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'Football goes in circles. There is a place for twin strikers' - Sutton | The evolution of the striker

Besides a disappointing spell at Chelsea, you would say Chris Sutton had a good career in footbal...



Soccer

'Football goes in circles. There is a place for twin strikers' - Sutton | The evolution of the striker

Besides a disappointing spell at Chelsea, you would say Chris Sutton had a good career in football. The way Sutton played the game has perhaps been left in the dust with the speed of change in recent years.

At Blackburn Rovers and Celtic, he formed title-winning partnerships with two of the game’s best finishers - Alan Shearer and Henrik Larsson. Partnerships like those are almost obsolete today, in an era when number nines are expected to contribute in other areas.

“If you’re looking for the absolute perfect number nine, you have to have all the attributes. And I’ll say it before you do, I never had great pace,” Sutton explained.

“Lack of pace is genetic so you have to play to your strengths, for me, I had pretty decent awareness,” he said.

The role of centre-forwards, and their responsibilities, has been in a perpetual state of evolution. Now, strikers are the players who initiate pressing the opposition, meaning that simply scoring goals is no longer enough to keep you in the team. 

Diego Costa scored 20 league goals as Chelsea strolled to the Premier League title in 2016/17, yet Antonio Conte got rid of him. Among other reasons, Costa wasn’t pressing enough for Conte - winning the ball back comes before scoring.

“I think Firmino is a different type of player in that he will drop into a ten role at times and other players will get beyond him,” Sutton said.

Template

It was the Brazilian’s role for Liverpool though that pushed Pep Guardiola to sacrifice Sergio Aguero on the alter of pressing and contributing more to the team. Gabriel Jesus was to be City’s response to Firmino until Aguero reasserted his dominance.

Sutton sees Firmino as a different type of player, and he’s not wrong.  He is becoming the template for the type of centre-forward teams are increasingly trying to find.

Firmino scored three headed goals in the Premier League last season, the same as Shane Duffy who is lauded for his aerial ability. The Brazilian has operated as a false nine, but some of Klopp’s reasoning for using him as a centre-forward was based on his capacity to press.

Football is cyclical though. And it could be argued what proves to be popular at this moment in time may well be obsolete before long and Firmino himself might have to prove himself - just like Aguero.

“Football [goes] in circles. There is a place for twin strikers. Some clubs, Burnley, still play with two [strikers] albeit they’re not great to watch,” Chris Sutton said.

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Chris Sutton Football Premier League Roberto Firmino Sergio Aguero Soccer Strikers