Forward Thinking

by Chrisman

A '20 goals a season man' is a bit of a red herring. These days 15 league goals are more than enough. We get goals from all over the pitch. We do however need another striker. Crouch should be 3rd choice. Harry doesn't seem to fully trust Pav....or, reading between the lines, maybe he views Pav as essential, and was saving him for the arguably bigger game on Tuesday.

Crouch's problem - he can't beat a man. He is not a threat at all receiving it with his back to goal and beating his man on the turn. Like Pav, Defoe, or any number of top strikers can. The problem this creates is that defenders know they can get ultra tight on him, because they know he's not going to go past them. Other top strikers will automatically have 2 yards of space because defenders know they have to drop off, or risk getting put on their asses with a sharp turn and sprint. This means they can receive the ball in a bit of space, and turn and go towards goal. It opens the pitch up. Crouch always has a man hanging off him, and he can only go one way - away from goal. This makes life difficult for him and us.

He often has to receive the ball to his head, because he can't properly run the channels and be in enough space to receive it to feet. Pav is so much better at this, and adds a different angle of attack when he does it, an angle Crouch rarely provides. We end up playing the long ball to Crouch far too much. You could say that this isn’t his fault, but you could also be a bit more astute. You could see that the reason we play this ball so much is because Crouch doesn’t have the speed of movement to offer any other option.

Yes Crouchie has a good touch, and when he has chances he can take them. But he is just too slow and immobile. Even the likes of Berbatov, Saha, Anelka etc can all hold the ball up, and also offer that ability to turn and go. Crouch is one dimensional. Admittedly, that one dimension is a dimension he is pretty good at. But it’s not quite enough.

I also believe that Crouch knows he is a bit out of his depth. His confidence is suffering slightly as a result. I think if he was used as a 'plan B' 3rd striker, he would be much more comfortable. He'd know that's the role that suits him best, and it's a role in which he can really offer something. It’s just I don’t feel he offers anything that Pav doesn’t, and Pav has a lot more in his locker than Crouch. I’m not saying Pav is the second coming of Klinsmann, but right now Crouch is making him look really good. At the very least Pav deserves a good run of 6-8 games where he is a guaranteed starter. It’s no more than Crouch has had after all.

Having 5 good forwards on our books might be a good thing if they were all emotionless automatons. But they ain’t, and there are only so many games in a season, and not nearly enough to keep all 5 happy. So we end up getting some silly situations like Saturday when you have to bring on 2 strikers at once. What about letting Defoe have 10 minutes with Pav? Did anyone really expect Keane to do anything positive? Why not bring on Dos Santos up front for the last 10 minutes? It’s easy to look at things in hindsight from my armchair, but logic seems to go out of the window when so many different parties have to be appeased. Having so many good strikers will do us more harm than good.

Strikers play on confidence. They have to know their role, and know the hierarchy. What kind of situation is it when 2 strikers start, and they know that if they don’t produce anything after an hour there are 2 replacements the manager is dying to throw on? It’s not a good look. I’m pretty certain Harry knows this, and it wouldn’t greatly surprise anyone to see 2 of the 5 leave in the next week. I’d be delighted to see Keane leave, and if Crouch left I certainly wouldn’t be too worried. As long as one comes in. That still leaves us with 4.

Any number of players would do. Forlan is obviously the dream choice. Fabiano is interesting, but I think he’s too much of a finisher. In the PL you need to be able to do a lot more than just finish to be a good striker. Berbatov is an interesting proposition. I would definitely like to see what him and Pav up front could do. The move is probably there for him if he really wants it. Loic Remy looks extremely raw. Gyan looked good in the World Cup. Milevsky of Kiev looks to be a good prospect. There are plenty of options, all offering great potential but also a fair degree of risk.

I don’t think any other area of the team needs major improvements. We saw last season that it was only a pretty small improvement needed to change us from a best of the rest team into a really serious contender. We have the cake. It just needs to be iced. Give me some sweet, creamy frosting please Mr Levy.