How many forwards does it take to screw a lightbulb?

Are two strikers really better than one and what are the best characteristics a forward should have?

Scoring goals wins you games. Simple logic really therefore it would have been hard to begrudge Martin O’Neill when he decided to shell out £3million for Emile Heskey to partner Agbonlahor upfront. Heskey’s unselfish play and battering ram presence was seen as the perfect platform to stage their push for the final Champions League position.

Now with that challenge faltering the switch to 4-4-2, along with their threadbare squad is said to blame. Their success this season had been down to midfielders breaking forward and providing the goalscoring threat and Steve Sidwell, a key component in that strategy has  unfortunately been missing  recently. The greater physicality and dynamism of midfielders require them to contribute in terms of goals while the main forward is there to hold up the ball, link up play and hopefully get on the end of balls into the box.

With Manchester United there is no main forward; Tevez, Rooney and Berbatov are ‘between the lines’ players but none can really be claimed as a natural number nine. However what looks like a 4-4-2, when defending can easily turn into a 4-2-4 or 4-3-3 when attacking with subtle movements from the forward men, interchanging positions. United where beaten rather comprehensively by Liverpool, who with their 4-2-3-1 basically negated such a threat of the 4-4-2 and in the other end with Gerrard and Torres, dismantled the United defence. Of course the trend seems to be having a multi-skilled lone striker and three dynamic midfielders behind, one an attacking midfielder or support striker to balance out the team when defending. Indeed this is seen at times when Van Persie tracks back to make the fifth midfielder while we saw a more effective Arsenal when the Dutchman played in the hole against Newcastle in the second half.

In the same match we saw or rather, saw not enough of the ineffective goalpoacher Owen. Dropped to the bench because he was thought not to have the skills to cause enough Arsenal problems and when he did come on, proved the coach right as he was mostly anonymous. Filippo Inzaghi scored his 300th goal, a hat-trick against Genoa all with his left foot and his ability to be in the right place at the right time priceless especially when chasing the game but in a tight, tactical affair may lack the required skill base.

Van Nistelrooy II has been in good form for Madrid recently after scoring 8 goals in 6 games. Huntelaar has got a bit of goalpoacher about him but like Nistelrooy his link up play and holding the ball up the key to the side’s attacks. Barcelona play with three forwards but have been exposed in the centre as of late while Ibrahimovic is still desperately trying to prove to all outside Italy that he is a world class striker but his team cannot match his fluidity and flexibility. Chelsea are too scared to play their two strikers together while in the international game it is almost exclusively a 4-2-3-1 for every team.

Of course, it depends entirely on the team on what number of strikers to deploy but the trend is to have a lone-forward as the platform for attacks who is highly mobile and can perform a number of functions. Behind him there is usually a support striker or an attacking midfielder to add balance and unlock defences in the key area between midfield and attack. The improvement in fitness of midfielders means they must help provide the goalscoring threat with their movement.

So after all that there is nothing really new in this post that hasn’t been said before in this site. And on that bombshell….good night.


3 thoughts on “How many forwards does it take to screw a lightbulb?

  1. The lone forward tactic has also emerged due to highly organized zonal back 4 defenses. By pushing a lone forward high, all 4 defenders end up having to stay connected and have trouble dealing with between the lines players. Arsenal, at their best add to this with players withdrawing into midfield while other plyers making verticle runs (Pires/Freddie). It seems Arshavin has increased the enthusiasm as it appears they are much more fluid and playing freely full of creative ideas.

    Italy has played the withdrawn/shadow striker forever due to their organized defenses.

  2. Hi. Thanks for the comments.
    Mark: Good comment. I should be doing an article about improved defences in the future and that is one point I was to mention.
    James: I think we don’t need to play a 4-2-3-1 as such with Nasri as the attacking midfielder as we have potentially four good second/support strikers. One can drop back easily and play between the lines.

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