Over the course of two decades the Premier League has developed into one of the most exciting leagues in the world.
The Premier League today is known for its fast paced and physical nature employed by a number of teams plying their trades in England’s top division
The English game has not always been this way; it has evolved in many numerous ways into the exhilarating, thrill-a-minute game that we see today. The game today is not only played on the football field but on a tactical front as well as in the psyches of the players and managers.
The game today has changed a lot since back when the Premier League began in the early 90s primarily due to the change in international rules regarding acceptable tackling regulations. Gone are the days when a harsh and enthusiastic tackle would go unpunished and was appreciated by the supporters; stricter rules regarding tackling have ensured the players today are well protected and have allowed the technically gifted players to flourish.
Another reason behind the evolution of the Premier League’s game play is the tactical shift from the 4-4-2 formation to the 4-5-1 or the 4-4-1-1 formations which allow the strikers to play a more involved role for their sides where they can contribute with both creating and scoring goals. This necessary evolution of the striker can also be attributed to the goal scoring abilities of the modern day midfielders and defenders.
The modern day Premier League striker is no longer just the target man who can hold up the ball while leading the line as a lone striker or a striker that can come alive in the six yard box and ‘poach’ goals but a more complete forward who can not only act as the focal point for an attack but can also drop deep into midfield, receive the ball and take it into the opposition half.
Players like Michael Owen and West Ham United’s Andy Carroll flourish on knockdowns or flick-ons but have struggled to make an impact on the game. Newly promoted teams sometimes still employ the target man tactic but as some of Europe’s elite have evolved their styles of play so have the Premier League giants like Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool.
The imminent retirement of Michael Owen at the end of the season will draw another chapter of the Premier League’s history to a close, as one of the best goal poachers the game has seen hangs up his boots.
It can be said that the days of the ‘poaching striker’ or ‘poacher’ are coming to an end. The modern game of the Premier League has out grown target men or poachers such as Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Alan Shearer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Andy Cole.
They have made way for more fast paced technical players like Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero who tend to not only contribute with the goal scoring aspect of the team but also track back to help out in defence and in setting up chances for other teammates - Manchester United’s Robin van Persie is a fine example of this type of player.
Although players like Aston Villa’s Darren Bent and Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez still do play somewhat like the traditional poacher they too have had to evolve and adapt to a style of play that suits the tactical formations of their respective teams.
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