Forward thinking for managers

Who are the best players to lead the line at the Big Six clubs and how can managers accommodate all their strikers?

I had a pleasant chat recently with Daniel Welbeck, the Manchester United striker, and gave him some advice. He really impressed in the pre-season, and his loan with Sunderland last season has done him the power of good.

Welbeck has all the qualities required to make it as a United striker. He can drop short and he has a lovely touch, but he needs to score more goals. I told him that no matter how well strikers play, they are judged by their goals. He knew where I was coming from.

Welbeck is one of several strikers vying to play alongside the main man, Wayne Rooney, for United. Rooney has looked really sharp so far, and Javier Hernandez will be the favourite to link up with him once he is back from his injury and fit.

The Mexican has great energy, fantastic movement and runs in behind defenders. He knows where the goal is, too. If he does half as well as last season he will be happy.

Dimitar Berbatov is different. Aren't we all? He's hugely talented and ended up as the league's joint-top goalscorer last season, but only Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager, knows how he is going to use Berbatov.

I think Ferguson will make use of all of his main strikers and share games out, although Michael Owen or Federico Macheda are unlikely to see much action.

The managers of all the top clubs have dilemmas with their strikers.

It is a nice problem to have.

Chelsea have Didier Drogba, who I have always rated. I have also stuck up for Fernando Torres when others have criticised him. He will score goals, but I'll be interested to see whether Chelsea will go with a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 to accommodate both Drogba and Torres.

Then there are Nicolas Anelka, Daniel Sturridge, Soloman Kalou and Gael Kakuta. Some of those boys are not going to be happy if they are not playing week in, week out.

Having four main strikers and two younger ones is the norm at the big clubs. They will be needed over the course of a season, where injuries will be inevitable, but keeping them all content is tough.

Manchester City have even more strikers. If Carlos Tevez stays then their chief front two are likely to be him and Sergio Aguero. I am not sure Edin Dzeko is suited to the English game. He would have been 15 years ago, when teams got the ball out wide and then crossed into the box. That is still how it is in Germany, but not England.

Mario Balotelli can be what he wants to be. You cannot question his talent, but you wonder what goes on in his head. That said, I met him recently at a concert. He saw me, came over and shook my hand and said hello. That was a positive first impression for me.

Roque Santa Cruz is a very talented player and a lovely man, but is he going to play any football this season? He seems willing to twiddle his thumbs and not upset the apple cart.

I would not stand for that.

Emmanuel Adebayor has all the qualities needed from a top striker. He is good in the air, with his back to goal, and he's two-footed. He is talented enough to star in any team in the world, but he's unlikely to play for City because of a personality clash with the manager.

That's football - and he's likely to move before the transfer deadline.

I would be more concerned about Arsenal's situation than any of the teams I have mentioned. They play lovely football - Barcelona-like - but I'm worried about them. They don't win trophies or have that winning mentality.

Arsene Wenger is unwilling to spend big money, and I see why Arsenal fans are sick of hearing excuses. They have lost Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy and are going to lose Samir Nasri.

They need to spend.

Robin van Persie is a great player, but he picks up injuries. I played with Nicklas Bendtner at Birmingham City: decent player, not good enough for Arsenal. Theo Walcott as a centre-forward? Not for me. Marouane Chamakh? He got seven goals in 29 games last season.

There is excitement about Liverpool, but Andy Carroll needs to prove that his £35 million (Dh212m) transfer fee was not way overpriced. Luis Suarez will be Liverpool's big plus if they can keep him fit. He's the line leader, while Dirk Kuyt tends to play on the right and will get eight or so goals a season.

Tottenham Hotspur are the only other team who could challenge the top four.

Jermaine Defoe will always score goals if he can get himself going. He didn't do that last season, nor did Peter Crouch. Both managed four each as Rafael Van der Vaart finished top scorer, which is why Redknapp is reportedly looking to get Adebayor on loan.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten

Published: August 18, 2011 04:00 AM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one