If you watched some of the promos for this past Premier League weekend, you will have realized two things. Firstly, no league does self-promotion better than the English Premier League and second, the Manchester City vs. Chelsea game was the most anticipated game of the weekend (after the El Clasico). This was to be an intriguing clash for many reasons; Pep vs. Conte, fantasy vs. ruthlessness, newly rich vs. “newer” rich. One of the more eye-catching match ups was Aguero against Costa, the battle of the star strikers. Although some predicted the game would be won by the team with better tactics, Costa’s form ended up being the major factor in Chelsea’s victory. In this battle of the star strikers, Costa was an easy winner.
In this era of facts and figures, we can be sometimes guilty of over-complicating things. Football is really a simple game. Whether it’s a Boxing Day fixture between Fulham and Bolton Wanderers, or it’s the World Cup Final between Spain and Brazil, the aim of the game is to score more than the opposition. Of course, there is merit in having a quality midfield (ask Guardiola) and a quality defence (ask Simeone). However, games (and titles) are won and lost by strikers effectively doing their jobs. That’s the reason why it seems forwards receive more press recognition, higher salaries, and more individual awards. There’s a reason why people talk about MSN, not RIB (“Rakitic Iniesta Busquets”) or Real Madrid’s BBC, not MCK.
On the flip side, they are the ones who people look to when things don’t work out. When people think of Argentina’s recent failures to win a trophy, who cops most of the blame? Gonzalo Higuain. Mario Gomez still hasn’t shaken off the “bottler” tag he earned from his Champions League final display against Chelsea. It took Zlatan scoring 4 goals against England in a friendly for some people to accept he might be quite good.
No one knew the value of quality strikers like Sir Alex. In his 26 years managing Manchester United, he signed high profile forwards like Cantona, Rooney, Van Nistelrooy and numerous others. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why.
Behind every successful Premier League win was a star striker putting chances away. It is fitting to the great man’s legacy that his last Premier League win came when he identified Robin Van Persie as his main man. It is not a coincidence that United’s recent troubles are marked by a lack of a consistent goalscorer. It is also not coincidental that Leicester are flirting with relegation this campaign when Vardy has only notched 2 goals. Ironically, it is a position Chelsea found themselves in last year when Costa was going through his struggles. If Chelsea are going to be champions, they will count on Costa maintaining his current level for the rest of the season. One thing, though, is for sure. This will be a campaign for the forwards.