Return of the Goal Poacher?

Monday, 14 January 2008

The emergence of Eduardo in recent weeks as one the Premiership’s best finishers has left me to consider whether the traditional goal poacher has returned with a vengeance, or whether he is just an example of a dying breed.

There are many examples of the goal poacher over the years. Players such as Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, Tony Cottee, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler and Filipo Inzaghi. These were strikers who would probably sell their arm to get a goal. If the only way they could get a ball over the line was to get an erection and bone it over the whitewash then this is what they would have done. Fans adored them and opposition players hated them. They would capitalise on defensive errors and lapses in concentration and punish the opposition ruthlessly. They would be a bit like those good looking guys who would used to just go out walk up to a girl in a club, look her in the eye and be taking her home in a taxi 5 minutes later. However, things are different these days. When you meet a girl in a club, you have to run game on her, tease her, play with her and put in significant amount of hard work before sealing the deal. Just being good looking isn’t enough.

Anyway, back to the footballers. The one thing that these strikers had in common is that they would largely do sod all else during the game and were often conspicuous by their absence. They would probably let their strike partners do all the hard work and then just come in and take the glory e.g. Emile Heskey was Michael Owen’s bitch at Liverpool (and probably still is).

These types of striker were priceless though and could be relied upon to knock in 20-30 goals a season. However, looking around the game now, it is clear to see that this is a dying art form. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of goal-scorers around but they are a complete different type of breed. They are a more complete footballer, more agile, stronger and capable of scoring more spectacular goals. No longer are footballers just allowed to stand around for 89 minutes and then just bundle in a last minute winner from 6 yards.

Defences are stronger, their concentration levels are better, players are more athletic and more organised and the traditional goal getter is in danger of being as extinct as a dodo. Let’s look at the top strikers in the Premiership. Berbatov, Torres and Drogba. These guys are top athletes, with exceptional technique and strength. They worry defences for a whole game never giving them a minutes rest. They help set up their team-mates as well as all having the ability to slalom past 2-3 men and arc one in the top corner. Could you ever imagine someone like Tony Cottee or Mick Quinn doing this? Of course not, these guys couldn’t even beat an egg, let alone an opposition player.

However, the emergence of Eduardo over recent weeks has given renewed hope that there is still room in the game for the traditional marksman. I have watched a number of Arsenal games in recent weeks and Eduardo’s finishing has been exceptional. He does what all strikers should do, and that’s finish his dinner. However, apart from this in his game he doesn’t have much else in his locker. His hold up play isn’t great, he isn’t the best passer, he doesn’t have a great deal of pace and isn’t particularly strong. But you can always rely on him to stick it in the onion bag when it matters most. In fact, most of his attributes are completely different to that of the guy he replaced, Thierry Henry (who is still struggling to find his va va voom at Barca).

Perennially injured Michael Owen has struggled to regain his goal scoring touch and is finding goals much harder to come by then when he was at Liverpool. Compare him to players such as Berbatov who has Owen’s finishing ability plus other attributes to boot. Strikers at international level are now required to be complete players, and just having the ability to finish is no longer sufficient to make you a feared player on the world stage.

Ruud van Nistelrooy has had to change his game at Madrid to keep up his incredible scoring record. I remember one season at Manchester United where he scored about 40 goals and only one was from outside the 18 yard area. Now though, Ruud boy has added to his game in all areas in an attempt to be a more complete centre forward.

So is the emergence of Eduardo a sign of things to come or is he merely a Prince shaped anomaly on the football landscape? Only time will tell….

1 Responses:

Anonymous Says:

Lets not get too carried away with Eduardo just yet, yes he has proved it on the international scene, but to say he is one of the best finishers in the world having just scored 3 premiership goals or something like that is madness.