Strike Partnerships: A continuing dilemma for managers

Whether Drogba and Torres can work together at Chelsea is a big questionFrom Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, to Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, conjuring up the right striking force seems to be a conundrum many managers can not figure it out.

It is debatable whether or not the abilities of the front men cause the problem and what is more interesting, is how some strikers seemingly can not work with each other and bag vital goals.

After Torres moved to Chelsea for a record breaking fee of £50 million people immediately started to ponder over whether or not he and Drogba could play in the same team. Both players have seen their best play come when alone upfront whilst others are often labelled ‘isolated’ and therefore have little impact on the game. So why is it two of the worlds best strikers are doubted as a partnership?

Without even comprehending how Nicolas Anelka fits into the equation, on the surface it seems that the rarity of world class strikers playing together continues. Or is Drogba causing the problem for Chelsea?

The Ivorian, whilst having an impeccable scoring tally, has in the past made the greatest strikers look very average. The most famous case would be that of Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian, who, before moving to Chelsea had a scoring record of 267 in 462 games, managed just 14 goals in 51 appearances in his first season. He went on to score 22 in 76 and was hastily shipped off to one of his former clubs Dynamo Kyiv, but he wasn’t the only one.

Claudio Pizarro achieved very little with two goals after only playing 28 times for the club. Now, he is currently the most in-form striker in Germany, along with Mario Gomez (another Chelsea target) and has improved his goals to games ratio hugely. He has 57 goals in two seasons at Werder Bremen.

It is almost impossible to believe the same could happen to Fernando Torres, but with history tainting what can still be a glorious career, the worry is still there. One advantage El Nino has over the others, is the fact Drogba is coming to the end of his career at the highest level.

This season it isn’t just the clubs spending colossal amount of money suffering from the problem. West Ham manager Avram Grant has rotated seven strikers, only using the same combination for consecutive games on two occasions this season. With the team only scoring 30 goals in 27 games and facing relegation, not having a solid partnership is a clear dent in their chances to salvage Premier League status for another year.

The partnership issue is also occurring up at Old Trafford. Rooney had his most prolific campaign upfront for Manchester United last season as a lone striker, but with Berbatov’s talents finally showing, Sir Alex Ferguson was left with very little choice but to play both in his starting 11.

Man United then went on to have their worst start in the Premier League for years but then the phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ showed its truth. Rooney began to suffer with injuries and then it was revealed his marriage was also having problems.

This meant Berbatov was given his chance to lead the line for the Red Devils and to this point, his 19 goals show he is another striker whose abilities are utilised when playing alone.

Now Rooney is back from injury both started together but as the facts show, it doesn’t work. So far this season there hasn’t been a match where both have found the net. Whilst this is alone is startling, many, including Sir Alex were quick to defend the duo, claiming Rooney’s assists lead to Berbatov’s goal.

Yet even this does very little to justify playing both or as recent games have proved, dropping the United number nine. In games such as the 3-2 win over Liverpool where the Bulgarian netted a hat-trick, and the 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn where he netted an astonishing five, Rooney contributed just one assist to those eight goals.

Also, whilst both Berbatov and Javier Hernandez have an impressive record of around four shots per goal, England’s proclaimed best striker takes 21 shots per goal.

The curse that is haunting clubs looks set to continue but as United runaway with the title, it won’t be seen as a big problem to them.

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