11 Top EPL Strikers Who Need Some Support

Vince Siu@vincetalksfootyFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2011

11 Top EPL Strikers Who Need Some Support

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    Barring the most outstanding of goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders, it is usually the strikers that hog all of the spotlight and the backpage headlines.

    When the sailing is smooth, the goalscoring exploits, the mazy runs, the towering headers, the intricate dribbling, the predatory movement, the explosive acceleration—the attributes make a top striker turn him into a world beater and earn him public adoration.

    When the going gets tough, the low confidence, the heavy price-tag, the leaden legs, the wayward finishing, the sloppy first touch—the other side of the coin emerges, and critics start getting on his back.

    In the increasingly competitive Premier League and amongst increasingly impatient fans looking for instant success, off-form strikers have become the scapegoat for poor performances, and in-form strikers have suddenly started to carry their team on their backs.

    So who are the strikers in the Premier League that most need support?

    Here's my starting 11—and feel free to show your support or disagreement.

Dimitar Berbatov

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    From top goalscorer to forgotten marksman, Dimitar Berbatov has had to adjust his role at Manchester United quite abruptly.

    Signed from Tottenham for £30.75 million, Berbatov has always divided opinions over his languid style, but his classy and effortless dribbling ability and his audacity to try the most outrageous tricks has earned him a huge following.

    The winner of the golden boot in 2010-11 and a place in the 2010-2011 PFA Team of the Year, Berbatov found himself left out of the 18-man squad entirely for the Champions League final against Barcelona.

    That was a move that indicated his decline in the United pecking order—with new boy Javier Hernandez firmly supplanting him in the United strikeforce.

    Now Berbatov finds himself on the bench, with only cup games and substitute appearances for him. Quite a fall from grace.

Bryan Ruiz

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    Having started the Eredivisie season with a bang, Bryan Ruiz attracted many suitors with his explosive pace and clinical finishing. He eventually made a £10.6 million move to Fulham.

    Two months on, the Fulham attackers that have attracted all the attention are Clint Dempsey and a resurgent Andy Johnson, while Ruiz has had to bide his time on the bench.

    With a host of competitors in attack like Moussa Dembele and Bobby Zamora, Ruiz will need to find his feet slowly under Martin Jol.

    A heavy price tag, especially for a usually prudent club like Fulham, may increase fan expectations on Ruiz, but he will need lots of support from both the Fulham faithful and his teammates to ensure that he will prove a success in the Premier League.

Kevin Davies

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    Kevin Davies has never been a prolific goalscorer.

    What he's always provided though, is leadership from the front, exquisite flick-ons and assists, and important goals.

    But, as Bolton have lost two of their close-season talismen—Daniel Sturridge is back at Chelsea after an explosive half year at the Reebok Stadium, and Lee Chung-Yong is on the sidelines with a broken leg—Kevin Davies' influence has also diminished.

    As Martin Petrov provides the only consistent source of threatening crosses, Davies has found his supply line dry so far this season, and this is reflected in Bolton's disappointing early-season form and league standing.

    Owen Coyle will need to find ways to resurrect both his Bolton team and his captain. The good thing is that Kevin Davies will have the mentality to overcome any challenges that lie ahead.

Yakubu

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    Feed the Yak and he'll score.

    During the latter period of his Everton days, that was a chant to tease Yakubu Aiyegbeni on his weight.

    Now this chant is audible from the Ewood Park terraces as the Blackburn fans cheer on the resurrected 28-year-old, who has been rolling back the years with some fine goalscoring displays.

    Second-from-bottom Blackburn have a beleaguered and unpopular coach in Steve Kean, and if he is to stay in his job longer, he will need to keep Yakubu in his current vein of form and turn goals into points.

    Even if they won't put their trust in Kean, the Blackburn fans will have to support Yakubu in his at times one-man quest to fire Blackburn to Premier League safety.

Tim Cahill

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    Tim Cahill might not be a specialist striker, but his regular place at the top of the Everton goalscoring charts and, in the absence of usual starting striker Louis Saha, at the tip of David Moyes' 4-5-1 merits his inclusion on this list.

    Not to mention the fact that he hasn't started the season in top physical or goalscoring form.

    In fact, Cahill is going through his longest ever goal drought in an Everton shirt; nine games without a goal, largely down to the niggling injuries that have restricted him to appearances off the bench.

    One of the most quietly effective goalscorers in Premier League history, Cahill has been a phenomenal bargain signing for Everton. He'll need that famous Blue support more than ever as he makes his way back to full fitness and climbs his way up the goalscoring charts once again.

Connor Wickham

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    Labeled as England's new strike phenom, Connor Wickham caused a media stir when he arrived at the Stadium of Light in an £8 million deal in the summer—rising to £12 million.

    A look back at his time at Ipswich shows that Wickham was not an outrageously prolific goalscorer, but he brings to the northeast a towering aerial presence, awareness in movement and model professionalism.

    He seems to have upped his game since Steve Bruce has taken him under his wing. His first home start against Aston Villa yielded a well-taken goal, but just as he was finding his feet in the top flight alongside Nicklas Bendtner, he went down injured at Old Trafford.

