Though the second striker may be on the wane, there are still teams who play two forwards in the team, albeit with some caveats. The modern day trend of playing a packed midfield while fielding only one out-and-out striker has seen many a good chances for strike partnership fall by the wayside; but there are instances in which the old romanticised notion of the “two amigos” up front, marauding opposition lines, still thrives. We take a look at three such partnerships from the Premier League, and put out the case for who’s the best out of the lot.
So, without further ado, let’s get under way.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 12: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates with team-mate Robin van Persie following the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on May 12, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
When Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off the coup of signing Robin van Persie from Arsenal last season, football fans salivated at the thought of seeing RvP playing in tandem with Wayne Rooney. After all, it was a mouthwatering combination. The “dream team” though, didn’t perform as well as many hoped, since Rooney did not have that good a season, even though van Persie blitzed away at the scoring charts.
At the start of this season it seemed that they would not get the opportunity to show the world how potent they can be when rumours emerged that Rooney wanted out. But after all the speculation, and after the dust had settled, Rooney remained at United, and has shown blistering form this season. Both Rooney and van Persie have got off to amazing starts in the new season: Rooney has scored 5 in his 6 games this season and van Persie has 6 from the same number of games. Their interplay also looks to be a thing that will worry opposition fans.
Van Persie’s sumptuous strike against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, which came after a delightful pass from Rooney typifies the burgeoning understanding that the pair have developed. Their styles too are perfect complements of each other. Rooney loves dropping deep to pick up the ball and dictate play, creating space between the holding midfielders and the central defenders to play his cross-field passes. Van Persie, on the other hand posses the finest ability to create a goal from absolutely nothing. His sublime touch, ability to turn defenders and instinctive finishing make him a handful for any defence.
It is also an added advantage for United that both van Persie and Rooney are excellent in dead-ball situations. Rooney has already scored 4 times from direct free-kicks this season, and van Persie has netted a penalty.
Many, including this writer, feel that we have not seen the best from this pair, owing to them not having had the opportunity to play together in that many games. Suarez’s bite on Branislav Ivanović’s arm last season got him a 10 match ban, the comeback of which he made in Liverpool’s loss against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup match at Old Trafford.
In their first Premier League start this season, Suarez and Sturridge combined to show the Anfield faithful just what they had been missing the last 10 games. In the match versus Sunderland at the Stadium of Light Suarez scored two, one of which was set up by Sturridge, who himself scored one.
Their partnership was at its finest, with both the players displaying the hunger for goals that is expected of any good striker. Both Suarez and Sturridge are similar type of players, with both having the penchant of dribbling past defenders in the final third, using exquisite footwork and balance. They also posses the ability to score from unlikely scenarios, as displayed by Sturridge when he found the net against Villa from a tight angle.
Suarez and Sturridge seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to positional play too, as they find each other with clever passes and can make good approximations of where the other is without having clear line of sight. On the negative side, both of them have a proclivity of going down too easily under minimal contact and, in some cases, no contact at all. This lack of sportsman-like behaviour has seen both players coming under heavy fire from many sections of the footballing community. If both Suarez and Sturridge can clean up their acts with respect to diving, Liverpool will have a genuine chance of going for the title this season.
3) Álvaro Negredo and Sergio Agüero
The newest partnership of the lot, this one will garner the most amount of surprise as it was expected at the start of the season that Edin Džeko would get the nod ahead of Negredo in partnering Agüero for City. But, even though Džeko has scored goals since the start of the season, the sheer physicality provided by the Spaniard, along with his naturally predatory positioning have made him the perfect choice to partner the more technically gifted Agüero as City’s main attacking partnership this season.
The key to any partnership is diversity, i.e. when both the players offer something dynamically new to the partnership. Negredo’s physical stature and excellent ability in the air are a perfect foil for Agüero’s close ball control and superb dribbling, a trait borne out of his low centre of gravity due to his small physical stature.
Not much apart from conjecture can be said of the two thus far, as they have hardly had time to work together, this being the first season they are playing in the same team. But, even conjecture throws up some interesting points. Agüero is a gifted technician, with a superb eye for goal, typified by his strike against Liverpool in last season’s 2-2 draw at Anfield. He has good, if not great, passing and can dribble past opponents for fun.
On the other hand, Negredo relies on his strength to go past players and offers not too much by way of dribbling, but once inside the penalty area, he can unleash a wicked shot. These contrasting styles make for the foundation of what can be a dynamic partnership, given time and opportunity.
To close it off, all three partnerships offer much in their own way, but as to which one’s the best, you decide.