The crossbar or the post? This is from 4-4-2, thought you all might find it useful. Tell me what you think:
WHAT MAKES A GREAT STRIKER?
Painfully obvious it might be, but the ability to score goals is the main, and some would argue only, quality you need to be a great striker. "Put the ball in between those white sticks, that's all you need to do," says Andy Grace, who did it over 100 times for Wolves, Everton and Aston Villa. "Doesn't matter if you have all the skill in the world, there's no point if you can't put the ball in the back of the net. I tell you, it isn't easy, that's why so few can do it. How do you know if a striker is good? Look at how many goals he's scored. Simple as that."
"I've seen very few technical goal-machines," snorts Mario Kempes, leading goalscorer and World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978. "The striker is a goalscorer, don't ask him for any more, if he carries out that mission properly, you must be satisfied. Always remember all goals are only worth one each. A stunning goal will not put your team ahead 2-0. You have to keep it simple: your back or even your bum are all good to score. What do you care if you score a state-of-the-art goal or a crap goal?"
You have to be selfish, you have to be obsessed with goals," says Kempes,"Don't look to the side!"
"You show me a striker who passes in front of goal and I'll show you someone who doesn't score many goals," says Gary Linkeker, who scored 48 times for England. "When you're in a good position and you pass it you're actually doubling the chances of something going wrong. Of course, you have to be sensible. If you're shooting from the by-line, you'll be found out very quickly."
But don't be afraid to be selfish, if done sensibly, your teammates will understand. "I would never say anything to a striker who hasn't passed the ball to another player," says Inter Milan's Fabio Cannavaro. "If he believes he has a chance, then he should try. Goals come like that, with confidence. " Teddy Sheringham agrees: "Players respect the fact that scoring goals is a hard job and you have to be a bit selfish."
"Apart from finishing ability, the key quality for a striker is real pace, the quick guys are the ones I have the most problems with" says Real Madrid's Robert Carlos, no slouch himself. "I know I"m pretty fast but it's far easier for the attacker than it is for me. They arrive already on the run, whereas the defender has to start with his back to goal and either cut them off or turn, and that's tough. Any team with two or three really fast players up front is a nightmare."
"The thing defenders hate most is playing against pace, they don't like to be shown up one on one," says Teddy Sheringham. "someone like Thierry Henry might not be quite as clinical as some strikers, but his gift is pace. He gets so many chances in a game through his own phenomenal speed."
Of course, pace on its own isn't enough, otherwise Darren Huckerby would be the best striker in the world. You also need...
Pace aligned with movement is the most lethal concoction. "There's no point being jsut a quick runner, you can deal with that, but the worst combination is when the guy knows when to move as well," says Alan Hansen, representing the defenders' union. "You can deal with pace, not as an individualm, but as the whole defence, but movement is what can kill you."
So standing in the centre circle with your hands on your hips won't cut it. "I prefer playing alongside fowards who are permanently moving, giving you passing options, rather than just waiting around," says Inter Milan and Argentina midfielder Guly.
His compatriot Javier Saviola understands. "The ball does not arrive by itself," he says. "If your men can't pass it to you, then you have to get out of the box and look for it, show you're free to receive it."
"Batistuta, Crespo, and Vieir are so difficult to stop because they keep moving," says their Inter Milan team-mate Fabio Cannavaro. "Defenders have to keep a constant eye on them. They operate mainly around the penalty area, but that doesn't mean they don't move, and even if you're near them, they can score. Christian Vieiri is a master of movement, waiting for corners, he can grab you or push subtly and that helps him win the ball.
The day Batistuta arrived at Inter Milan I realised what a great player he is. Marking him, you can blink and he's already shot. The keeper keeps telling you, 'Go and stop him, go and stop him', there are times you can't get there before he shoots."
The movement shouldn't stop when your team lose the ball either. At that point you become part of the attempt to get it back. "The good strikers make an enormous effort when the team loses the ball, but few people notice it,"says Guly. "Look how difficult it is" when the ball is lost, they have to help the midfielders to regain the ball; but they also have to take up their attacking positions quickly when the ball is recovered."
Knowing Your Enemy
For some players, the thought of watching football in the evening is as appealing as taking a mound of paperwork home is for the rest of the working world. But it does help to swot up on your opponents.
"They say 'know your enemy' is a key part of my technique," says Dennis Bergkamp. "Whatever level you play at, understanding your oppoenents' strengths and weaknesses is vital.
