The great danger of having only one top striker in your team




The striker problem in football

by Tony Attwood

There is today talk in the media of H. Kane leaving Tottenham H. for pastures new.  Or given the way Tottenham have been playing of late, one might better say “leaving Tottenham for pastures”.

If he does go it would mean Tottenham would need a new goal scorer, because like so many clubs they really only have one main scorer.  Lose him, and there is a problem.

Thiking of this, I started to wonder then how many clubs have this same sort of problem: one top striker and no one as a backup who plays regularly and who can step in if the top man gets injured.

So below we have a chart showing the top scorers (data sourced from Infogoal) – it is in the order of the number of goals scored.  And the first thing to consider is how many players each club has in this top 20 chart of scoring players in the Premier League.   That number is shown in brackets after the club name in column two.   

And if we think of the number of players each club has in this top 20 goalscorers list the front runners are

  • Arsenal: 4
  • Newcastle United: 3
  • Manchester City: 2
  • Tottenham Hotspur: 2
  • Liverpool: 2

All the rest have only one player (or indeed no players) appearing in the top-scoring charts.  Clubs without a player in the top-scoring list include Chelsea, West Ham United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brighton & Hove, Bournemouth, Fulham…


Played (+sub) Mins Goals Mins per goal


Now as we have often said, having a top goal scorer in the team is a great benefit of course, but it also comes with a problem: if he is injured the team loses a large percentage of its goal-scoring capacity.   This of course doesn’t bother Manchester City because they can just go on buying whomsoever they want and paying them insane salaries to keep them in readiness.  But for most other clubs, things don’t work like that.

And I thought of this in relation to the Tottenham issue of selling Kane which is being discussed in the media.  (Obviously, that doesn’t mean he is going to go, but it does raise the issue of sale or injury).

Clubs that could be particularly in difficulty if a lead player got injured for a long period include Brentford, Liverpool, Manchester United,Fulham, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

Of course, I do only say “could” because it might also be that they could quickly buy another player (if the injury happened with a transfer window open) or that they could change formation, or indeed that they have a player not currently in the first team who could easily slot in.   It is just more of a risk for them than Arsenal have with four top scoring players in the chart above.

Now as we can see Tottenham and Manchester City each have two players in the chart above, which means that they could look to their second scorer to step up.    Both of these players (Son and Foden) have scored ten this season – no mean achievement as only 19 players have scored ten or more this past season in the league.   

But the step up from ten goals as the second striker to being the main striker is still quite a big leap – not least because of the way defenses will then treat the player.

This is where the real benefit of the Arsenal system comes in.   We all hope that none of Martinelli, Odegaard, Saka and Jesus get injured – but of course we have seen just such an injury happen last season.  And although the media studiously refuse to mention it, we can’t forget that this happened in the ludicrous World Cup stuffed into the calender halfway through the season.

Without Jesus Arsenal carried on playing and carried on scoring.  But by way of comparison just think of the dangers that Chelsea were running last season.   While Arsenal had four players in double figures, Chelsea had none.  In fact their top scorers in the league were Havertz with seven, Sterling with six, and Felix with four.  All of which shows Chelsea’s problem: they don’t just need one player who can score 10+ they need two.

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