The GoatyGav Column

So, by the looks of it, Andy Carroll has played his last game for West Ham. At times he’s been something of a cult hero but, in the main, the frustrations of having to suffer his injuries has made it hard to fully support him. At times he’s also been controversial – never so much as when he criticised the West Ham faithful for not staying until the end of matches when his own record of ‘early exits’ left a lot to be desired. Whether it was due to injury or a stray elbow you could never really tell how long he was going to be around for. Which was a shame as, at his peak, he was genuinely unplayable. All that said the role that AC fulfils appears to be less and less commonly seen in top-tier football nowadays.

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In my view football in England has been undergoing a renaissance for some time now. Modern ideas about tactics, styles of play, movement on and off the ball as well as team shape are on view every weekend in the Premier League. Whether it’s Mezzalas, Registas or Trequartistas the game is evolving so quickly it’s starting to become a struggle to keep up. All said and done, however, the general theme seems to be that teams are putting more passing moves together in their build up play whilst the development of player’s technical ability moves on apace. The premier exponents of this style are Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has a very distinctive style that some have attempted to emulate in recent times. Whatever you think about his methods there’s no getting away from the basic facts that they make more passes and create more clear-cut scoring chances than any other team. When you back all this up with their goals scored record it becomes easy to understand why many others are focused on clever, quick and short movement and passing. So where does that leave the ‘Target Man’?

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Modern strikers seem to have so much more to their game, and operate in more areas of the pitch, than the traditional English number nines. Notwithstanding this fact there’s no denying that they still have their place. Take Everton’s win against Arsenal this weekend. Dominic Calvert-Lewin had an absolute blinder playing the, back to goal, hold up man. Arsenal’s attacks were often broken up and the key to Everton’s transition was a quick, long ball up to their imposing young forward. Now you wouldn’t say that Marco Silva is well know for this style of play but he’s shown tactical astuteness by employing an old tactic, that’s often associated with traditional English football, to great effect against a team who like to play out from the back.

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Going back to our own, current, number nine for a minute one way that he’s been utilised in an extremely effective way is from the bench. Some of the Geordie’s best games have been when he’s completely changed the momentum of a match by being introduced in second halves. Frankly I’d have sooner seen him be a ‘super-sub’ at our club as, along with the huge impact he’s asserted, I, genuinely, believe he’d have suffered far less injuries. Players like to start games, as being named in the first eleven comes with credibility and kudos, but, especially in the striker department, many seem to play so much better as substitutes.

They may not be as prevalent as they used to but there can be no denying that the ‘Target Man’ will, almost certainly, never disappear from the game altogether. Whether it’s in a traditional role, as a tactical option or an impact sub they can influence the course of a fixture hugely.

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Finally on to last night’s game. What a masterclass from Eden Hazard. The goal was something special. Strangely I enjoyed watching the match despite the loss. Unlike many I felt that Chelsea were extremely good, rather than us being particularly bad, in the first half, with it being one of those ‘didn’t allow us to play’ performances, however we did give the ball away too softly with a number of individual errors occurring. The change at half time worked with the ineffective Hernandez replaced. Good to see Arnie get some joy in the latter 45. I hope to see his improvement continue in the remainder of the season as he’s an important player for us.

There were quite a few positives. I felt that Ryan Fredericks was amongst our better players. He was the only one to get any change out of the imperious Hazard and he contributed in the opposition half as well – giving us width and carrying a threat. I love it when he uses his pace to get to the goal line before cutting the ball back or whipping it in. I hope to see him continue his development with us and makes the right back spot his own in seasons to come.

Manchester united up next. If we can pick up where we left off in the second half of that Chelsea match then we’re in for some more good viewing.