THE BLOG

The Demise of the Striker

18/02/2014 23:00 GMT | Updated 21/04/2014 10:59 BST

Over the past few years, there has been a distinct lack of what people would refer to as, 'a traditional centre forward.' No longer do you see your Ronaldo's (the fat one) tearing through defences, linking up with an accompanying striker, such as Raul, because there is now an unprecedented desire for the fastest, most skilful attacking midfielder.

The emergence of players such as Arjen Robben, Eden Hazard and Cristiano Ronaldo in the modern game has taken the pressure off of today's strikers to an extent and so we don't really see your Henrys and van Nistelrooys firing clubs to greatness. They have been replaced by target men, players whose sole job is to control the ball and pass it on, far less exciting than watching Dean Ashton tearing through a defence, but if it brings success, should we even question it?

One question does arise from this situation, however, and that is whether or not this a good thing. As vague as that question is, there are strong arguments for and against the decline of the striker and the emergence of the attacking midfielder playing in a one-forward formation. There is no denying that building a team around your attacking midfielders can be attractive and effective - we only have to look at Chelsea this year to understand that success can be achieved without a prolific striker.

Watching Manchester City score over 100 goals this season, however, shows that playing two strikers is still plenty effective. As a West Ham supporter, hearing fans vent their anger at Sam Allardyce's reluctance to play more than one striker leads me to believe that playing two up top could be more effective. In Andy Carroll's absence, the Hammers were about as useful as a chocolate teapot, limiting their attacking winger's possibilities as every cross ended up at the opponents' feet. Maybe a striker is still a pre-requisite for success, or maybe it simply tells you something about the usefulness of Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis.

Despite this, the number of goals scored by the top goal scorers each season hasn't dropped, in fact, the numbers have stayed fairly consistent bar a few anomalies. This would suggest that regardless of the focus on attacking midfielders, the league's strikers are still leading the goalscoring tables at the end of each season. In fact, in the past two seasons, Robin van Persie has finished top with 30 and 26 goals respectively, but then again, Manchester United still often play with two up front. Compare this to Tottenham, however, a team that almost always rely on one striker and you'll see that only their midfielders, like Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart, have finished in the top 10 in the last three years, earning Spurs just about nothing in terms of silverware.

This season in particular, it would appear that the teams who are the most enjoyable to watch, Manchester City and Liverpool, play with two up front. Of course, there are anomalies and exceptions to this, but the fact that the striker is becoming less and less valuable is something to consider.

Is it a positive thing that teams no longer rely on two men to score every goal, or is it sad to no longer see the interplay between your two forwards in a 'big and little' set-up? One thing's for sure, you can expect your club to spend big money on promising attacking midfielders in the future, whereas the days of developing a prolific strike partnership to play in a 4-4-2 formation are coming to an end.

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