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Strikers: The resurrection

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

If anyone were to bring up the subject of the summer transfer window, the first player to probably come to mind is Ronaldo. Last season saw the rise and rise of the Portuguese star, culminating in his £80 million move to La Liga, a league now containing 3 of the best (if not "the"
best) footballers in World football; Messi, Kaka and the aforementioned Ronaldo. It was the season of the midfielder.

When Xabi Alonso was sold to Real Madrid, Liverpool fans threw their arms up in despair. When Drogba was injured, Chelsea fans were thinking "well, that sucks, but we've got Lampard!". When Tottenham were exploring the nether regions of the Premierleague, Modric was there to pick up the pieces.

For this humble observer, there can be no doubt that last season the midfielder reigned supreme. Anyone who played fantasy football last season will tell you that unless you had Ronaldo, Lampard or Gerrard (or a combination thereof) then you weren't going to win didly. On the other hand, there wasn't a single striker who seemed to be at the top of his game for the whole season.

Anelka ended up with the gong for Top Goal Scorer, however he scored the vast majority of those before Christmas. Torres too was in the top 5, yet he scored the majority of his after Christmas. Drogba had a season to forget, and other contenders like Rooney, Berbatov or Van Persie just didn't turn up.

However this season everything is different. This season is the season of the striker.

Look through the Top Scorer statistics for this season and you will find that the top 10 is made up entirely of strikers. From Drogba on 12, to Agbonlahor on 6, these guys have accumulated 80 goals between them.

Drogba is on incredible form at the moment, having scored 2 goals in his return to Champions League action last night against Atletico Madrid. He has contributed 8 assists as well as his 9 goals. The story is similar for Van Persie, who has scored 7 and assisted 6.

Of course it's easy to sit here and point out statistics supporting this theory, but what is more puzzling is "why"?

In Chelsea's case the answer is immediate; Carlo Ancelotti. The new manager is obviously bringing the best out of the Ivorian, which in turn is having wonderful effects on the rest of the team. With Liverpool the absence of Xabi Alonso and erratic form of Gerrard has left Torres to carry the goal scoring mantle. With Arsenal the answer is less immediate; although perhaps the improvement in Fabregas' form combined with Arshavin's adaptation has given the dutchman the service he requires. For Manchester United, it's clear; Ronaldo has gone.

For other teams though, the answer is less clear. Darren Bent, Carlton Cole and Jermain Defoe are all chart topping scorers this season. Darrent Bent is perhaps the most curious, his goal scoring abilities have never been in doubt (he was in fact Tottenham's top scorer last season) but he seems to have truly found his feet in Steve Bruce's rigid 4-4-2. Partnering Kenwyne Jones (and a beach ball) upfront has created chance after chance, and the Englishman has been putting them away.

Cole has been threatening to explode on the scene since his days as a promising youngster at Chelsea, and perhaps it is just a coincidence that Zola's coaching has finally had an effect.

Jermain Defoe has always been a prolific scorer (although much more in purple patches rather than with any sort of consistency), and the beginning of the season saw him bang in goal after goal. The absence of Luka Modric though has curbed Defoe's enthusiasm.

Overall there can be no doubt that the striker has returned for 09/10. There isn't one golden rule which explains this resurgence, rather it's simply a combination of factors. Regardless, it's making for some very exciting football, and long may it continue.

posted by teedoubleyou


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