Where Have All The Strikers Gone?

Missing in Action: The 20 Goals Per Season Striker.

StrikersAfter the encouraging victory on Saturday the emotional swingometer has turned completely on its axis shifting from doom and despair to euphoric optimism. While the positivity is welcome after such a disappointing start to the season a sense of perspective needs to be maintained as we come to the end of our run of ‘easier’ games. The formation and attitude worked well at Palace and now we need to see if that can be followed through at home to Sunderland.

I cannot yet jump on the new found enthusiasm for Simone Zaza bandwagon. I don’t see that after one hard working performance we have a solution to our long running striker dilemma. He may have ‘put in a shift’ but was he really ‘different class’? Slaven Bilic said that we wouldn’t have won without him and I can only go along with that if he meant the alternative was playing with 10 men. Now Slav’s comments may have been designed to give Zaza a boost but I would like to see a greater end product (i.e. goals) rather than good stats on aerial duels won before I become a believer.

Now this is not meant to be a Zaza bashing article but rather to consider why it is that we have failed to secure an even half prolific goal scorer for such a long period of time. If the 20 goals a season striker is elusive at most clubs then he has completely disappeared during West Ham’s Premier League tenure. A regular goalscorer has been a problem for many years.  In our 20 Premier League seasons the best return that we have had was Di Canio’s 16 goals in 1999/2000. In only 7 of those 20 seasons has any West Ham player scored more than 10 league goals. In our last 10 Premier League seasons only Harewood (14 in 2005/6) and Zamora (11 in 2006/7) have exceeded the 10 goal mark. Quite a sorry return I would say.  Sure it is great to get goals from all around the pitch but every successful team tends to have at least one consistent scorer.

Paolo is also our all time Premier League scorer with 47 goals in 118 appearances (an average of 2 goals every 5 games) followed by Carlton Cole with 41 goals in 216 appearances (1 in 5). Only 10 players in total have scored more than 20 Premier League goals for West Ham and these include penalty takers Mark Noble and Julian Dicks. Tony Cottee is the only player to have scored a Premier League goal for West Ham to appear in the list of our Top 10 all-time goalscorers; 23 of his 115 goals coming in the Premier League era.

In the modern game a striker needs to contribute more than just goals but a striker who doesn’t score is not really doing his job. It seems strange that we have not been able to unearth and keep a decent goalscorer in recent history. There have been those that didn’t stick around for long for various reasons (Defoe, Tevez, Bellamy, even Ba) plus the unfortunate Dean Ashton but otherwise there has just been a procession of misfiring lumps; often the result of emergency January transfer window loan deals.

A top striker was stated as the priority in the most recent transfer window and the names of potential targets were appearing in the media almost daily. It is difficult to know how many of these were genuine or realistic but the many players mentioned didn’t fit a profile for a particular style or type of player. In the end it seemed that most were either not interested or not available and we ended up in a last minute panic taking whatever was convenient. It reminded me a little of going shoe shopping with a woman who has nothing to match the dress she will be wearing that evening.

I would be quite happy for Zaza to prove me wrong but neither his goal scoring record nor his performances have raised expectations that he will suddenly start firing them in from all angles . As things stand I don’t see any short term end to our striker famine unless we are able to pin all our hopes on Toni Martinez.