The Premier League has moved on from its roots in blood and thunder. Strikers are expected to do all kinds of things. Modern forwards like Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and more recently Diego Costa have upped the ante at the top end of the pitch.
As has been pointed out elsewhere by an accomplished writer citing actual evidence in a coherent argument: goal-hangers, tap-in merchants or poachers have already fallen.
Working hard for the team, ‘putting a shift in’, tracking back, dropping into midfield, retaining possession, running the channels, running in behind, harrying centre-backs, challenging for headers, marking at set pieces.
Just typing it all is tiring. After all of that work strikers are also expected to score goals. Ludicrous.
All these expectations, skills and mainly fitness requirements mean that another less celebrated type of footballer is also being squeezed out of our top flight.
Target men, defensive forwards, blunt instruments, battering rams. Backing in, holding it up and laying the ball off to more talented team mates is their meat and drink. ‘Barrel-chested’ is their preferred commentator-relatable attribute. Kevin Davies is their hero.
As Andy Carroll’s recent resurgence has shown, goals are in fact important. It is no good winning flick-ons if you are useless in front of goal. In reality a defensive forward is just one that doesn’t score any goals.
Adebayo Akinfenwa may be flying the flag on social media and in Saturday morning loosely football related japes, but at the top level the number of strikers still making a living from the art form is worryingly low.
Here are three who are leading the ‘Equality for Strikers Who Don’t Score Goals’ campaign.
Everyone’s favourite. The glee with which the American goes about his business (whatever that is) has endeared him to everyone apart from, presumably, Sunderland fans.
He hasn’t scored a Premier League goal for over a year and for some reason people are judging him for this.
‘As a manager, I’m going to use him. It will be a surprise for a few,’ said his manager Gus Poyet, rushing to his defence with a strong rebuff of criticism.
He may have cost £6.5 million, and he may have only ever scored three goals for Sunderland and he may have only managed an average pass completion of 61% this season, but did you see his reaction to Aguero’s goal?
Worth every penny.
‘A right handful’, ‘a real nuisance’, and ‘keeps defenders occupied’ are all surely skills listed on Anichebe’s CV.
These are all of course fantastic qualities, but again there is the whole goal issue. One in 481 minutes of Premier League football this season is not a great return.
Thankfully West Brom don’t have many other options so we will likely be treated to some more ‘rolling the defender’ this season.
Still, a bargain at just £6 million.
‘When the ball hits your head and you’re sat in row Z, that’s Zamora…’
As it happens the song is rather apt – Zamora boasts 0 goals in 548 minutes of Premier League football this season. But as a foil for a much more talented striker partner he’s excelled… Charlie Austin has scored eight Premier League goals.
Unfortunately, at 33 Zamora is a fading star. One just hopes he’s passed on his wisdom to the younger generation, otherwise we may never see a player quite as adept at taking the ball on the chest and laying it off.
The battering rams are gathering dust. Managers prefer a different technique – laying siege to the opposition is no longer fashionable.
There are no statistics for ‘flick-ons won’, ‘elbows thrown’ or ‘touches on the chest’. Strikers will increasingly be judged on numbers – numbers like ‘goals scored’, ‘assists’ and ‘pass completion’. Appreciate the Altidore’s, Anichebe’s and Zamora’s of this world, before it’s too late.