17 December 2009

Team of the Decade – Second Striker

Previous posts: Formation | Keeper | Right Back | Centerback | Left Back | Central Midfield | Right Midfield | Left Midfield

Almost there. Last poll, for center forward, early next week.

I debated over the name of the poll. “Second striker,” “deep-lying forward,” “attacking midfielder,” “trequartista.” There’s a bit of truth in all and none of them; that’s how it works when you’re naming positions instead of roles.

And the role can change, as we’ve seen with Liverpool. Gerrard’s positioning and time on the ball partly depends on who he’s playing with and the opposition. Similar goes for when Kuyt or Benayoun’s been drafted into the role, although Gerrard has the most freedom simply because he’s Captain Fantastic. Benayoun would be on this list if he weren’t winning the LM poll by more than 20%; I reckon its his best position.

Even though I’ve titled this “second striker,” there aren’t many strikers on the list – more midfielders in the same vein as the last two polls. Players like Baros, Bellamy, Crouch, and Cisse – even Heskey – only seem to fit as a center forward in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Hence all the recurring names. Regardless, there’s only going to be one winner in this poll.

Luis Garcia (2004-2007)
Appearances: 121
Goals: 30

Well, I’ve managed to include him in each of the polls across the attacking line of three. Garcia came in second on the left with 32.1% so far, and third on the right with 16.8%. Either way, he looks certain to make the bench.

Steven Gerrard (1998-present)
Appearances: 503
Goals: 124

As if I could do Gerrard justice with 5000 words, let alone a hundred or so. Liverpool through and through from childhood, from a rampaging if injury-prone midfielder to an all-around great, one mentioned in the same breath as the best players in the world. Because Gerrard simply is one of the preeminent players of this generation, and is easily the most well-rounded. I’m convinced he could succeed in any position on the pitch. I don’t need to list his exploits, medals, heroic performances, or last-ditch winners. “Talismanic” doesn’t even come close to covering it.

Harry Kewell (2003-2008)
Appearances: 139
Goals: 16

Kewell played his best football for Liverpool on the left, but was most deadly for both Leeds and Australia behind Viduka. Which is why Benitez took a gamble on starting him in the position against AC Milan in 2005.

Jari Litmanen (2001-2002)
Appearances: 43
Goals: 9

One of the perks of running the contest is getting to nominate certain players even if they’ve no chance of winning. Well, this is one of those choices. Liverpool clearly didn’t have him in his prime, but he was only 30, and provided a much-needed creative spark. His link-up play in attack was superlative. But Jari was injury-prone and got in the way of Houllier’s “hoof it to Heskey and Owen!” strategy. Babel thinks he’s had it bad? The number of times Litmanen was left out after playing well was infuriating, and he lasted less than 18 months in Liverpool.

Vladimir Smicer (1999-2005)
Appearances: 184
Goals: 19

And Smicer was the man who replaced Kewell behind Baros against AC Milan, actually scoring the second goal and the fourth penalty in the process. That’s why the memory of Vladi kissing the badge moments before Liverpool lifted its fifth European Cup still remains as strong as ever.


Abhiram said...

No brainer... Stevie G...

Anonymous said...


drew said...

And here's the first one who pretty clearly is in the all-time Best XI. Although there he'd have to move back into central midfield (I'd have him partnered with Souness), no way he's moving King Kenny out of the second striker role on that team.

nate said...

Yeah, if this were an all-time XI vote, there wouldn't have been a vote on the formation; it'd be 4-4-2. And Souey/Gerrard are assuredly the central midfield behind Dalglish.

If you're asking...

Neal Hansen Hughes Kennedy
Heighway Souness Gerrard Barnes