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It’s a nostalgic image that puts a smile on the faces of middle aged English football fans all around the country: the “old fashioned” centre forward. A player, who could beat defenders in the air, would never shirk a tackle and would put his body on the line for the team. Think Toshack, Duncan Ferguson and Alan Shearer. Three forwards from around the Isles who would gladly have one of their front teeth knocked out just to win a header.
These men are called “old fashioned” for a reason. As football evolved, this special breed all but died out. Andy Carroll and Kevin Davies are exceptions, but both have been neglected for country in favour of shorter, quicker strikers.
Now however, the game seems to be in the process of evolving one step further. Is it possible that the striker is now becoming unfavourable in modern football?
This generation’s Spain team are arguably the best ever team to grace international football, and once again electrified the world at the 2012 Euro’s. For most of the games, Spain played with no out and out forward; such was their plethora of world class midfielders. In place of a striker, the so called “false nine” was born, a player who would drift between the lines and attempt to draw out defenders- in this case operated by Cesc Fabregas.
This was not the first time this 4-6-0 formation had been used successfully, as Barcelona had also implemented this formation successfully with their total football. However Barcelona had Messi, who the whole formation was designed to suit-Spain quite clearly, did not.
I admit that the thought of the striker becoming a dying breeds sounds a ludicrous one, such is the overwhelming number of teams that still play at least one forward; but this no-striker malarkey has now crept into English football. Stand up Mr Michu and Swansea City.
Michu’s impact in the Premier league has been nothing short of astounding when you consider the amount of money Swansea paid to Real Vallecano for his services, scoring 15 goals already in the league. Bought as an attacking midfielder, Michu has now become the focal point of Swansea’s attacks and is the definition of a “false number nine.” Danny Graham, who is your typical striker saw himself dropped and sold to Sunderland, whilst Swansea continue to flourish with Michu leading the line.
It is difficult to say if the tiki-taka style of possession football is the future of the game, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Striker will always be a vital position. Simply look at the impact of Robin Van Persie on Manchester United’s fortunes this season, or how Drogba was so vital in Chelsea’s Champion’s League success last season. To put it bluntly you can afford to have no striker if you have Xavi and Iniesta running your midfield, that’s fine, but for me there will always be a place in football for the man in front of goal.