Is one striker now better than two? Food for thought

Last week we were treated to a trip down memory lane during the inaugural Manchester United Legends’ Cup Final which pitted Real Madrid’s and the Red Devils’ stars of yesteryears against each other. The proceedings on the ground, though having a semblance of organisation and mild entertainment value, were a sobering reminder of what a few years (or weeks, in the case of Paul Scholes) of retirement can rob you of. After each of his unremarkable spells on the ball, the Zinedine Zidane, who once glided over football pitches, stood as stationary as a corner flag. And were it not for a shot of a perspiring Andy Cole at the end of the game, I would have remained ignorant of his presence.

But ball-watching and waist-holding aside, the game gave me some food for thought. When is the last time you saw a traditional front two like that of Cole and Dwight Yorke in the Premier League or any other league in Europe for that matter? Sir Alex himself seemed to have put an end to such a format of attack after he sold the duo. A combination of pinpoint crossing from David Beckham and the finishing prowess of the prolific Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy was preferred in its stead. In Chelsea the story was pretty much the same with the telepathic union of Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink eventually giving way to a towering Didier Drogba, served from the flanks by wingers Arjen Robben and Damien Duff.

Over in Spain, Fernando Morientes was sold while Raul Gonzalez stayed on to become one of Real Madrid’s top scorers. In Juventus David Trezeguet left and Alessandro Del Piero continued his lengthy period of service to the Old Lady. It seems coaches the continent over have lost faith in the effectiveness of having two goal-getters on the same field.

However, coaches have attempted to defy this single-striker trend from time to time, often with unremarkable results. Playing Nicholas Anelka and Drogba never quite produced the fireworks it was expected to. Last season we all saw what happened when the Alan Pardew introduced us to the Senegalese duo of Papiss Demba Cisse and Demba Ba. From the time he landed in January Cisse could not stop scoring until the end of the season, earning Newcastle a place in Europe. Then all over sudden the goals dried up for him and mysteriously, began leaking out of Ba instead.

This season this strange phenomenon has been observed in the Serie A where the previously trigger happy Stephan El Sharaawy suddenly became goal shy after the arrival of Mario Balotelli. It also seems the arrival of Robin van Persie heralded the departure of Wayne Rooney from Old Trafford. Before I wander on and on and lose my bone of contention, answer me this; has football seen the last of two-pronged attacks? Or is my memory becoming selective? Is there a front pairing breaking nets somewhere in Europe that I’ve somehow neglected to note?