Writer: Eamonn Moore
Date:Sunday August 5 2012
Why does Ian Holloway so desperately want a target man when our game is based on the way that Spain play? The answer is simple: it's his Plan B... his go to plan when we're not playing well/the opposition are sitting deep and we can't break them down/our attackers our being outmuscled by the opposition defence/the playing conditions aren't conducive to a short, high tempo passing game.
Despite the validity of wanting a striker who offers something different to the rest of our attack, some fans still cannot fathom why Ollie is so desperate for a physical presence in the final third. By and large this is because target men in this country are associated with long ball sides who launch high balls into the area for either a target man to knock down or head home.
But target men can be so much more than that. Take a look at Spain: their Plan B (although they rarely utilise it) involves Athletic Bilbao's 6 foot 5 inch striker Fernando Llorente.
Yes, Llorente will attack the ball in the air if it's smashed forward (aimlessly or not), but there's much more to his game than that: a) he can hold the ball up with his back to goal, allowing Spain's mobile midfield to push forward and feed off him; b) his physical presence attracts centre halves to him, creating space for Spain's attacking midfielders to flood into; c) he often drifts out wide, inviting the diagonal crossfield ball that he can either hold up or flick on for someone to run onto (as full backs are generally no match for him either aerially or on the ground).
Sure, he might not be a regular for Spain, but he still has 7 goals in 20 caps - not a bad return at all.
Hell, even Barcelona under Pep Guardiola played with a target man in the shape of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sure, the enigmatic Swede only lasted a season at Camp Nou (despite scoring 16 goals in 29 league games), but it shows that even an manager famed for playing 'tika taka' recognised the value that a target man can bring to a side. Again though, Zlatan wasn't your 'old fashioned target man'; like Llorente he has much more to his game than being good in the air and up for a scrap with the opposition's defence.
Yes, for every Llorente and Zlatan you'll get a Kevin Davies, but the former two illustrate how a target man can work in a system that the Seasiders are looking to replicate.
Last season we had Roman Bednar, and although he struggled with injuries, his performance in the home game against Hull illustrated perfectly the positive impact having an effective target man (both in terms of ability and how he's utilised) could have on us.
Presumably, any target man signed by the Seasiders would have to fit the Llorente/Zlatan (or if you want an English example; Peter Crouch) mould, especially with Ollie being such a fan of the diagonal pass I've written about above.
Billy Paynter - who had his trial with the Seasiders cut short earlier in the week and was sent back to Leeds - clearly wasn't the answer, with reports suggesting that the Seasiders continue to try and entice Emile Heskey to the club. Is Heskey the answer? I genuinely don't know, but there's one thing I do know; that Ollie is dead right to target a target man.
Date:Sunday August 5 2012
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