Saturday 18 January 2020

Carroll grabs chance after Sakho outburst to dent Arsenal's lingering title chances

West Ham 3-3 Arsenal

Wenger: Unhappy with defence. Photo: Getty
Wenger: Unhappy with defence. Photo: Getty
Andy Carroll celebrates scoring West Ham’s second goal against Arsenal. Photo: Getty

Matt Law

Diafra Sakho has plunged his West Ham future into doubt after he pulled out of the match-day squad for Saturday's draw with Arsenal.

The striker posted a foul-mouthed message on Snapchat in the early hours of Saturday after withdrawing from the fixture. A source close to the player insisted it was not aimed at West Ham, but the 26-year-old may have to explain his actions to manager Slaven Bilic.

Andy Carroll grasped his opportunity with both hands by scoring his first hat-trick since 2010 with an unstoppable performance against Arsenal, which will again prompt a debate over whether he could still be an option for England at Euro 2016 in June.

Bilic virtually confirmed that Carroll would now start in the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Manchester United on Wednesday night, with Sakho poised for a spell on the sidelines.

Sakho, last season's top scorer, was dismayed to find out he would not start against Arsenal and reacted by informing medical staff he would not be fit to be part of the match-day squad because of a sore knee, despite the fact he had completed Friday's training session without problem. It is understood Sakho remained at his home on Friday night, rather than staying in the team hotel, and was not at Upton Park for the match.

Suggestions that Sakho's mood has become dark over recent weeks were supported by the Snapchat message that read: "When I am hated I don't give a f***, I do everything to be more hated."

Sakho has claimed to a friend that the message was posted over a private matter, rather than being aimed at Bilic or West Ham. But the Senegal international has been angered by the club's admissions that they have made a top-class striker their top priority for the summer transfer window.

It now looks likely that Sakho will seek a move in the summer and follow Alex Song, who was also omitted from the squad against Arsenal, out of the door.

Song has been frozen out of Bilic's team in recent weeks because of a clause in his loan agreement that would force West Ham to sign him permanently from Barcelona if he made 15 starts. He has started 10 matches this season.

In view of Bilic's problems with Sakho and Song, Carroll could not have timed his return to form any better.

West Ham looked dead and buried when they fell two goals behind to strikes from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but Carroll netted two goals in a minute at the end of the first half to send his team in at the break level.

He then secured his hat-trick seven minutes into the second half, before Laurent Koscielny levelled for Arsenal with 20 minutes remaining.

Bilic admitted he would have to be "drunk" not to pick Carroll against United, but also challenged the 27-year-old to improve his lifestyle to produce more matchwinning performances.

Carroll's West Ham career has been blighted by injuries, but Bilic claimed the player must also do more to help himself.

"As a medical team, as a club, we're doing everything, so he's got to do something," said Bilic. "He's doing it, but he should be even more dedicated to stay away from those injuries for a few years because it's a waste for West Ham and probably for England. It's a waste for big clubs if they want to buy him from abroad.

"What more can I say about Andy Carroll? If he goes to bed at 10pm, he should now be going at 9.30pm. He has to do something. I'm not a medical expert or voodoo teacher, I'm just his manager and I know he loves football. It's not the training, because when he trains, he loves football.

"When he plays he wants to win. It's only consistency."

Carroll may well have left it too late to force his way into Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2016, but the former Liverpool and Newcastle man has not yet given up hope.

Asked how he would make his case to Hodgson, Carroll replied: "Something different, as simple as that. There are a lot of great strikers out there, but I don't feel they've got what I've got. I'd love a phone call but I'm not expecting one."

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, suggested his defenders should have stopped Carroll.

It is, after all, not the first time the striker has bullied Koscielny in the air, having netted the winner from a set-piece at the Emirates back in 2010 when playing for former side Newcastle United.

"If we had a weakness today it is in the air," said Wenger.

"We know that Carroll can beat anyone in the air, but we made it a bit comfortable for him. Ideally, you don't want an opponent to have an easy header."

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