Saturday, June 19, 2004
  Two strikers (slight return) (this one will run and run)
The two strikers thing is obviously not an exceptionless law (what in football is?) But I still think it's a useful rule of thumb. One clarification: it's not two strikers per se that is the problem, in my view, it's two out and out strikers.

The Dutch are not a particularly persuasive counter-example for three reasons. Firstly, their change in fortune was as much due to a radical switch in tactics - to Howard Wilkinson-Sheffield Wednesday 1988 vintage route 1 football - as much as to the introduction of a second striker. And surely no-one would want to make that into a universal principle! (Admittedly the change in tactics entail the introduction of someone who could operate as a target man). Secondly, the Dutch team's previous failure was down to one of my other bugbears - the use of two wingers. This tactic can work spectacularly well, but more than not it leaves your central midfield pairing exposed and over-worked - especially if you insist on playing two centre forwards too. Thirdly, Van Nistelrooy is neither comfortable nor effective as a single striker.

In the case of England since 1986, there's no question that they have only played well when using one deeper forward. Beardsley (with Lineker), Sheringham (with Shearer) and now Rooney (with Owen) have given the England team that extra dimension they need.

Using two strikers does not necessarily put extra pressure on defenders. On the contrary, in fact. They can just hold the line and mark all afternoon. It's players who operate in an ambivalent grey zone between defence and attack who can produce anxiety in defenders. Also, unpredictable runners from midfield.

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