5 Misfiring Premier League Strikers
The Premier League might be only seven games old, but a common theme amongst some of the top teams is the lack of goals from upfront – only Chelsea, and Diego Costa, can be entirely satisfied with their goal return so far.
Here are 5 misfiring Premier League strikers, and how they might turn their season around…
Mario Balotelli, Liverpool
It’s tough to judge what everyone is more disappointed about from Balotelli’s Liverpool career thus far – the lack of goals, or the absence of the crazy, off-the-field anecdotes we’ve come to expect.
Either way, so far Balotelli is yet to prove himself a sensible purchase. He’s managed just one goal – albeit a very good one – against Ludogorets in the Champions League, and is yet to register in seven domestic matches. In fact, he’s attempted 23 Premier League shots without scoring, and hasn’t registered an assist either.
Balotelli’s debut was extremely promising. He played upfront alongside Daniel Sturridge, as Brendan Rodgers fielded a 4-4-2 diamond system away at Spurs. Balotelli missed a couple of great chances, but he and Sturridge stuck up an instant relationship, running the channels to provide width and teeing up Raheem Sterling too. It seemed like Balotelli was a fine signing.
What’s changed since then? Well, Sturridge has been out injured, and therefore the duo haven’t played a game together since. Rickie Lambert can’t play the same role, and Fabio Borini didn’t work well alongside Balotelli at West Ham. Balotelli needs Sturridge back in the side – his return from injury can’t come soon enough.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United
Two goals from six matches isn’t a particularly bad return, but Van Persie hasn’t yet shown his usual devastating form. Under Louis van Gaal, who he knows well from the Dutch national side, that’s somewhat surprising – Van Gaal’s methods inevitably caused something of a culture shock for many United players, but Van Persie should have been accustomed to them.
However, Van Persie’s problem appears to be more physical than technical. Once considered an injury-prone player, the Dutch striker managed to stay fit throughout his two Golden Boot-winning campaigns at Arsenal and Manchester United, but suffered a succession of injuries during David Moyes’ reign.
Five separate injuries – to his groin, toe, groin again, thigh and knee – forced him to miss matches last season, and even during the Netherlands’ run to the World Cup semi-finals, Van Persie didn’t appear at full sharpness.
Currently, his movement seems restrained, he’s struggled with acceleration over short distances, and he doesn’t seem so agile, or capable of firing in spectacular shots from awkward body positions, which has become his trademark. Having missed the majority of United’s pre-season campaign, he still seems to be playing catch-up in terms of fitness, and while he doesn’t have to cope with midweek matches, a couple of games on the bench might help him return to his peak.
Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Lukaku attracts a lot of criticism considering he’s still 21, has a brilliant goalscoring record, and has moved between teams and managers, forced to embrace a new style of football season after season.
This season, finally starting for the club that actually owns him, and playing under a manager whose methods he’s already familiar with, should be his most consistent yet.
It’s been a frustrating start to 2014/15, however, with just two goals in seven matches. That’s not awful, especially considering Lukaku played extremely well against Arsenal in a 2-2 draw too, but there have been some peculiarly flat performances – he contributed little against Chelsea in a 6-3 defeat, was anonymous on the right in a 1-1 against Liverpool, and was surprisingly timid against Manchester United’s unfamiliar centre-back pairing of Paddy McNair and Marcos Rojo.
That said, the entire Everton squad has appeared somewhat sluggish so far this campaign, and it’s worth remembering that they’ve already faced four of the other top 7 from last season. Lukaku is a fine player, and as fixtures become simpler, his goal return should improve.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham
It’s somewhat stunning to learn that Emmanuel Adebayor is one of Spurs’ vice-captains, with the Togo striker and Younes Kaboul behind goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the pecking order. Adebayor is perhaps the most famously stroppy player in the Premier League – sometimes desperate to put on a show, often against his former sides, but more often seemingly like he can’t be bothered.
His renaissance under Tim Sherwood last season was interesting, and was perhaps because Sherwood gave his players few instructions, devised training sessions which were fun rather than particularly productive, and basically told his players to go out and enjoy themselves. It seemed to work perfectly with Adebayor, who didn’t appreciate Andre Villas-Boas’ more detailed instructions.
Maybe Mauricio Pochettino isn’t to his liking either. One goal in seven matches is a poor return for a lone striker playing ahead of an extremely creative midfield, albeit one still coming to terms with the demands of the manager.
The traditional Adebayor criticism of ‘laziness‘ seems to apply once again. Adebayor has spent much of the season being caught offside, and he’s hardly the ideal frontrunner for a system based around energetic pressing without the ball. Perhaps benching Adebayor, and reminding him he’s not undroppable, would be a solution.
Lukas Jutkiewicz, Burnley
Jutkiewicz isn’t as famous as the others on this list, and it’s slightly unfair to include him considering this is his first Premier League experience, and he’s playing upfront for a side that simply doesn’t seem good enough for this level.
Nevertheless, newly-promoted teams desperately need a confident striker, someone who can snatch a goal from nothing, and allow them to sit back and defend resolutely. Jutkiewicz, however, has struggled badly. He’s attempted 21 shots, hasn’t yet scored, and isn’t much of a counter-attacking threat for a side that struggles to dominate possession.
His form contrasts sharply with that of Leicester’s Leonardo Ulloa – another new signing for a newly-promoted club, in his first season as a Premier League player. Ulloa has scored five in seven, Jutkiewicz none in seven.
Realistically, Burnley are weaker upfront than last season, when they were still in the Championship. Danny Ings’ partnership with Sam Vokes was tremendous, and while Ings hasn’t yet found his shooting boots in the Premier League either, there’s little doubt those two will form Sean Dyche’s first-choice striker pairing when Vokes returns from a serious cruciate knee ligament injury.
Burnley’s best hopes of goals might depend upon Vokes returning to full fitness ASAP – Jutkiewicz doesn’t look convincing at this level.
October 15th, 2014 by Michael Cox
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