The decline of the striker?

Discussion in 'World Cup 2014' started by OddRiverOakWizards, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. OddRiverOakWizards

    OddRiverOakWizards Well-Known Member

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    Whilst Pele is renowned for his over-optimistic predictions, such as his statement that an African team would win the World Cup by 2010, he may have one prediction right: where he envisaged a time where a team would no longer play an outright central striker. Spain's adoption of a 4-6-0 hybrid formation may suggest that this time Pele's words were more than mere hyperbole.

    The Euros in Poland and Ukraine this summer have been on the whole a success with a wide variety of formations and tactics being adopted. However, unlike in the past where 4-4-2 was the mainstay formation that teams would adopt this tournament has highlighted the shift to more interchangeable systems such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-5-1. The reason for this seems clear: to allow teams to keep the ball better and to protect the goal when the opposition has the ball. This growing trend has also been observed in the Premier League where few teams now play two outright striker, preferring forwards or wide men who tuck in when possession is lost, as otherwise the best teams such as the Spain's, Barcelona's or even Manchester Cities will punish you.

    But will these keeping-it-tight more cautious formations reduce the spectacle of football and lead to much lower scoring games? Certainly there have been fewer one sided high scoring games this tournament, however both the top scoring teams in these Euros (Germany and Spain) have played with one or even no strikers would suggest otherwise. But if we take out the Spanish win against the Republic of Ireland (where Spain deployed Torres as a striker - who scored two goals) away we see that they have only managed four goals in five matches without a central striker. Teams such as Croatia, Greece, Sweden and even England have certainly got higher goals per games ratio but nevertheless have much higher rates of goals conceded, although it is hard to compare mediocre European sides with possible champions. Italy were the only team to make the last four who could be claimed to play two outright strikers, however one of them usually plays deeper or out wide, yet the outright striker was what caused the German defence all sorts of problems as Balotelli rifled and headed in two superb goals, whereas the Germans struggled to get in behind a dogged defence and their wide forwards such as Podolski and Kroos looked uncomfortable in their wider and less central attacking roles, as they did all tournament.

    However, football is constantly evolving, as are tactics and training regimes, you only have to look at the 3-2-5 formation that England adopted against Hungary in their shock 6-3 defeat in 1953. So will the central striker become an outdated position just like the halfback or inside forward?
     
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  2. Schad

    Schad Well-Known Member

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    Positional fluidity is something of a luxury; not every team will be able to field a team of midfielders with the goal-scoring acumen of a forward, or forwards with the pace of a winger, ability to run at defenses like an attacking mid, and finishing of a traditional striker. You might (and already do) see fewer old-fashioned center forwards at the top level of the game, but they'll still be an important feature for the majority of clubs.
     
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  3. Joe!

    Joe! Well-Known Member

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    Just to be a bit pedantic, I'd say that it's technically the centre forward which is considered to be a dying breed rather than the striker.

    I do still believe that the 4-4-2 can be used very effectively though. People tend to see it, especially on the continent, as a defensive and ugly style, but it can also be a very fast, counter-attacking formation. The problem with Hodgson's 4-4-2 was that it didn't allow the wingers the attacking freedom under which they could thrive. They had to be chasing all the way up and down the flanks, fulfilling their defensive duties, rather than staying forward like the wide players in a 4-3-3 would be able to do. I think that when playing a 4-4-2 against an opponent with three central midfielders, you can either be careful and conservative (like Hodgson) or take a risk and open the game right up. The latter makes for a cracking game of football, as opposed to a 4-3-3 vs 4-3-3 game which often gets too cramped in midfield.

    You're going to lose out in midfield if you have less central players than your opponent, but you should aim to get the ball forward quickly and make the most of the fact that you have two up front. This is where the old-fashioned centre forward still comes in handy - a player like Rickie Lambert who is essentially what is now known as a "target man", but with the added bonus of being very good with his feet. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fernando Llorente are other good examples, and there will always be a place for them in the game.

    Successful teams always need to have more than one strategy in their locker. Barcelona lost to Chelsea because they were out-strategised and didn't have a plan B. They can claim all they want that Chelsea got lucky, but that simply isn't the case. What Barca needed was to switch to 4-4-2 and bring on a centre forward.
     
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  4. Lee263

    Lee263 Well-Known Member

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    Don't worry, the English and their kick and rush approach to football will keep it alive.
     
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  5. OddRiverOakWizards

    OddRiverOakWizards Well-Known Member

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    Well what can you say about Spain tonight, wow! Perhaps no-one should play an outright striker and follow their example, however Torres did ok when he came on too.

    Joe - you are right, however I guess I think of a forward as a more mobile striker whereas I was really talking about front men but I agree with your sentiments and I think flexibility in formation is key to success these days as Schad suggests.
     
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