There should be no real truth in Premier League clubs looking to seriously adopt Barcelona and Spain’s 4-6-0 formation, using strikers only when the occasion really calls for it—although Arsenal have been flirting with something along those lines. But the problem in the lack of any great depth upfront appears to be monetary.
Liverpool’s problems in their lack of depth in attack has been talked about to death, but the owners are the real source of the issue. John W. Henry clearly didn’t see any worth in the club signing off on a deal for a 29-year old striker in Clint Dempsey, even though the American would have comfortably slotted into the most advanced forward role and partnered Luis Suarez well. The lack of investment was even more baffling considering their decision to let Andy Carroll go on loan. Carroll may not have been Brendan Rodgers’ cup of tea—the big striker is used to a different game that sees his power and height come to the fore—but he’s a better alternative than nothing.
It’s also no surprise that goals have been the biggest weakness for Liverpool so far. They’re conceding goals through individual error, but Suarez is not going to have the luxury of travelling to Carrow Road every other weekend in search of a hat trick. The personnel at Liverpool doesn’t even offer the manager to opt for the risky and technically demanding formation that Barcelona and Spain use. Without depth of any kind, they’re all at sea. The thing is, they’re not trying to play a game with themselves to see how long they can last, it just seems clear that the American owners aren’t entirely clear on what their direction is. And if they are, the more worrying aspect of a lack of financial strength becomes the greatest concern.
With Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has had to fall back on what he has due to a lack of targets in his price range—as we’re led to believe—and the fact that Kevin Mirallas turned down the Gunners in favour of Everton. It’s hard to believe that Wenger really intended to use Gervinho in the central role from the off, if so why did he chase Mirallas? There was also a story that leaked during the summer where scout Gilles Grimandi stated that Olivier Giroud wasn’t necessarily the only striker the club would bring in, but they were in a good position with the Frenchman at the club should Robin van Persie leave.
The idea to use Gervinho through the middle may seem a good idea, the player is scoring and has put in a few good performances. He gives Wenger another option and offers the team a different route to goal. But are Arsenal really comparable to teams like Liverpool or even Spurs in terms off depth up front?
Arsenal can use Theo Walcott through the middle if they really have to and Olivier Giroud is clearly the go-to option if they choose to use a traditional striker. What about Lukas Podolski? That’s four options, four that really wouldn’t leave Arsenal short in the wide positions either. Like I said, it’s hard to understand that Wenger went into this season with these options as his first choice, but he’s making do and has plenty of alternatives to Giroud.
Tottenham really haven’t moved forward or backwards since last season, although it’s a decent step forward if we’re looking at Clint Dempsey as a third option for the striker role for Andre Villas-Boas. Emmanuel Adebayor is out injured at the moment and Jermain Defoe is finding his form in front of goal. The England international may sometimes appear to be isolated up front, but that’s hardly an issue relating to depth in the striking department. It’s also clear that Daniel Levy wanted another option, perhaps even an alternative to Adebayor. Fernando Llorente was chased and the door at Athletic Bilbao was knocked on. But the striker seems destined for anywhere other than Spurs at this stage. Another indication of a lack of funds or even desire to meet the valuation of a player?
Chelsea should have done more to keep Romelu Lukaku this season, giving the players assurances that he will be given game time at Stamford Bridge. If Victor Moses can come in and compete with the outstanding array of attacking midfield talent, why can’t the Belgian striker compete with Fernando Torres? At what point do we look at Torres as a player who really seems to be losing any interest in the game? He’s far from turned a corner, and those scoring days of earlier in the season certainly haven’t set the tone.
There’s no money for clubs to pay for Radamel Falcao or Leandro Damiao. Manchester City are a good example of a club with seemingly unlimited riches who wanted to be a little more sensible this summer. Tottenham spent a lot of money on Hugo Lloris when those funds could have been focused somewhere else. And is it ever a good plan for a team as big as Liverpool to go into a season with Fabio Borini, a player who is still learning the game, to be a realistic back-up to Luis Suarez?
Premier League teams are having to make do, but it’s very difficult to see them wanting to go into the season with these intentions.