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Healthy Hammers competition spurring Andy Carroll on to fine form

Andy Carroll netted in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time in almost two years when he grabbed West Ham United’s opener against Hull City. On five for the season in a dozen league outings, the signs are this good, old-fashioned English centre forward is back to his best.

It seems a change of style from Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has actually suited Carroll. West Ham are emerging as genuine contenders for a top six finish at 6/1, and a player previously thought by Brendan Rodgers incapable of fitting into an attractive football approach has relished healthy competition for a spot up front.

Carroll may have benefited from one thing he has previously been plagued by; injuries. That is a cynical interpretation, though, as top scorer Diafra Sakho has partnered him as effectively as Enner Valencia when fit.

That intercontinental Hammers attack has all the bases covered. Carroll provides an aerial, physical presence that occupies defenders and offers an hold-up option for long and diagonal balls; Senegal striker Sakho is a fine finisher and Ecuador international Valencia has a low centre of gravity and offers a threat in behind.

Supported by off-field friend Kevin Nolan, Stewart Downing, Morgan Amalfitano and deep-lying all-rounder Alex Song in midfield, there are any number of ways at Upton Park to find Carroll and his fellow frontmen. What Big Sam’s boys are doing now is mixing it up, and the refreshing change of tack has placated fans.

Roy Hodgson take note. Don’t let the prevailing orthodoxy that a battering ram striker cannot fit into free-flowing, fabulous football. Carroll is being deployed to great effect with the Hammers in the two formation types the England national boss has favoured; a midfield diamond and the en vogue, progressive 4-2-3-1 set-up.

With Rickie Lambert on the wane at Liverpool, the big frontman spot in the Three Lions squad is surely up for grabs ahead of spring internationals against Italy (friendly) and Lithuania (Euro 2016 qualifier), and Carroll can once again answer his country’s call credibly.