Every football coach used the 4-4-2 formation in the 80s and 90s - from Arsene Wenger to Sir Alex Ferguson and Ottmar Hitzfeld. Although easy and flexible, 4-4-2 requires two outstanding strikers constantly switching positions.
Here are Europe's top five strike partnerships during the late 90’s and early 2000’s that made the 4-4-2 an effective strategy:
Dwight Yorke/Andy Cole.
Andy Cole’s Manchester United career started slowly. Brought in as a January transfer in 1995 from Newcastle, he never reached top gear in his first season, but the retirement of Eric Cantona in the 1997/98 season gave Cole more playing time and his form improved dramatically. Dwight Yorke was brought to Old Trafford in 1998 to compliment Cole at the head of the United attack.
The partnership blossomed, assisted by the creativity of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, and Ryan Giggs. They formed a telepathic understanding to devastating effect. Although Cole found some success in his partnership with Teddy Sheringham, it was his combination with Yorke that will be remembered most.
Raul Gonzalez/Fernando Morientes.
While Raul provided the perfect left-foot finish, Morientes provided something different – his aerial ability and deft finishing was the perfect compliment to Raul's guile and agility. Spearheading the Real Madrid attack, they were particularly impressive in Madrid's successful Champions League campaigns. Morientes later went to Monaco on loan during the 2004-04 season while Raul stayed and became a Madrid legend.
Thierry Henry/Dennis Bergkamp.
This is a combination of speed and sheer genius. While Bergkamp was busy pulling the strings, Henry was waiting to provide the killer instinct. Bergkamp was skillful and sleek, Henry was direct and accurate. Thierry Henry went on to terrorise premier league defences with his goal scoring prowess. Guided by confidant and mentor, Arsene Wenger, Henry became the Premier League's highest goalscorer in four consecutive seasons from 2001-2005.
Kevin Philips/Niall Quinn
A case of David and Goliath teaming up. Niall Quinn bullied defenders with his physicality while Philips applied the finishing touches. Many teams underestimated them at their peril. I doubt Sunderland will see such an effective strike force in the near future. Kevin Philips was the highest goal scorer in the 1999-2000 Premier League season, scoring 30 league goals.
Carsten Jancker/Giovane Elber/Paulo Sergio.
These three were legendary for Bayer Leverkusen. Despite Carsten Jancker’s huge physique, he never had the aerial ability expected, but he held up play with great control of the ball and brought his fellow strike partner, Giovane Elber into the game. Elber has quick feet and has great finishing. Later on Elber partnered Paulo Sergio for three seasons – during those years Bayer played a quick counter-attacking football. They were unstoppable.
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