The Rebirth Of The Traditional Number 9?
By Harrison Mead
Footballing purists will reminisce about the days in which a tall, physical centre forward used to patrol the football pitch causing mayhem for defenders and goalkeepers alike whether it be in the air or on the ground. However in recent years with the introduction of Barcelona's revolution and their 'tiki-taka' style of football and referee's almost following a set of 'non-contact' rules and regulations the age of the old fashioned "number nine" seemed to be long gone.
Despite all of this the reign of the number nine seems to be back, the German teams that dominated Europe last season both play with traditional number nine's, Robert Lewandowksi and Mario Mandzukic are the men chosen for Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively. The number nine has also seen a comeback in the Premier League, the success of teams such as Swansea and Southampton can be attributed in no small part to the fine goalscoring form of their strikers Michu and Rickie Lambert. But this revival isn't just limited to these two teams, last seasons Premier League top scorers list is dominated by number nine's; Christian Benteke (19 goals), Romelu Lukaku (17 goals), Demba Ba (15 goals), Dimitar Berbatov (15 goals) and Edin Dzeko (14 goals). It can even be said that the Premier League's top goalscorer last season, with 26 goals, Robin Van Persie is a traditional number nine, and although not as prolific as Van Persie, West Ham's Andy Carroll played a huge part in consolidating their position following their recent promotion.
The number nine's renaissance is also reflected when we look at the recent transfer dealings in the Premier League, the arrival of players such as Robert Soldado to Tottenham as well as Steven Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo to Manchester City, Wilfred Bony to Swansea and Jozy Altidore to Sunderland show that perhaps the number nine isn't as dead and buried as everyone had previously thought.
However, it is important to note that the modern day centre forward is far more gifted technically than those of old. This new breed of centre forward will not only score you headers and goals in the six yard box but is able to score from practically any area of the pitch. Furthermore, it is important to note that the success of a great number nine isn't just viewed in their goalscoring but also in the partnerships that they generate and contacts they make. So whilst it may be a few years until we see an out and out number 9 topping the goalscoring list it may be important to look at how many of others goals and chances have come from a player in that number nine role.
Whilst it may be a little premature to say that the number nine is back in full force as they used to be, I think it would be foolish to completely write off their importance in footballs future, it looks like the old fashioned number nine is here to stay for the foreseeable future.