All I want for Christmas is a 20 goals a season striker

11 Aug

Saturday 10th August 2013

Blackburn Rovers             0.1          Nottingham Forest

(Henderson)

Everyone wants one but only the lucky few actually have one. Even Arsenal want one since they don’t actually have one, having carelessly lost theirs. They are seen as the essential missing piece of any incomplete jigsaw. But do we really need one?

This topic has been covered, explored, analysed, scrutinised and dissected by far more knowledgeable individuals than I. But it’s my blog and I’ll write about it if I want to. You would write about it too if it happened to you.

Cast your minds back to 1998. A young Billie Piper was at the top of the hit parade strongly espousing every teenager’s right to do what they want, because they want to. There was also a football tournament going on just over the Channel in France. As we all recall, France won but the list of hot shots is quite revealing: Davor Suker bagged 6 for his impressive Croatia. Gabriel Batistuta netted 5 for Argentina, matched by Christian Vieiri of Italy. Who was the focal point of France’s attack? Step forward Stephan Guivarch. He failed to score in the tournament and the word ‘hapless’ seems to be forever associated with him. Fortunately for Les Blues, they had people like Zindeine Zidane and Thierry Henry who knew how to find the back of the net: Henry was the top scorer for France with 3 goals.

This proves nothing but France’s performance showed the wider football world that a striker’s job was not necessarily to score goals. As long as the striker could hold the ball up or more likely, drop deep in order to create space for on rushing midfielders, then it mattered not his goal tally; as long as someone was finding the onion bag. Spain seem to have eagerly sat up, made copious amounts of notes and got busy on their homework, resulting in much baffled talk of false number nines. That and countless trophies too.

I am aware of a glaring problem here: not all clubs have Zinedine Zidane or Thierry Henry or Iniesta or Xavi in their midfield; especially not Nottingham Forest. But do Championship clubs need one to get out of purgatory and reach the Promised Land? Not necessarily. Cardiff finished top of the pile last season with a hardly prolific Heidur Helguson top scoring with 8 goals. A certain Billy Sharp scored 11 in the same season. Previously, Reading won the title with Adam Le Fondre also scoring 12. It seems that the elusive 20 goals a season striker might not, after all, be the proverbial final piece of the jigsaw.

Obviously, it does help though if a team has someone up top who can score. Do we? Simon Cox notched 32 for Swindon Town in 2008-09. Impressive, although that does seem a long time ago now.  A certain Darius Henderson’s best season was 2011-12 as he bagged 11 for Millwall. Hardly prolific but given the stats above, enough to spearhead a title challenge.

Looking at our front line, it seems that we possess the type of player who will run, work hard and create chances by dropping deep or drifting out wide to create space for wide players and forward thinking midfielders. I am thinking of Mackie, Tudgay, Henderson, Blackstock and Cox here. Perhaps Derbyshire is the exception as I see him more as an out and out poacher; not renowned for his work outside of the box. Miller? Answers on a postcard, please. But do we have wide players and forward thinking midfielders who can find the net? A resounding yes would be the answer there: Majewski, Lansbury, Reid, Paterson to name a few. I think that this is where our goals will come from, as they did towards the back end of last season.

Remember when we signed Billy Sharp and the glee that accompanied it? We thought we’d finally signed that elusive 20 goals a season striker who would shoot us to the title. 11 goals from 31 appearances is a decent return. He worked hard and I was particularly impressed by his dribbling skills. But his style obviously didn’t fit in with what Billy wants from his forward players.

So well done to Darius for his injury time winner; he looked like he really enjoyed it too. He probably won’t notch 20 goals this season but if he can avoid suspensions, he can be an important fulcrum for the side. Let’s not get carried away though: early days, marathon not sprints, etc. Perhaps most pleasing is the two clean sheets in the league: not a sexy statistic but the type that does promise of good things to come.

It seems that jigsaws have undergone a revolutionary change over the years. Maybe there are other ways to complete one. Maybe it is acceptable to re-arrange the pieces slightly in order to ensure there are no missing ones, even if part of me still yearns for that corner piece that will make all well with the world.

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