Apr 202012

Strikers – by far strikers are the most sort after players in the world and are valued the most expensively, as all clubs search for a guarantee for goals.

Why do some strikers succeed at some clubs and then suddenly fail at others? Have they lost their ability to score?

I doubt it, however, the system the team plays will ensure whether they succeed or not. Horses for courses……

Chelsea paid 50 million pounds for Fernando Torres, a record transfer fee in English football and Fernando Torres had scored many goals at Liverpool. Chelsea considered him a guarantee for goals – but he has never delivered.


A worried Fernando Torres in a Chelsea shirt

You may want to read two of my previous articles that are related to this one about tactical systems, which can easily suit certain players – and others not so much.  Have a look at Football Tactics and How not to Understand Them and an article I wrote about The Death of the Classic No. 9

Both may help for you to get a better idea of my thoughts on both topics, so are vital for understanding the following post.

The systems used at Chelsea and Liverpool are very different. Torres doesn’t fit in as well with Drogba as Anelka did. Anelka is happy to drop off to the wings and although he did this very well, he noticed it in his goal tally, but all the same seemed happy with this. Torres is not the same. Although he dropped off the right in a recent game to cross for Mata to score a decisive goal, he isn’t a happy man.

Torres body language is wrong. He is not happy with what he is doing and not happy with his surroundings.

A point often overlooked is that Torres is a direct player. His edge lies in power; acceleration to skip past defenders, leap to nod home crosses, strength to maintain balance whilst finishing. In Football Manager terms, he is a classic ‘advanced forward’ – unrivalled at breaking through defenses.

At Liverpool, Benítez understood this. To flourish, Torres needed to receive the ball at a point where space exists between the opposition defence and the goal – essentially meaning direct passes, quickly after the ball has been won.

Fernando Torres was a happy man at Liverpool scoring many goals.

Tempo needed to be high, enabling Torres to run at disorganised defenders with speed, denying them time to ‘double up’ or restrict space. Static football was the enemy. Long balls, counter-attacks and quick transitions are his bread and butter.

Torres scoring goals for Spain in the World Cup:

Torres finds it difficult to play with his back to the goal, to hold up the ball and play it through with Lampard, for example, or leave it for Lampard to score. However, Drogba fits this role perfectly.

However,  Chelsea play a more 4-3-3 system and their build up is slow and thus Torres’ power and ability to get between defenders is not used – when exactly the opposite happened at Liverpool. Liverpool play a more 4-4-2 system or even 4-4-1-1 and some say 4-5-1 but it suits Fernando Torres. Chelsea also play further up the pitch, whereas Liverpool defend deep and play with more space up front, which also favours Torres’ runs.

I’d even go to say that the same happens with Luis Suarez. The Liverpool system suits him, and if Suarez went to a team that played more like Chelsea, he’d have the same problems as Torres.

Liverpool were very clever to replace Torres with Suarez, they got it right. Barcelona, however, made a similar mistake to Chelsea when buying Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a forward who was scoring many goals, but in a team with a different system to Barcelona’s. Torres wouldn’t work either with Barcelona, although Rooney probably would work perfectly, as Alexis does.

Finally, although Liverpool has accommodated both Torres and Suarez very well, they themselves made their mistake by spending 35 million pounds (a UK transfer fee record for a UK player between UK clubs) for Andy Carroll from Newcastle.  Carroll is more of your traditional no. 9 as referred to in my article above. Carroll is more of a box striker, a finisher.

Andy Carroll playing for Liverpool FC

Many other strikers could also be included in this post, players that at one club are brilliant and score week in week out and who move to other clubs and then don’t get a look in.  Examples are Dmitri Berbatov at Manchester United and Diego Forlan when he was at ManU (he left to become Golden Boot of Europe at Villarreal – where he made a perfect tandem with Juan Roman Requelme).

The list is endless. However, what is clear is that within football statistics are but numbers and unless you know exactly what your game is, you must be very careful before spending record transfer fees!

Clive Jagger – Football agent