Strikers. The Glamour Boys. The Hansel’s and Derek Zoolanders of the football world. The match winners. All hopes of glory rested squarely on their shoulders.
Not anymore. Well, this season at least.
This EPL season has seen a dramatic decrease in striker influence. Midfielders are now the main outlet for goals. Heck, even defenders are chipping away at their trade. Their relevance in the overall scheme of things will never fully diminish, but somehow managers in the EPL this season are using the front man as a decoy, asking them to pull a shift keeping defenders busy, pulling defenders wider out of their areas to create space for forward marauding midfielders.
Two perfect examples of teams employing this modus operandi are Arsenal and Liverpool, and to their credit, both are doing quite well currently in the league standings. Their winter collections are seemingly suited to accommodate midfield maestro’s, their formations and style of play tailor made for goals arriving from all over, as opposed to just”finding the front man.”
Arsenal have made Alexis Sanchez their main man upfront, with Oliver Giroud, Arsenal’s one actual out and out striker, now reserved to making super sub appearances ( To great effect it must be said) in recent times. Sanchez and Walcott have been a big sources of goals and assists for Wenger.
Liverpool have Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino wreaking havoc on Premiership defences. Klopp’s tactics involving unconventional movement by the front 3 has each player working in tandem as either goal provider or goalscorer. Daniel Sturridge has had to bide his time, and like Giroud, he has had to be content with cameo appearances in the league and the odd cup run out. Coutinho has 4 goals and 4 assists to his name, Mane 4 goals, 2 assists, Firmino 4 goals and 1 assist. Sturridge is yet to get his name on the score sheet in the Premier League and has only setup one of his colleagues thus far.
Strikers are mostly confidence-based performers and this change in design by these football fashionistas aka Football Managers has seen these models lose a lot of limelight. This has resulted in lacklustre performances when brought on or getting the nod to start, effectively compounding their problem further. As the False 9 grabs all the plaudits, the True Number 9 has to build his mental strength and wait patiently for his chance. Like joggers and leather jackets, their time to rule the world will return. As managers figure out ways to combat the False 9 phenomenon gripping England, they’d have to turn to the tried and tested… And like fashion, football evolves and the forgotten, discarded, previously trendy items come back into favour, often better than ever.
In the EPL , the window of change opens at lightning speed. As results spike and Plan B becomes Plan A for a while, forwards get that opportunity to remind the world ( and mainly the manager) why they are the original “Go To Guys.” Sergio Aguero has returned with goals, Giroud scored two goals with his first two touches against Sunderland.
All is not lost. In the land of white lines and steel poles, the predators will always rule.