There are quite a few things in life that I do not understand. There are things like why we call it a gambole, while everywhere else it’s called a rolly-polly? Why do I get very cold every winter despite living through at least one for every year of my life? And how can I be the only person in the world that just isn’t that into eggs?
Recently, however, there are has been something that has left me well and truly stumped. It is a concept which, as Villa fans, should be very close to our hearts. What is the value to a football team of strikers that do not score goals?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a very strong chance that the reason I don’t understand this is because, despite what I think (and presumed my successes on Football Manager had proved), I do not know that much about football tactics and am not a manager of a football club. It just seems to me it has become something that we have accepted, the idea that our strikers do not need to score goals for them to be performing their role in the team.
It is logic that does not work when you apply it to other areas of life. In the morning, when I need to get up, I set my alarm. My alarm clock isn’t there because it fits in with the other electrical items in my room (it does, they’re mostly black in colour), or because setting my alarm has become part of my pre-bed ritual and, as I always seem to sleep, it must be performing it’s role. No, the reason I set it is because every morning, without fail, its shrill drone wakes me up.
At the moment (the freak events of the semi-final ignored, mainly because they would completely ruin my point and the idea for the article was spawned pre 6-4) Villa have a problem scoring enough goals to win games, so why not sign a striker that scores the goals that will help us to climb the table. I appreciate that there may be factors that I am unaware of, and for whatever reason we may not be able to sign this magical, mythical, wonderful striker-hero, but we do not seem interested in even attempting to rectify the situation. This can be illustrated in the fact that we have only really spent £7 million pounds on strikers in Harewood (who looks like the child of John McCain and the Crazy Frog) and Emile Heskey. I haven’t forgotten about Big John, but there was no outlay on him as it was a straight swap with Baros. It would seem to me that we have had this problem for a long time, and not since Dwight Yorke have we had a striker that is truly good enough to keep in upper reaches of the Premier League.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a massive O’Neill fan. I rate him becoming Villa manager as one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me, that and the day that I first discovered Spicy Tomato Snaps. He just strikes me as a stubborn man, and while it can be a strength, on this issue it’s a weakness. It boils down to the fact that if we had a truly quality forward, we could have been well on our way to the Champions League by now. That is what is so frustrating, because the rest of it has come together so nicely. Dunne and Collins in the centre of the Villa defence look like they grew there, Young and Downing are getting up and down the wings better than any other wide players in the league, and James Milner has slipped into the middle of the pitch like it was a buttery bath-tub. That is why I do not understand why we do not pursue a striker able to change games for us the way Fernando Torres did for Liverpool when they were last in B6.
It might just be that, as I stated earlier, I am not a football manager, so do not understand the essential value of a 6 foot something shot shy forward in a Premier League team. It might turn out that in the end, Martin had it all planned out. He knew Emile would take a year to settle before becoming the first Villa player to score a hat-trick in a major European Final. He knew that giving Steve Sidwell 4 minutes a week would put him in perfect condition for his FA Cup Final Tour de Force against a terrified Chelsea, and he knew from day one it would end in glory. Let’s face it. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s proved his doubters wrong.