    A trip next summer to the European Championships with the England national team was always slightly out of reach, and his injury now presents a huge setback to his already slim hopes.

    What's important now is for Wickham to take encouragement from his promising recent displays and push on to fulfill his promise of England's new hope.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

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    Gabby Agbonlahor has started the Premier League season in fine form.

    So explosive that club captain, Stiliyan Petrov, has labelled him to be in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo.

    While he isn't quite at Ronaldo's level yet, Agbonlahor has shown explosive pace, good off-the-ball movement and clinical finishing during the opening three months of the season, and the whispers on the Villa Park terraces are that he's finally found the consistency and maturity to fulfill his much touted promise.

    After the departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, Agbonlahor has taken up a role on the left wing under Alex McLeish and has been given a new lease of life cutting in behind Darren Bent.

    Will he be able to handle the new expectations on his shoulders and establish himself as an England regular? That will depend on the support he receives from his fans and teammates.

Robin Van Persie

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    Spearheading Arsenals' revival and the poster boy for Arsene Wenger's new Arsenal team, Robin van Persie has rightly shot to a place among the world's top marksmen.

    At this point, he might as well be one of the Premier League's greatest ever bargain buys. Signed from Feyenoord for a measly £2.75 million, van Persie has struck 29 goals in 28 Premier League this calendar year, the most prolific record yet.

    Following in Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas' illustrious footsteps, van Persie finds himself as the latest irreplaceable Arsenal captain.

    Currently, Arsenal's hopes of making the Top 4 fall mostly on his shoulders, and he must have more support from his teammates to achieve this goal.

    Otherwise, Arsenal fans might find themselves scrambling for yet another talismanic replacement as Robin van Persie moves on to a different club because Arsenal cannot meet his ambitions.

Romelu Lukaku

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    Much was made of Romelu Lukaku's £18 million move to Stamford Bridge. Here was the boy who idolized Didier Drogba, who had proclaimed his love for Chelsea during a schoolboy visit, who personified owner Roman Abramovich's drive to inject fresh blood into Chelsea's aging squad.

    Three months on, even with Drogba out on the sidelines, Lukaku has found most of his playing time in brief substitute cameos, the Carling Cup, and even the reserves. Meanwhile, the resurgent-or-not Fernando Torres, the refreshed Daniel Sturridge, and the sublime Juan Mata have hogged all the Chelsea headlines.

    In a fiercely competitive strikeforce, Lukaku will have to battle it out with Torres, Sturridge, Drogba and Nicolas Anelka for a place up front, and he will have his work cut out.

    The good thing is that he has time on his side. In the meantime, he needs to ensure that he learns as much as possible from the experienced squad he has around him. In return, they must ensure that they help him as much as possible to mould him into the new Didier Drogba, a striker capable of terrorizing defences across Europe.

Andy Carroll

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    Circumstances have been harsh for Andy Carroll.

    He left his boyhood Newcastle, with a community he had grown up in, for Liverpool in a deal that made him the most expensive Englishman ever. At 22 years old.

    He was given the iconic No. 9 shirt by a Liverpool desperate to rid their memories of the former, more famous wearer of the same jersey.

    And He was injured.

    With the hype surrounding him increasing day by day, Carroll instantly took on massive expectations on his broad shoulders. And unfortunately, he hasn't shown enough of his Newcastle form to show that he justifies the inflated £35 million price tag.

    As he makes his way to full goalscoring fitness and a true understanding with Luis Suarez, he needs the support of his teammates, the English media and the Liverpool fans more than ever to ensure that he doesn't turn out to be an expensive misfit.

    Because it wouldn't just be a travesty for the Kop and the Geordies—it would be a sad, sad realization for the whole of England, who once labeled him the next Alan Shearer.

Fernando Torres

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    Form is temporary; class is permanent.

    But Fernando Torres' "temporary" form has lasted for the best part of ten months, since his record-breaking and controversial move from Liverpool to Chelsea.

    Just as the successor to his No. 9 shirt at Anfield, Torres has struggled in the Blue No. 9, famously going 14 games without a goal since arriving at Stamford Bridge.

    The modern football world has a curious inclination towards schadenfreude. The ire from the Kop, those very Liverpool fans who once adored him as one of their own, might be slightly understandable if not justified, but the world media have been quick to label him as an Andriy Shevchenko-esque Chelsea flop, and fans from around the Premier League have delighted in chanting against him.

    Once one of the most feared forwards in all of Europe and the scorer of the winning goal in the 2008 European Championships, Fernando Torres has had to deal with intense media pressure at Chelsea.

    It is perhaps undeniable that he has seemingly lost a yard of pace, one of his erstwhile main attributes, but the talent that lies dormant within Fernando Torres has yet to be truly unleashed by Andres Villas-Boas.

    But to truly unlock his old potential and cement a return to the top of the tree, Fernando Torres also needs the support of the media and the fans. Only then will we able to know if his class is as permanent as Chelsea claim.

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