x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The importance of strikers

Each of the top football sides has a different tactic with their forward line, but getting it right is vital to winning trophies.

There is no exact science to what makes a great partnership in football and managers often stumble across a winning combination through trial and error.

Great partnerships combine strengths and weaknesses for the greater good. I clicked with Dwight Yorke at Manchester United even though we were opposites. I had movement and pace and would get into the box and behind defenders, while Yorke liked to turn and run at people.

I could say the same about playing with Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Sheringham and I didn't even like each other off the field, but since when has it been compulsory to get on with your work colleagues?

What mattered was we were professional at work on the field. Sheringham lacked pace but played deeper and was good in the air, while Solskjaer would scrutinise the game from the bench, come on to the field and score twice.

The manager (Sir Alex Ferguson) combined our strengths to find a winning formula that all four strikers were usually happy with.

He was happy to rotate and little has changed. He cannot afford to rely only on two players because there are too many games and one could always get injured, so he plans ahead, playing one pairing on a Saturday and another on the Wednesday.

The good form of United's Mexican signing Javier Hernandez has made a stronger case for him starting matches. He has had an excellent first season in England with a great goal ratio. He brings pace and energy to the team, but sometimes that can best be used coming off the bench.

Hernandez knows that competition is tough for a starting place with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, United's top scorer who has played really well this season. People question Berbatov's work rate but he is a totally different animal to Hernandez or Rooney - and therefore he complements them. If Berbatov had been in our treble-winning team he would have slotted in, just like Sheringham or Eric Cantona had before him.

Rooney has not had a good season by his own very high standards. You want goals with Rooney and he hasn't scored so many, but he has shown some good form lately and he is a match winner. There are big matches ahead that need winning.

The manager gets the selection right more often than not and will also have the option of Daniel Welbeck, the new England international, coming back from a loan spell at Sunderland. It is a shame that Michael Owen has faded from view at Old Trafford, but injuries have been his downfall, nothing more.

Some have been critical of Fernando Torres since going to Chelsea for £50 million (Dh292.5m). I don't buy it. He has joined halfway through a season which is tough - and I speak from experience. He will settle and get himself fit pre-season, then slot in with the way Chelsea want him to play. With Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba there, Chelsea have three world-class forwards. Three is better than two and they will score lots of goals next season.

Arsenal tend to use Robin van Persie as a lone striker. His importance to the team shows when he does not play because Arsenal really miss him.

Marouane Chamakh arrived last summer but hasn't really cut it. He was prolific in France for Bordeaux and started well at Arsenal, but has faded away. Arsenal's problem is that they will not spend big on strikers. They use the Barcelona blueprint, but Barca spend big money on forwards when they need to. Arsenal don't because Arsene Wenger stays loyal to his emerging youngsters, but they have not won a trophy since 2005 and some fans are starting to lose patience with him.

Manchester City have invested in strikers. Carlos Tevez is fantastic and criticism of him not scoring enough goals has melted away. He has to start for City, but I'm baffled by some of the other buys. Edin Dzeko cost £27m and was on the bench after two games. Mario Balotelli is played out of position too, so it is all a little strange.

Liverpool bought well with Luis Suarez - a young yet proven striker who has done well at international level for club and country. They bought quality at a price to replace Torres. Suarez could justify his fee, unlike Andy Carroll, who looks overpriced and has to earn his stripes as a centre forward and justify his record signing.

He didn't set his £35m fee, but now Kenny Dalglish has to decide on his most effective front two, look at the various strengths and weaknesses, and see if he can find that winning formula. Crack it and you win trophies. Fail and it costs a lot of money.