Can Liverpool's "SAS" Better These Lethal Strike Partnerships?

John BainesCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2013

Can Liverpool's "SAS" Better These Lethal Strike Partnerships?

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    There has been a long tradition of lethal strike partnerships formed at Liverpool, from Keegan and Toshack, to Dalglish and Rush to Beardsley and Aldridge, so can Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge add their names to that exalted list?

    The dynamic duo have already forged a formidable partnership for the Reds by finding the net five times in just under five hours of playing time togetherwith at least one of them finding the net in each of the Reds' last five games.

    Both prefer playing through the middle, but both are equally comfortable drifting deep and wide, and some of their link-up play has shown encouraging signs that a fruitful connection could develop.

    There's an old saying that "strikers hunt in packs," but with plenty of teams now opting to field just one lone ranger, the art of a troublesome twosome is gradually disappearing from the game.

    But these are early days for the newly formed brotherhood, and they've still got plenty of goals to score to catch up with some of the most prolific tandems to have doubled up in recent years.

    I rank the six most effective strike partnerships in the history of the Premier League.

    Can Suarez and Sturridge make this list?

Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips

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    The last-known example of an effective "little and large" combination which used to be so prevalent in English football.

    Peter Reid paired Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips together when Sunderland were in the Championship, and four years later the duo had plundered 151 goals between them to record consecutive seventh-place finishes for the Mackems in the Premier League.

    Phillips crowned his debut season in the top flight with 30 goals to win the European Golden Boot, but plenty of the plaudits went to the supporting role Quinn provided, supplying numerous knock-downs for the smaller man to finish.

    What made Phillips' achievements all the more extraordinary was that he outscored the rest of Europe in a fairly average side.

    Reid filled the rest of the team with grafters rather than gifted players, but their game plan worked a treat with Quinn and Phillips on the same wavelength, and as soon as the goals dried up, Sunderland tumbled down the table.

Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton

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    Strike partnerships come in all shapes and sizes, and usually opposites attract, but Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton were the exception to that rule.

    Any forward with pace, power and equally as good in the air as on the deck should be a handful, so when you've got two of them, goals will surely flow.

    That was probably Blackburn Rovers boss Kenny Dalglish's logic when he paid Norwich City a British-record fee for Sutton in the summer of 1994.

    The £5 million man was then teamed up with the already prolific Shearer, and that investment was repaid handsomely as the "SAS" shot Rovers to the Premier League title.

    Fed on a staple diet of quality crosses from Stuart Ripley and Jason Wilcox, Shearer and Sutton combined to notch 58 times in all competitions across the 1994-95 season, as Manchester United's early league monopoly was blasted away.

    Unfortunately that was pretty much it as far as these two were concerned: The following season saw Sutton sidelined for the majority, and at the end of the campaign Shearer was on his way to Newcastle.

Eidur Gidjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

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    If Shearer and Sutton were cut from the same cloth, then these two were made of completely different substances, Eidur Gudjohnsen being the velvet glove to accompany Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's Iron Fist.

    In the summer of 2000 Chelsea splashed out close to £20 million on the strike duo, and although it took the young Icelandic forward some time to dislodge Blues legend Gianfranco Zola from the side, it was well worth the wait.

    Gudjohnsen's silky skills and cerebral play were the ideal foils for the raw aggression and ferocious finishing of his Dutch companion, and the two bonded to devastating, almost telepathic effect over the next four seasons.

    Their various attributes combined perfectly to rattle home 146 goals between 2000-2004, and like a true strike partnership, they linked up on countless occasions to create opportunities for one another.

Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole

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    Quickly moving on from Gudjohnsen and Hasselbaink, we find another strike partnership who reveled in their respective roles as provider and finisher: Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole.

    Kevin Keegan lavished a healthy £1.75 million on Cole to steer Newcastle into the Premier League, and once there he pulled another masterstroke by acquiring Beardsley to supplement Cole's penalty-box prowess.

    Long before the term "false nine" was invented, Beardsley was busy scurrying about off the front man, finding pockets of space to launch darting dribbles and probing passes.

    With Beardsley adroitly knitting Keegan's freewheeling side together, Cole dispatched an incredible 56 goals in 73 games, many of those as a direct result of the selfless play of his clever co-conspirator, before Manchester United came calling with a £9 million bid.

Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole

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    Whisper it quietly, but Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole weren't even the most effective combination that Manchester United had during their dominance at the start of the millennium.

    In terms of goals returned, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ruud van Nistelrooy were more prolific—albeit over a relatively shorter period—than their predecessors, yet Yorke's and Cole's "bromance" will always be synonymous with United's greatest-ever season.

    Ironically, it took a couple of months following Yorke's arrival from Aston Villa in the summer of 1998 for the partnership to find its feet.

    The duo first started together against Southampton in October, and from there the Reds lost only one of 36 games Yorke and Cole dovetailed, with the team scoring 81 goals as Sir Alex Ferguson's men completed a famous treble.

    The strike partnership shared 53 goals in all competitions during that run, with goals like this against Barcelona highlighting the camaraderie and understanding which made them such a lethal proposition. 

Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp

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    There is a school of thought that Arsenal's lack of success in recent years has been down to a soft underbelly which costs them games.

    That may be the case, but what could Arsenal have won if Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were in their pomp from 2005 onwards?

    Part of the reason teams feel they can get at Arsenal nowadays is because they don't fear them. They never feared them in a physical sense but during Henry and Bergkamp's day, there was a footballing fear.

    Over seven seasons from 1999 and 2006, Arsene Wenger's French and Dutch phenomenons caressed home a staggering 266 goals and reinvented the way forwards in this country went about their business.

    As a genuine partnership, Henry and Bergkamp didn't necessarily have the telepathy or understanding of some of the others on this list, yet the fact they were so dangerous and contributed so many goals came about because they were two exceptional footballers playing in an exceptional side.

    Either could score or create from any advanced position, Henry's pace and finishing ability made him unplayable, whereas Bergkamp was always one step ahead of the rest.

    Individually these two would have been difficult to stop for any defence, but when teamed together they were the greatest strike combination the Premier League has ever seen.

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