Sunday, 20 November 2016

Striker or Forward?

I have a question, I need to ask somebody. What is the difference between a striker and a forward, a centre forward by its greater catergorisation?

  1. 2.
    the player who is to strike the ball in a game; a player considered in terms of ability to strike the ball.
    "a gifted striker of the ball"

  1. 1.
    in the direction that one is facing or travelling; towards the front.
    "he started up the engine and the car moved forward"
    synonyms:ahead, forwards, onwards, onwardonfurther
    "the traffic moved slowly forward"
  1. 1.
    directed or facing towards the front or the direction that one is facing or travelling.
    "forward flight"

  1. 1.
    an attacking player in football, hockey, or other sports.

These are the Oxford English dictionary definitions of the two terms. Football throughout its history is defined by the goals scored and the players who score them. Goalscorers are widely lauded and more fondly remembered in the annals of football; the Ballon d'Or (FIFA World Player of the Year) has been won by defenders and goalkeepers on only three occasions (Yashin, Sammer, Cannavaro).

The reason I want to ask this question is because of the way pundits and commentators refer to them during a game and in analysis. How would you describe someone like Diego Costa? Is he the same sort of player as Harry Kane? How would you differ between the categorisation of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?

This writer is hopeful that there is a way of distinguishing between the two based on the role in certain formations and the tactics employed by various managers throughout the years.  For instance, I would categorise Ronaldo as a striker, one who is able to strike the ball well and scores goals. Messi therefore would be construed as a forward, he plays in the direction of the goal and is an attacking player; because he receives the ball some distance from the opponents goal and he travels towards it. Ronaldo, meanwhile, strikes the ball when he is near the goal making his late runs into the box and awaiting assists from his team-mates.

This is not an essay to say which one of those two amazing individuals is better than the other, that debate has gone on for far too long and they both are worthy of the praise they constantly receive with their place assured in the historical annals of the game.

My query is more so on how the positioning of these forward players is slowly changing as tactical mindsets alter in an ever changing football climate.

To go back to my earlier examples, Diego Costa by my definition would be a forward in both the current definition of an attacking player but also the forward in the mindset of British football as that strong individual who would lead the line up front, hold the ball up so supporting runners can join in the attack, distribute the ball to flying wingers much in the same vein as an Alan Shearer did do.

Harry Kane, meanwhile, is a striker in the vein that he is able of striking the ball well but fundamentally scores goals at a good conversion rate, able to score all manner of goals in differing varieties such as headers, curling shots, powerful drives much like Gary Lineker did or his current contemporary Sergio Aguero can.

By my reckoning, a striker is the one who scores goals regularly and a forward is the number 9 who assists the number 10 in scoring more than him.  Think of Mike Newell/Chris Sutton assisting Shearer at Blackburn or Peter Beardsley assisting Andy Cole at Newcastle United; all three players scored their fair few of goals but less than the striker.

A better example is probably the forward Niall Quinn playing in tandem with Kevin Phillips during his phenomenal 30 goal season in the 1999-2000 season, Quinn had 14 goals himself. That was the end of a three year partnership where Phillips scored 82 goals in 105 games, a ratio of 0.78 per game. That is a rate up there with the best of current prolific forwards such as Aguero and Kane.

So can we distinguish between a forward and striker so easily based on the number of goals they score, when you have the battle between Messi and Ronaldo going on and on, goal for goal? It may never be a clear distinction between the two but perhaps it is open for a longer and more thorough examination.

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