Andy Cole: In a golden age for strikers, Torres and Drogba lead the way
Saturday 03 October 2009
The Premier League has had a massive number of goals this season – three per game on average – and theories abound about why, including a new Nike ball and terrible defending by poor teams.
As someone who scored a few goals in this league, my view is that we're blessed with a crop of top-class strikers that we've rarely, if ever, seen operating at this level since the 1990s.
Let's not get sidetracked by the issue of defensive frailties, even if statistics like Burnley conceding 14 away from home already (in four games) and Hull shipping 13 on the road leap out.
The fact is that there has long been a gap between the top sides and the also-rans. There's always been a whipping boy or two. It's not new that Burnley concede goals. Last season as they won promotion from the Championship they let in 60, more than any other team in the top half. So after climbing into the Premier League, where the quality is far superior, they were never going to concede fewer.
Instead, let's consider a fresher, attacking mentality from some key teams, especially Liverpool. I think Rafa Benitez has been telling his players to go for broke more often. The payback is 22 league goals, and the downside is 10 conceded already. But isn't it fun to watch?
As for that "A list" of top scorers so far, it tells its own story: Torres, Rooney, Drogba, Saha, Keane, Defoe, Bent, Adebayor. For my money, the choice of best out-and-out centre forward comes down to two: Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres.
I haven't included Rooney for contention in that category because he contributes so much in so many areas – left, right, behind a forward, deeper, roaming, wherever he's asked to play – that he transcends one role. He's a talent alone as a footballer, never mind as a striker. I also believe Cristiano Ronaldo's departure has freed Rooney, in some way, to take on his mantle.
Among the elite No9s, it's good to see Drogba back in the groove. His antics mean he has his critics but you don't need to be a former player to appreciate that this guy is a monster talent, a combination of pace, power and aggression.
Torres is at his prolific best, with eight league goals already. Last season, it took him until February to get that many. His game isn't just about the box but he's most dangerous there because his close control allows him to take possession in confined areas. He can transfer the ball from foot to foot to create space to get in a shot.
At times, Torres can make out he's almost uninterested, and then tunes in, just like that, and he's away with the ball. That's the kind of uninterested player Liverpool paid £26m for!
Some say he gets most of his goals at Anfield but the stats only support that partially: five home goals this season, three away. In any case, as a striker I can tell you it doesn't matter at all where you get the goals – home, away, in your back garden. That they flow is all that matters.
Louis Saha will testify to that. I'm so pleased he's back on form at Everton. Nobody doubted his ability when he moved from Fulham to United but his injuries have been a nightmare for him. Hopefully, that's behind him and he can continue as one of the League's leading front men.
Adams gets his knickers in a twist
I thought Micky Adams' announcement last weekend that he was putting his entire squad on the transfer list was laughable. After his Port Vale team lost 3-1 at Notts County he said the whole squad would be listed on Monday, and added: "We looked like a woman who had a big fur coat on but underneath she's got no knickers."
I'll leave aside that bizarre description, and also the offence I feel, as a former pro, on behalf of his players. He should know as well as anyone that no one goes out intending to play badly. Bad days happen.
What was most ridiculous about the rant is that it will be utterly counter-productive. He's effectively telling the world: "My players are rubbish. Are you sucker enough to want them?" What a terrible message to send out to everyone, players included. The gesture was also pointless; we're not in a transfer window so Adams can't shift anyone now anyway. What a joke.
I hope I'll be following in Sutton's footsteps
Well done to Lincoln City this week for appointing Chris Sutton and giving this young manager his first chance in charge. Hopefully, one day soon, I'd love to have the same chance.
The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar.
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