Look, Liverpool fans. It's time to move on from the transfer deadline debacle and instead give Anfield's loaned-out, ponytailed striker the credit he deserves. A summer of uncertainty can do bad things to a player's self-esteem, fitness, concentration and overall state of mind, yet Andy Carroll showed little rust in embedding with the Hammers and their survivalist mandate now that they're back in the Prem.
It took him just a handful of seconds to endear himself to the Upton Park crowd: His towering flick-on header, the quintessential tool of the "big man up front," fell for Ricardo Vaz Te, who swiftly teed up Carroll's ex-roommate at Newcastle, Kevin Nolan. A thunderous shot. 1-0 inside the first minute.
From there it was all smooth seas and serene skies for Sam Allardyce and his aggressive collective. Winston Reid thumped home a set-piece header after quarter of an hour before Matthew Taylor completed the 3-0 drubbing on the verge of halftime with a simple volley from the edge of the box. Prior to his substitution in the second half, Carroll threatened on more than one occasion, linking well with Vaz Te in a big/small combination that he was supposed to form with Luis Suarez. That his burly presence fits Allardyce's more lumpen strategies is immaterial; he did what was asked, and efficiently to boot.
All told, it didn't take much for Carroll to re-establish the confidence that was so badly rattled by his fraught summer trying to bond with Brendan Rodgers. Just a simple exhibition of the simple things, the little things, the largely unnoticed things that make a player worth hanging on to. Link-up play, aerial work, off-the-ball movement. Not the kind of thing to set the newspapers on fire, but proof that perhaps Carroll's fate was hastily decided. Expect more of the same totemic performances all season, Reds fans, whether he scores 20 goals or not.
Did Spurs find what they were looking for?
As Rob Smyth inferred in the Guardian's live chat this morning, Tottenham tends to start every season slowly for reasons that are perhaps linked to chairman Daniel Levy's late show every transfer window. Yesterday was no exception; Clint Dempsey's arrival at Spurs Lodge under the cover of night was so late that he was barely visible to attendant TV cameras.
And Saturday's game had that same discombobulated look. Though it's only Sept. 1, Andre Villas-Boas will rue Joao Moutinho's recalcitrance to move from Porto at the deadline given that Spurs sorely need his kind of presence. The lack of a metronomic midfielder cost Tottenham, pushed and prodded all game long by a stodgy Norwich side, another precious two points.
It didn't matter who tried to tie all the strands together: Sandro and Jake Livermore (two holding midfielders) were predictably stout yet unimaginative, Moussa Dembele is too kinetic and unpredictable to dictate a game, and sub Tom Huddlestone's seven-minute cameo culminated in a clumsy and avoidable red card. In short, several able players with something to offer but without the coherence of the Portuguese international who opted to stay home.
Of course it's not all bad for AVB: Dembele did enliven a dour Spurs team once he entered in the second half and his goal was well-taken -- a swift bit of space-creating skill at the edge of the box was capped with an emphatic left-footed shot. Jan Vertonghen looked comfortable in the back four and Brad Friedel pulled off some superb saves to deny Norwich a lead (and perhaps keep Hugo Lloris out of the starting lineup a week longer).
And when looking at Norwich's scrappy but deserved equalizer -- a set-piece knockdown that was artfully volleyed home from 16 yards by the impressive Robert Snodgrass -- you sense that blame falls more on poor marking than the midfield for yet more dropped points.
But the dominance in possession (62 percent) and shots (15-12) still couldn't mask that Villas-Boas must continue to tinker until his squad makes sense. Signing Clint Dempsey from under Liverpool's nose is a cheeky footnote and smart business, but it doesn't excuse the failure to sign the one player Spurs really needed in a busy and impressive transfer window.
Should Spurs' season fail to conclude with the Prem title that AVB believes he can win -- and granted, all the above comes with an "it's just one game" caveat -- we might point to Moutinho's inability to agree on personal terms as a pivotal moment.