The Target Men. They were thought to be extinct. Yet somehow, it seems like there’s a lot more big strikers than there used to be. Why is this?

Target men started to go out of fashion, when fast, tiki-taka-style play became common. Target men were thought to be too slow to be able to press with the team and not technically good enough to play the style required. This led to attacking midfielders being converted in false nines, a role that for example Roberto Firmino occupies at Liverpool.

Last few years have seen a lot of big strikers being succesful. Harry Kane leads both England and Tottenham from the top. West Ham’s success is partly on Michail Antonio’s great performances as a striker. Newcastle just paid £25 million for Burnley striker Chris Wood, whilst Everton are building their attack around Dominic Calvert-Lewin and have struggled this year with him out with injury. In the Championship, England’s second tier, Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic is on pace to destroy the single season record.

There are a few factors on the resurfacing of the target men. Let’s take a look at those.

Increased technical ability. Back in the day target men used to wait at the top for the long ball or cross and head it somewhere, without having much technical ability to create. Good example of this used to be Peter Crouch, who was a great goalscorer due to his height, but lacked the technical ability to be a bigger part of the attacking play. Nowadays, strikers like Harry Kane and Michail Antonio come very deep to get the ball, like a false nine would, but use their size as well as their technical ability to keep the ball.

This Is Only Thing Michail Antonio Needs To Do To Keep Going - Former West  Ham Star

Photo: insidefutbol.com

Increased athletic ability. Target men used to (mostly) be very slow. We all must remember Olivier Giroud with Arsenal, he was very slow. The new breed of target men are fast and can run much more than back in the day, which is important due to the rise of high pressing defense. Patrick Bamford is great example of this, having over 20 pressures per 90 minutes.

Tactical choices. A target man, who can be part of the creating of the offensive play, can be an amazing weapon for a counter-attacking team. West Ham have one of the best attacks in the Premier League despite having around 48% of the possession on average, thanks to the ability of Michail Antonio to hold the ball. Today’s game is also much more wing-oriented, with the biggest stars being wingers. Wingbacks are also much more offensive than before, allowing for more crosses from good positions.

Football, like many other things, revolve around trends, and trends are circulating back and forth. What used to be in fashion, will be in fashion again at some point, and it seems like that’s what happened with the target man.

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