I constantly hear centre forwards up and down the land defended when under criticism with a riposte of “but he scores goals.” I wonder is this is an acceptable defence and enough to warrant the validity of a centre forward in a starting XI?
An important factor to consider that I think is lost in this analysis is when these goals are scored, because yes the striker may score, but if it’s in injury time when his team is 5-0 down, the goal is rendered rather useless. The whole reason why a goalscorer is so adamantly defended is that their finishing changes a game. It is also relevant to analyse current form above anything else because it is so easy to justify the poor form of a striker, with, he’s done it before he will do it again.
It appears currently that Michael Owen is living off the tag that he used to score goals, and even though he no longer appears to have the pace or finishing capabilities, because his overall goal record stands up, he still has the audacity to insist that if you give him the ball in the 6 yard box he will score. However, this argument does not just apply to play such as Owen who comes off the bench; they apply to players such as Papiss Cisse. Whilst it is essential to have a striker who can score, there also needs to be a hunger and a desire to score rather than expectancy.
The problem a player such as Cisse has is that he has no physicality to his game, with the Senegalese being woeful in the air. His game is predominantly based around finishing, and now that he is struggling to utilise that, he has little else to offer. There is a similar conundrum at Aston Villa with Darren Bent the club’s top goalscorer last season. The goals are not exactly bursting from the seams at Villa Park, yet the England international has struggled to get a game. I believe that Benteke is a well-rounded striker, if the side are to play a 4-5-1 and therefore I can accept Lambert favouring the Belgian over Bent in this circumstance. In a situation where you play only one striker, playing a forward who can score goals and do little else is very hard to accept. However, surely if a team is to survive and procure enough goals to survive in the Premier League, they need to play 2 or more up front at some point and I don’t see better options in reserve at Aston Villa than Bent.
It is also vital that if these strikers are to thrive that they are seen as figurehead of the team and the focal point of all the crosses, and passes. I believe at Villa it is worth accepting that Bent will bring little else to a team, but he can score a goal that will provide a crucial 3 points. I think that Jermain Defoe is a striker who bases his game on his predatory instincts and has justified his place in the Tottenham side this season, because of it with the player being a rich vein of form so needs to be placed in the starting XI. Despite this, a point of interest remains that when things need changing in a game for Spurs, there is still the inclination that some fans would prefer to see Adebayor over Defoe. This is due to his willingness to hold up the ball, despite his hot headed nature as he illustrated at the Emirates last Saturday.
It does need to be questioned though if there are other strikers available who can score an equal amount of goals but also incorporate other elements into his game that is extremely rare. Despite this the most vital ingredient is confidence. If a striker who bases his game upon goalscoring loses even the slightest belief that he can score goals he can’t justify his place in the team.