swansea.
Allardyce spoke about how Carroll can spend too much time battling defenders, which is something I know I did myself. In some games I seemed to spend the whole time either winning free-kicks, or giving them away.
Like Carroll, I did better when I concentrated on heading the ball.
I was also more effective on the move, when I could get a start on whoever was marking me, which Carroll did so well on Sunday with both of his goals.
His movement made it difficult for Swansea's defenders to track or block him in the box and they did not deal with him outside the area either.
I am not talking about winning the first ball when it is played up to him, because Carroll is 6ft 4ins and has a great leap so he is going to beat most people in the air whatever they do.
The key was what happened with the second ball. Swansea struggled with that too, and paid the price with the way West Ham scored their third goal.
Carroll beat Ki Sung-Yueng in the air and Diafra Sakho got on the end of the bouncing ball, running straight through Kyle Bartley and Jazz Richards to score.
Hammers are up where they belong
Carroll was making only his fourth start of the season following an ankle ligament injury in October, and his goals were his first since March.
West Ham were doing well while he was injured, and people have been raving about Sakho and Enner Valencia, the strikers that Allardyce signed in the summer.
Both of them have impressed, but having Carroll back fit and firing again gives another dimension to their attack.
With the right service, he gives them a greater threat from set-pieces but also takes the pressure off his strike partner because he can do all the donkey work.
By that I mean the physical side of the game - getting bashed around and keeping defenders busy, so that Valencia and Sakho have got more space to operate in.
Those two are dangerous attacking players and, with the likes of Alex Song and Stewart Downing in midfield, West Ham have plenty of quality to back them up.
In the last few weeks, everybody has been talking about how surprising it is to see Southampton near the top of the table and how well they have been playing.
So I am pleased that people are taking notice of West Ham too. They are up there on merit.
Staying in the top four until the end of the season is a different story, though, and it is a huge ask.
One of the reasons why West Ham could do it is because teams like Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham are not looking very convincing challengers for a Champions League place.
At the moment, the Hammers' best players are in form. But they are in the same boat as Saints in that the size of their squad means they will need to keep them free of injury too.
Carroll is a case in point.