Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughA tactical look at striker options - have we seen the death of the partnership? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough A tactical look at striker options - have we seen the death of the partnership? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

A tactical look at striker options – have we seen the death of the partnership?

Once upon a time, nearly every team in Europe played with two strikers in their line of attack. There were various combinations of player types that could work well together, but most seem to be dying out now as the movement towards a lone striker backed up by three attacking midfielders appears to be gaining favour with managers. I decided to look at some of the most effective, and memorable, striking partnerships from recent times and assess whether we really are witnessing the end of such an era.

Little and large.

This was a tactic that was effectively utilised by Sunderland under the management of Peter Reid. Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn was a tall, strong, fairly immobile player, whilst Englishman Kevin Phillips had great positioning skills and a lethal finish around the box. Quinn would regularly knock down a cross or long ball into the path of Phillips, who would either strike it first time with his left foot or take it past a defender before shooting. The main advantage of this style was that it only required three or four touches of the ball for the whole movement to result in a chance on goal. 

With Nicky Summerbee and Michael Gray providing the ammunition from the wings, Sunderland finished 7th in the 99/00 Premier League, just a season after achieving promotion to the division. Phillips scored 30 league goals and won the European Golden Boot award, whilst Quinn managed 14 goals of his own, proving how devastating the duo were.


Playmaker and poacher.
One of the best examples was at Juventus during the late 90’s when Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi lined up for the ‘Bianconeri’ every week. Del Piero had the tricks, ability to beat a man, range of passing and finishing that earnt him a reputation as one of the world’s greatest strikers, whilst Inzaghi had the knack of being in the right place at the right time to finish off a chance.

Supported by the hugely influential Zinedine Zidane, the Frenchman’s genius on the ball allowed Del Piero to drop into the hole between the opposition defence and midfield, which in turn allowed Inzaghi to play on the shoulder of the last defender. If the goalkeeper spilled a shot, or an effort was wayward, then he could be relied upon to get a toe on the ball and divert it into the net.

The two Italians combined to great effect for four seasons, during which time they won Serie A and finished as runners-up to Real Madrid in the Champions League, before Inzaghi was sold to Milan. Both players were extremely effective but very different in style and approach, much to each other’s benefit.


Same style.
English teams have had great success with employing two strikers with similar attributes and putting them together to terrorise opposition teams. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke linked up at Manchester United in the late 90’s to achieve both Premier League and Champions League glory, whilst the Shearer and Sutton (SAS) combo a few years previous enabled Blackburn Rovers to win the 94/95 Premiership trophy.

These players relied upon clever movement and almost telepathic understanding to combine in dangerous areas. One striker would create space, or drag a defender out of position, so that his strike partner could benefit from it. Quick, interlinking passing was also regularly used to get past a static defence, and more often than not, both attackers were either decent in the air or possessed a powerful strike that could beat a keeper from 18 yards.

The future.
Whilst the trend in modern football is for a 4-2-3-1 line-up, we are also witnessing teams playing without any recognised striker at all. Barcelona employ a 4-3-3, with Lionel Messi given the freedom to roam across the pitch and drop deep should he wish to. Spain have tried playing with six midfielders and no recognised centre forward, with varying degrees of success, although they have also utilised the Barcelona method.

It will be interesting to see whether there is a continued shift away from playing with two strikers or if managers will once again decide on using this system and pick their No 9 and No 10 before the rest of the team…

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