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We need to talk about Peter Crouch. September 25, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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Little-known fact: before Peter Crouch was a soccer player, he fought crime.

We need to talk about Peter Crouch. People are in denial about the man. They think he can’t head the ball.

That idea is a myth. This has been proven. People who believe the myth are acting like philistines and cynics.

Face it: Peter Crouch is an excellent header of the ball. Don’t let the fact that he’s funny looking fool you.

That’s why Stoke City is the right club for him. This team is full of superb bulldozer forwards, all of whom are excellent in the air. Crouch is different. He is the world’s weakest target man, but somehow that is to his advantage. The problem he presents is too freakish to get one’s head around, much less solve. What he lacks in brawn, he makes up for in suppleness.

Tottenham Hotspur was not a team that played to his strengths. Oh sure, there were crosses aplenty, but it was a team built around short, quick passes and quick development of moves. Vertical football does not mean vertical footballers. At Stoke, on the other hand, Crouch will get the kinds of balls he needs to thrive and, unlike at Spurs, he won’t get left behind by moves.

The idea of a partnership with one of Stoke’s other unconventional strikers is also appetizing. Kenwyne Jones is maybe the league’s rawest footballer, combining animal brawn and explosive speed with unpredictable lightning-bolts of technique; even he doesn’t always appear to know how his immense gifts will manifest themselves next. Jon Walters is a member of a dying breed clubs have forgotten how to defend, a true second-striker, a late arriver with a uniquely opportunistic brand of creativity, but also possessed of the physique requisite to Stoke players.

Other teams should be wary.

Additional snapthoughts: We think of finishers as darty eyed pickpockets tolerated because their nose for goal trumps their lack of actual skill, but Robin van Persie demonstrated with his second for Arsenal that sublime creativity and technique are also required of a top-class finisher. All the people who said Newcastle didn’t sign a decent striker over the summer made me wonder who went and decided Demba Ba is crap. David Wheater used to be decent. I don’t understand why Sir Alex Ferguson picked Antonio Valencia over Fabio at right-back, considering the latter is actually a fullback. Maybe Fernando Torres is a classy finisher, but Didier Drogba is a classier one. Andre Villas Boas has the best English I’ve ever heard from a non-native, non-Dutch football man.

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