A Defence Of The Old-Fashioned Goalscorer

1 Feb

Darren Bent has been on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism following his recent move from Sunderland to Aston Villa. 

It’s been said he’s not worth the £24million transfer fee – absolutely, but the player doesn’t set the price, the clubs involved do.  Bent has also been accused of moving to earn a higher salary – more than likely, but it’s hardly news that someone in the money obsessed Sky TV 3D/HD Super League (or English Premier League) makes a decision based on finances rather than football.

The player has also received stick for being disloyal and letting Sunderland down – fair comment, but it’s a bit rich when some of those comments are coming from Steve Bruce, a man who’s never been shy when it comes to leaving a club when there’s a better offer on the table.  It should also be remembered that Sunderland could simply have rejected the bid from Villa.

All of the above are par for the course when a player moves from one club to another.  However, perhaps more interesting are the views of some observers who describe Bent as “just a goalscorer”.  It’s an indication of how much the game has changed when being able to put the ball in the back of the net is viewed almost as some kind of weakness.

It’s fair to say Bent doesn’t contribute much to his team outside the opposition penalty area, which is in contrast with many modern strikers.  In the era of 4-2-3-1, a front man is expected to be much more than a finisher – making space, and retaining possession are essential, while creation of opportunities is every bit as important as conversion.

However, for all his deficiencies, the fact remains that Bent is still a very capable striker in one the best leagues in the world.  He has to time his runs and make sure he is in the right place at the right time (hardly an in-depth tactical analysis but it’s what he does), which is not easy, and is down to intelligence and anticipation, rather than luck as some would suggest.  He’s not a Drogba or a Torres, but he can provide goals, one of many things the current Aston Villa side requires.  Bent has already made his mark, scoring twice in three games, and he will add to that tally before the end of the season.

While Gary Lineker and Ian Rush made careers out of being ‘poachers’, current equivalents such as Bent or Kris Boyd are not valued in the same way.  However, as long as the aim of the game is to score more one more than the opposition, there will always be a place for the penalty-box predator.

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5 Responses to “A Defence Of The Old-Fashioned Goalscorer”

  1. Jonathan February 3, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Nice article fff. You say there’ll always be room for the penalty box poacher – however given the modern day leaning towards 4-2-3-1s and such do you not feel the classic number 9 is a dying breed?

    There certainly seem to be less around at the highest level than there were 10-15 years ago, though having said that maybe evolutionary developments in that time have seen number 9s much more physically and hence able to offer more all-round…

  2. footballfutbolfitba February 3, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Jonathan, good to hear from you and thanks for your comment.

    Yeah I agree, this type of player is a dying breed for the reasons you outined and I think those who remain are less valued (£24m transfer fee apart) than they once were.

    The guys I mentioned (Lineker and Rush) were the main men because they were capable of delivering success to their clubs. I think you’re right in that a player of this type would no longer be a regular starter for teams at the highest level, and their role would more likely to be as an ‘impact’ player, most likely from the bench. Kris Boyd in his time at Rangers was a good example – absolute goal machine but not trusted by his manager when it came to the Champions League.

    Having said all that, I still think a player like Bent could be the difference between his side going down or staying up. Despite having various attacking options, Villa lacked a cutting edge which Bent now provides. I hope that the penalty-box strikers who remain, at whatever level of the game, are appreciated for what they can offer.

  3. Jonathan February 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    I agree. Players like Bent are great for counter attacking sides too, who hit teams on the break allowing a poacher more space to run in and nip a goal. Would you classify Andy Carroll as an old-fashioned goalscorer by the way?

  4. footballfutbolfitba February 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    Now there’s a question. I think Carroll has an old-fashioned style in that he looks like a ‘battering-ram’ type of centre-forward from British football of years gone by. He has a bit more to his game though than simply a poacher. I think he holds it up reasonably well and can bring others into the game.

    However, Liverpool were mad to buy him at this stage, and for the fee involved. While he is bit more than a goalscorer, I just can’t see him doing it at the highest level. He has years ahead of him and it will be fascinating to see how he plays with Suarez (who I think will be a real star), but I’m not convinced.

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