Global Crisis: Where Are The World Class Strikers?


Global Striking Crisis? In modern football, there seems to be an undoubted shortage of world class strikers available. I’ll base this on asking why Manchester United with all the cash available to throw around “settle” for a 34-year old? I’m perfectly aware he is no regular old footballer.

Many claim he isn’t past his prime but age has always been a factor in football transfers. This is no different.

There weren’t that many candidates to choose from and United tied him to just a 1-year deal. Not really something for us to lose our cool over.

More importantly, the issue that it highlights is the fact that they aren’t many strikers of his calibre in the world. There a few but as we know most aren’t available. Consequentially, the few considered ‘available’ are incredibly expensive even by today’s ridiculous market rates. That leads us to ask important questions such as why this shortage even exists.

One prominent reason may be due to the formation employed by majority of the footballing world. We don’t need any statistical data to prove that most teams only play with a single striker. Like water boiling at 100 degrees, this is common knowledge in the footballing world. This means more is expected from the contemporary forward as opposed to in the past.

In the early 90s and early 2000s most teams often used 2 strikers who shared responsibilities. These forward partnerships came in various forms. We had the famous Big man – Small man variant popularly embodied by Emile Heskey and Michael Owen in Liverpool.

Sized Up. Both Heskey and Own formed part of an old school partnership.
Sized Up. Both Heskey and Owen formed part of an old school partnership.

There was also the Creator – Finisher type which saw Thierry Henry combine well with Dennis Bergkamp who not only created chances but scored many of his own as well. And when it came to being a lone forward in a system, the striker had to be extremely talented such as Ronaldo or Kluivert in Barcelona’s everlasting 4-3-3.

This leads us to the worrying situation currently in world football. Most teams have decided to use a one striker system that requires the modern forward to possess a vast range of abilities as opposed to being a specialist in one.

Best of Both Worlds. Arsenal had this deadly duo at the peak of their performances.
Best of Both Worlds. Arsenal had this deadly duo at the peak of their performances.

The general qualities usually wanted in a decent striker are simple. They include being able to make runs behind the defence, holding up play, decent dribbling and finishing (obviously). Most strikers who tick all the aforementioned conditions are usually world class (Sergio Agüero and Luis Suàrez for instacne). Even when the player is not world class, they are usually very useful such as Danny Welbeck.

The main problem with this is that it’s often too much to ask from a lone player. In previous times these qualities could have easily been divided between two players. In some cases strikers could complement each other’s strengths. This is easily the difference maker in the career of many players. For example, Theo Walcott has very similar qualities to Micheal Owen, however they have had very different careers.

Owen during his prime played up front with a big striker such as Heskey. The latter was able to hold up play and help slip him in behind the defence. This is a job that Olivier Giroud can do very effectively as he displayed with his performances at the Euros alongside Antoine Griezmann.

However, Theo has not had the same opportunity to do such. It’s either he plays up front alone or he is pushed towards the wings. Here he is saddled with defensive responsibilities. In previous times, someone like Walcott who can make runs and finish well would have been placed alongside a partner.

Lone Wolf. The modern game requires strikers like Suarez to do far more than before.
Lone Wolf. The modern game requires strikers like Suarez to do far more than before.

This co-forward would be one who can hold up play and dribble (to an extent) in order to maximize his abilities. In today’s game, there is hardly any room for that.

Now most people with those abilities are pushed to the wing. They are expected to act like wing forwards who come in to score goals. The major problem with this is if you are a winger that can’t dribble then you will probably have a tough time.

Moreover, if you are big striker who can’t run behind the defence then you definitely need midfielders. These midfielders need to feed the forwards regularly enough otherwise they’ll probably have a tough time as well. This has been the case with Giroud who has been criticized countless number of times at Arsenal.