Since our loss to West Ham I’ve seen a few articles stating that we don’t have the personnel to make 4-5-1 work properly at the moment and should revert back to a 4-4-2.
They’re not wrong about the 4-5-1 not working, but I think that they are about the second point. The basic problem is that we don’t have a striker available who can make 4-5-1 work. Defoe might, but even that’s a doubt and he’s injured anyway.
That doesn’t mean though that 4-4-2 is the answer to all our prayers. Because with Defoe out, just who are we going to play up front in a 4-4-2 that is going to make an effective partnership?
The out of form Robbie Keane plays just as deep as Van der Vaart does, so it would make little difference if he came in the side, other than to weaken it. So with Keane out of the equation that leaves Pavkyuchenko and Crouch. They’re not exactly Greaves and Gilzean are they?
If Defoe was around and couldn’t cut it alone, then there would be every reason to switch back to 4-4-2, as he is able to form a reasonably effective partnership with both Pav and Crouch. Unfortunately, he’s not, so all we can do is to persevere with what we’ve got.
I think that Crouch will continue to score goals in Europe as a lone striker. His record supports that, but Premier League defenders are more used to him and his strike rate at home has always been far down on his international and European goal tallies.
I’m not Pavlyuchenko’s biggest fan, but to be fair to him, he hasn’t had a proper chance to show what he could do in a 4-5-1. The only games he’s started this season have been away from home, or in the cup loss to Arsenal. In that game Pav was hampered by the fact that he had absolutely no support from midfield in the first half. Give him a go at home to Villa next week, because he’s shown in the past that when he does get amongst the goals, his confidence rises and more follow.
We basically have a very good team and squad of players, until you come to the strikers. None of them are ideally suited to playing alone, yet ironically, we struggle to establish one decent partnership out of four international forwards. This isn’t breaking news. It was perfectly apparent last season and we all assumed that something would be done about it over the summer.
Fair play to Levy and Harry for buying Van der Vaart, because he was an absolute bargain at the price. You’ve got to say though that as good as that bit of business was, not getting at least one striker in who could operate on his own up front, could prove a costly mistake.
It seems that we thought that unless we could bring in someone like a Fabiano or a Dzeko, then it wasn’t worth getting anyone. The fact is though that we’d be in a better position now, if we’d purchased someone who wasn’t necessarily better than the strikers we’ve got, but was better suited to the system that we need to change to.
If we’d signed Kevin Doyle, no one would be wetting their pants with excitement, but he’d be better in a 4-5-1 than what we’ve got. Kenwyne Jones would have been met with equal apathy, but having been bought for an affordable £8m, has now scored in four successive games as a lone striker for Stoke.
That’s not to mention Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who was also transferred for an affordable fee and has scored three in five for Schalke. Then there’s Asamoah Gyan, who was one of the best lone forwards on show at the World Cup and has got off to a good start for Sunderland.
None of those players would have broke the bank, but would have given us an option in a system that Redknapp was openly talking about converting to. All would have represented a gamble in one way or the other, but when we knew for a fact that what we had wasn’t good enough, what was wrong with having a punt?
I don’t think it’s the system that’s really at fault. It’s the strikers who aren’t good enough. Considering that we are strongest in midfield, we should continue to pack this area with quality.