Everything changes with this column, friends. The goalkeepers are great and the forwards consigned to a bygone era. Yes, you read that right and yes, I’m still Peter Crouch. Promise.
It’s not that straightforward, obviously, but last week I dedicated a section of these pages to the excellence of Edouard Mendy and how goalkeepers are becoming even more important to potential title-winning teams.
Now, having watched Chelsea and Manchester City score 11 between them without a recognized leader on Saturday, it makes you wonder if we can start to label the position of the forwards as old-fashioned at the elite level.
Has soccer or me changed? Answers on Twitter, please.
Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah (left) are two of the new generation of scoring wingers who now outnumber central forwards, the position that Cristiano Ronaldo plays at Man United.
Mason Mount (left) and Phil Foden also shine for Chelsea and Man City respectively
Romelu Lukaku will return for Chelsea and will likely come straight in when he recovers from injury, however despite Norwich looking like this year’s whip boy it was interesting to note how they swept the Canaries without him.
Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi traded beautifully and freely, skillfully assisted by the flying wings in this exciting Chelsea team wonderfully led by Thomas Tuchel. All this without a main man to hit.
We were famous for that in England, that role number 9. However, these days, you look around the academies and they all want to play those wing positions. They are the glamorous places of the team, it is fashionable to score goals from there.
Nobody wants to be the classic center forward anymore, like I used to be at Liverpool.
Chelsea scored seven times against Norwich without a recognized striker on the field
Foden scored two goals for Manchester City in Brighton while playing in a ‘false nine role’
Being in front is no longer in fashion and this is a topic that is debated at Manchester United this season after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Things change, new times are fast approaching us, although there is definitely a part of me that is a bit sad about it. Now I’m nostalgic and old, remember.
The people he looked up to growing up were obviously the quintessential old-fashioned No. 9s: Dion Dublin, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Brazilian Ronaldo. Supreme footballers.
I think of those Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley combinations, the big-little man partnership. The kind that Jermain Defoe and I had. It has been extinguished, the two strikers feed each other. I can’t think of many around.
There is much more demand for scorers in the modern game. Usually in that position you now have fast, powerful wingers on either side of you. The leader didn’t used to get involved in too much pressure, but in Liverpool when you see Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, plus Diogo Jota when he starts, the roles have changed enormously.
Fluid attack lines, like those of Chelsea and Liverpool, are now the future of football
The same goes for Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and others at City. Everyone works very hard and that is why there has been this wave of criticism towards certain players who now only score goals. It all comes down to the fact that City are the best team in the league since Pep Guardiola entered and the pace of work that makes them such a formidable team.
As the best team of the time, Guardiola’s Barcelona started it all, right? Everyone tried to emulate that and then we looked at how many goals wingers can contribute.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane is one of the few No 9 classics that still exists, we are not extinct!
Let’s take the numbers constantly posted by Salah and Mane for Liverpool. City play with five of them and score more than 10 goals each per season. The game is evolving forever. That pressure, his defensive side, is what the best are doing.
There are still more traditional players at the top of their game – Karim Benzema, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski, so he’s not dead yet. They keep it alive, but what happens when those guys move on? Hopefully, somewhere, the next group is quietly dating.
He should come back, I’m sure of that, and teams won’t know what hit them when a big goal suddenly pops up in the next few years. There will definitely always be a place for that kind of presence, but at the moment it is not in fashion.
Let me tell you, as a member of the strikers union, this trend is worrying. Can we start developing more, please?
My son is three years old, so I’m going to start throwing long balls at him in the garden and ask him to check the ones in his chest. Then we’ll put her fast and nimble sisters around her! Maybe then there will be at least one who can carry the flag of our setbacks.
SCHOLESY WAS RIGHT – SAW THIS COMING
Paul Scholes sat next to me in the BT Sport studio on Wednesday night. It was a difficult task for any expert and even more so for a Manchester United legend.
United’s comeback against Atalanta was enthusiastic. One of those great and special nights at Old Trafford. For both of them, it would have been easy to focus on the positives.
Paul Scholes was criticized for being too negative after Man United’s 3-2 win over Atalanta
Scholes was right when the Red Devils were humiliated 5-0 at home to Liverpool
Paul didn’t want to be the pessimistic trader after a big Champions League win, but called for Sunday’s dismantling.
You have to give an honest opinion about what is happening. He said that if they played like this against Liverpool, they would be at the end of the underground and look what happened.
There had been all the euphoria, the last Cristiano Ronaldo winner again, but you have to see the bigger picture. Paul did just that.
Lots of people were commenting on how miserable he was, but Paul was shown to be absolutely right. Atalanta is decent, but we both said United would fall apart if they replicated that performance.
United falls short against teams that play as one, such as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool
It was hardly pleasant that he was proved right. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is clearly a good man. But they have an excellent squad and they are totally outmatched by teams that play as a team.
You can’t send five goals at Old Trafford and Solskjaer has been in charge of two such afternoons in the space of a year.
The riots at that club – everyone saw thousands leaving Old Trafford on Sunday – is relatively simple. They have the best individual players, but they are less than the sum of their parts.
United has been too individualistic for too long. They have gotten away with it because players like Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford can do something special.
United are too reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford (right) to shine individually
Do they have a superior manager? Are you on the same level as Tuchel, Guardiola or Klopp? I think any of those coaches will make sure this team gets into the title race.
Ole must have known there was a lot to work on since Wednesday night. Locating the negatives of a victory is the only way to improve. You can’t wait until you lose two or three games, because you won’t have a job anymore.
There were individual errors on Sunday: Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire teamed up for one of the goals, and defending like this is not the coach’s fault.
But who didn’t smell this kind of result? Gary Neville was right yesterday: the games this season have not been difficult. This was the difficult one and they lost 5-0.