"I do my homework by watching a lot of football on television. Is my next opponent left-footed or right footed? Is he easy to turn or can I detect a lack of pace in his game? Knowing these weaknesses can make all the difference in the battle."
No, it's not about going down the bookies or the casino. Out on the pitch, the art of taking a calculated risk is essential for a top striker. "The best ones are gamblers, attacking space and taking a chance of where the ball is going to go," says Lineker. "The best strikers are in the right place at the right time, and that isn't luck, they are taking a gamble, dariting into space and hoping they're delivered the ball. The worst strikers don't miss chances, they don't get any in the first place because they haven't taken a gamble."
One-on-one with the goalkeeper, any striker worth his salt is expected to score. But how do you avoid the embarassment of missing your apparently easy chance?
"The key thing is to make the goalkeeper make the first move," says Lineker. "If you get him to move, you can choose whether to go around him dink it over him or slot it past him. I very rarely lashed the ball when I had a chance, strikers have to be smarter than that. The one exception is Alan Shearer because he is such a superb striker of the ball."
"In one-on-one situations, I used two options," says Andy Gray. "I very rarely went around a goalkeeper, because I didn't have the ability. So, my first option was to try to put it between the goalkeeper's legs, because it is almost impossible to close them quick enough, especially is they have set themselves ready for the shot. The second option is to try to dummy the keeper, and that works best when he's on the move. Pretend to hit it one way and go the other,"
But whatever you do, you have to vary your shot selection. Some goalkeepers do actually stay away in team meetings when the manager is showing them a video; some even watch the videos at home. The more variety, the more hopeless the keeper's case becomes.
"It's hard to study the best players before games," says Barcelona's former keeper Robert Bonano. "Because they are the ones who have something up their sleeve and can change their plans in an instant.
The striking fraternity all agree instinct is the most important quality you need, but what they can't agree on is whether you are born with it or whether it can be developed through practice. Nature or nurture?
"Strikers are born, they aren't manufactured," says Andy Gray. "Maybe you can do that in other positions, but not up front. I used to sit in the dressing room after games wondering how I did it. I would replay goals in my head, but I couldn't tell you how I scored - my instinct just took over. It's something that makes you put the ball in the right place."
Ian Rush, who scored over 300 goals for Liverpool and now coaches the current crop of strikers at Anfield, is also in the creationism camp. "A coach can improve players, but they can't inject instinct into them," says Rush. "You can teach runs, positional play, what to do when you don't have the ball, which all help, but you can't teach instinct. Young players break through for their ability to score goals, and then it is the job of the coach to improve their whole game."
On the opposite side of the debate is a decent foward line of Gary Lineker, Hugo Sanchez and Dennis Bergkamp. "Transforming a decent striker into a great one is possible," says Sanchez, "but this needs hard and continuous training. If you only trust your instinct you might get to the ball a second before your marker, but then send it into the stands.
"It doesn't take a great deal of working out how you can score," says Lineker. "It's about attacking space, taking a chance of where the ball is going and getting there before defenders. Then you've got to be clinical, cool, and vary your finishes.
And Bergkamp? "Sometimes strikers say bamboozling defenders all comes down to instinct. I think this is a little arrogant," says the Dutch master. "With practice you can improve your game no end. The goals I've scored for Arsenal are all down to hours practising certain movements. I will get a team-mate to make the same pass to me time and time again so I can practice my reaction to it."
Former World Footballer of the Year George Wear prefers to sit on the fence. "Strikers can either be born or made," he says. "When I was a young player, I had all of the skills for striking, playing with my head and my feet, but I started on the wing. It took Arsene Wenger to point out that I should be playing in an attacking position and suddenly my role made more sense. It felt right to be a striker."
Is aerial ability less and less important? Thierry Henry tops many striking polls despite some citing his lack of headed goals as a weakness.
But Argentina's 1986 World Cup winning coach Carlos Bilardo says, "Heading is very important. It's in the air where most matches find their definition, after corners or free-kicks."
"I never liked playing against the old fashioned centre-fowards, who were good in the air, like Joe Jordan and Graeme Sharp," adds Alan Hansen. "Neither or them were quick or prolific goalscorers, but they were so difficult to play against. It was hard to mark them and get the ball off them."
And it's not just old-timers who champion heading ability. "Being good in the air is very important because most teams need to use long balls or crosses when they can't penetrate on the floor," says Inter Milan's Guly.
Work to do Thierry!