Another brilliant post from Gunners Town guest writer @petitsponytail. Be sure to follow him on Twitter…
World class striker? You’re having a laugh
Every day since this Godforsaken painstaking transfer window opened all I’ve seen is people calling for this mythical world class striker. It’s quite simple, my fellow Gooners – there’re only six on this planet and they’re not readily available. Now, before I take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, I must apologise to the elder Gooner. Being just a 26 year old engineer my first footballing memory is from ’97 – so I can’t put evidence forward for the likes of Smith, Radford or Stapleton (Boo).
But now let me take you to a very strange time…
Now I label this time ‘strange’ because there seemed to be a plethora of top class English strikers, yes, English strikers. This country had some class strikers. We, of course, had ‘stick a blindfold on me and I’ll still stick it in the top bin’ Ian Wright. His goals were as ridiculous as his ridiculous goal scoring record – but neither as ridiculous as how criminally under-capped for England he was. (On a side note: anyone remember the Chicken Tonight adverts? – they were great.) Back to football.. This was a time when England had number 9s. Newcastle had Premier League goal scoring supremo Alan Shearer. Multi championship winning Manchester United were spearheaded by Andy Cole. Liverpool had Gooner hattrick basher Robbie Fowler and a young Michael Owen who would grow to break our hearts in Cardiff. Blackburn had Chris Sutton, Coventry had Dublin – what a time to be alive!
As good as England’s menu of goal getters were there was a place that defied logic. We could only peer at it through a Channel 4 shaped window called ‘Football Italia’.
Serie A during the late 90’s early 00’s had the cream of world class strikers. Juve had a young Trezeguet and the seemingly evergreen Del Piero. You could watch Baggio, Montella, Salas and their wonderful hairstyles. Shevchenko and Crespo were prolific world class strikers before Chelsea ruined them. Yes La Liga had Raul, Diego Tristan, Morientes etc. but it couldn’t touch Serie A at this time. They had my third favourite striker of all time. Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina’s all-time top goal scorer. That’s right, not Messi, Aguero or Tevez, it’s Batistuta. Strong, quick and with a shot that could not only hit a barn door in the sweet spot but he’d probably knock the whole barn over. He also had a Masters degree in Shithousery and would make Diego Costa look like a kitten.
Now my number 1 striker – who graced and pleasured not only Serie A and La Liga, but enraptured and fascinated the world. He gets a paragraph to himself out of love and respect for the hours of YouTube I’ve drooled at. It’s of course World Cup winning, three time world player of the year, Brazil’s second highest ever goal scorer ‘the phenomenon’. It is of course Ronaldo. My favourite non-Arsenal player of all time. He showed me step overs, he made defenders fall over, and what I remember amusing me most as a whippersnapper was he was the first player I saw round goal keepers constantly, not like every now and then but all the time. His happy go lucky persona precedes him, this was a determined animal who came back from injury again and again. He even seemed to fire Brazil to a World Cup final in 98 and made sure they were crowned champions in 2002 while appearing a little big boned with a very dodgy barnet. And his stats stand up: 247 goals in 343 appearances for his clubs and 62 in 98 for Brazil. These stats were when footballers were human – not Messi and Ronaldo. Sorry Thierry, he is – and always will be – the greatest number 9 for me.
Ah Thierry, my second favourite striker of all time. Before I get into talking about you I have to discuss what went before you. The foreign stars moving to our shores who paved the way for you to come and cement yourself in bronze. Chelsea had a little Italian called Zola, when Chelsea were likable losers, he was a magician. Middlesex tried a barmy experiment with Jurgen Klinsman. Leeds and later Chelsea had Jimmy-Floyd Hasslebaink – what a wonderful name. Also a surprisingly very good scoring record.
However it was us Gooners who had the two leading a title charge. There was God, perhaps never a ‘number 9’ but still finished only two goals shy of the golden boot in ’98. We also had his partner in crime = a rapid young moody French man called Nicholas Anelka – he was one goal off Jimmy Floyd, Owen and Yorke in ’99 and 10 years later won the honour in a Chelsea shirt. Once he was shipped out of Arsenal to Real Madrid Le Prof did something that changed football forever. He signed Thierry, the greatest striker to ever play in England. I’m of the opinion it wasn’t just his training and hardwork that meant he’d score or assist from anywhere or anytime. Sir Alex Ferguson bought a certain Dutchman called Ruud Van Nisteleroy. And as much as I loathed him for getting big Pat sent off and the of the intense rivalry between the clubs at the time. I have to now, with age, look back and admire him one of the most instinctive finishers between the width of the goal post players I’ve seen. I also think his rivalry with Thierry pushed our Va Va Voom to new heights. Great great times.
Then something happened from around ‘04-‘05 that I can’t put my finger on. I want to say it’s just luck that there’s not as many about since the late 90’s early 00’s. However my heart sinks when I think maybe the instinct these goal getters have is being trained out of them. Or maybe since the tactical turn of playing one up front has put too much on their shoulders to drop deeper to get involved in build-up play more. I’m not saying there hasn’t been world class strikers since because there has but just not as many. In England we’ve had Drogba, Tevez, Torres and even our ex Robin Van Persie were world class but that’s just four. La Liga have had Forlan, Villa, E’eto and Falcao before he fell off a cliff. And the less said about the state of Serie A since then the better.
Now in the world today there’s a lot of pretenders who just don’t make the grade. Now there’s two on whom I’m maybe a bit harsh- but I just do not get the ‘I’m a world class striker’ vibe off mainly down to a lack of clinical moments in big games and that’s Cavani and Higuain (please stay away Arséne). They’re not the only pretenders – there’s Rooney, Mandzuckic, Llorente, Jackson Martinez, Diego Costa. And they’re not world class because they have similar goals to game ratio as our gorgeous Frenchman Olivier Giroud and as much as I’m a fan of the big guy because he’s a tryer, he’s NOT world class. And then there’s the young pretenders. There’s Lacazette we Gooners appear to pine for, it was Dybala before him. (Here’s a sick thought for you Gunner fans – theres someone who has shown as much promise and progress of both of them last year in a tougher league. He’s a Jimmy Hill lookalike from Middlesex, yes Harry bleeding Kane!! Is he worldly who’s an upgrade on Giroud?
Now let’s escape that brief nightmare and concentrate on the only six strikers I deem world class and will fit in with my pals from the lates 90’s early 00’s. First off it’s Mr 40 million + one pound Luis Suarez. I don’t need to explain why he’s truly world class, he nearly dragged a team with Joe Allen in it to the title. There’s still of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic, full of shit housery and ingenuity the prolific league winning Swede is most certainly up there with the best. If only Arsene just signed him. There’s of course Sergio Aguero probably the most clinical striker in the world. If he was fit for 38 games City would surely win the league. THAT Sunderland goal. Now we head to Bavaria where Bayern Munchen have two of the blighters. First off is Mr Awkward, Thomas Muller. There’s something so wrong about him. Whether it his body shape or the way he scuffs shots into the nets. His unpredictability and ability to score when it matters most makes him so good. He’s like Peter Crouch on speed, just so difficult to play against. Then they’ve probably got the best number 9 in the world today in the Pole Robert Lewandowski, he simply has everything, he’s prolific, gets involved in play, just everything. And the sixth and final one is Karim Benzema, he sacrifices himself for Ronaldo to run riot and scores enough to keep him in the world class striker column.If Arsenal can somehow get one of these six then do it. But in reality none are likely. And I for one am more than happy with our horses for courses selection of Theo, Welbz and Olivier. This current team has goals in abundance and we should a have real good season. And for those of you who want a world class striker still, I’d try youtube.