Chris Goreham: How many 20-goals-a-season strikers are there around in the Championship?
PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:04 17 April 2018
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Norwich City's struggles in front of goal continued against Cardiff at the weekend.
Any signs of promise during this most middling of Canary campaigns have been undermined by a lack of firepower.
Many fans have pointed to the lack of a 20-goals-a-season striker as the main reason that 12th place is the best the club can now manage.
It sounds a fairly simple problem to correct. Just find an old fashioned forward with the happy knack of scoring 20 times in a league season and hey presto, up the Football League we go. It’s the yardstick by which striking success is measured.
Any attacker hitting that milestone is regarded as having had a good year.
It’s a breed that is rarer than you might think. The truth is that the entire Championship is currently searching for a striker with that return. With less than a handful of games to go no-one in the division has yet hit the magic 20.
In fact Norwich City’s top scorer James Maddison’s return of 14 league goals has only been bettered by five players in the division.
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Derby’s Matej Vydra has 19, Bobby Reid of Bristol City has 18 (seven of which came before the end of September), the same number as Sheffield United’s Leon Clarke. Ex-Canary Lewis Grabban has scored 17 goals in the Championship this season for Aston Villa and Sunderland with Wolves’ Diogo Jota on 16. Then there is a clutch of players level with Maddison on 14.
The first thing that strikes me about that list is that only two, Clarke and Grabban, can really be considered as out-and-out strikers.
The others are dynamic attackers who benefit from having somebody else to play off.
It says something about how the role of the striker has changed in recent years. As recently as 2013/14 no fewer than eight different players scored 20 goals in the Championship.
The current tactical trend for one up front, employed by most teams in the division including the Canaries, means that the lone ‘number 9’ must do more than hang around near the goal and be a penalty box poacher.
Nelson Oliveira and Dennis Srbeny, the two players vying for that role under Daniel Farke at the moment, are supposed to bring young, thrusting, nimble attacking midfielders like Maddison and Josh Murphy into the game as well as weigh-in with a decent return of their own.
It’s a difficult task, of that there is no doubt.
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Farke and Stuart Webber talked from the very start of the season about wanting only two senior options for that position.
The school of thought being that trying to accommodate three strikers of equal rank would be harmful for team spirit with only one place in the team up for grabs.
Kyle Lafferty’s miserly total of 11 league starts in three seasons with Norwich City backs up that argument.
For that policy to work you need the right two strikers, a duo who can really be relied upon on, to share that role.
Whether Farke has that at the moment is a big question that needs addressing over the summer.
There have been concerns about Oliveira’s attitude, despite his obvious talent, since the very first day of the season while Srbeny has still to convince that a rise from the German third tier to the English Championship isn’t too steep a learning curve.
Strikers that can do their bit for their talented team mates and still hit the back of the net 20 times quickly become hot and expensive property. Last season four players proved themselves as prolific Championship goal scorers and all of them, Chris Wood, Tammy Abraham, Glenn Murray and Dwight Gayle played in the Premier League at the weekend.
Proven Championship goalscorers are so precious they tend not to stay in the division for long.