There was always going to be plenty of talk about Liverpool returns for Andy Carroll and Joe Cole; both headed to London after the season got going, with the former leaving on a temporary basis and the latter rejoining his boyhood club near the start of the January window. As luck (and Joe Cole's waining fitness and the logistics of loan deals) would have it, though, neither will be taking part in tomorrow's match with Cole suffering a hamstring injury and Carroll locked up by the terms of his loan deal.
We don't have any great need to discuss the future of Cole, who will likely end his career at West Ham, but the growing speculation around Andy Carroll has become unavoidable, even with Brendan Rodgers stating that it's a discussion for another day in the distant future. That future's arrived in a small way, with Rodgers commenting on the demand for a significant fee given the manner in which he was brought in to Liverpool in the first place:
"There is no doubt Andy has qualities and some of his goals from set plays with West Ham have proven that. Just as it was last season, if the player does leave then it won't be for nothing. He came here for an astronomical fee which was no fault of his own, but the club can't have that money sat on the bench, in terms of what Andy cost and his wages.
"The big boy's gone out and he's scored five goals, probably not played as often as he and West Ham would have liked, but there was a massive price tag on him and we have to consider that. We will see what happens in the summer."
Seeing what happens seems like a thinly-veiled acknowledgement that there will be some shopping done for a player who simply isn't favored by Rodgers. We try to avoid making any sort of leaps to judgment around transfers, but here it's commonly accepted that there isn't much of a future on Merseyside for Andy Carroll, and accepting that leaves us to look at who Rodgers and the club will be bringing in.
Needs up front have mostly been addressed, with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho bought in January and Fabio Borini set to return in the preseason. There's still the potential for additional attacking talent to be brought in--most have focused on the need for a number ten, and added strength deeper in the midfield and across the back line could and should be addressed.
We'll have to wait to see what happens, of course, but there's little sense in playing coy over what we all already know. Andy Carroll won't likely be a Liverpool player deep into the summer transfer window, and then we can all stop pretending that talking about creates some sort of shocking conclusion that nobody saw coming.