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  • Jacob Sweetman: Striking difficulties


Jacob Sweetman: Striking difficulties

I have argued before about the Chinaglia principle – ergo to be a truly great goal scorer one must have a bit of the bastard about oneself. Karim Benyamina is no shrinking violet, but he is struggling for goals at FC Union Berlin. We wonder why.

This was published on Wednesday morning, mere hours before 1.FC Union announced that they will parting ways with their top scorer in the summer. Bugger.

I have argued before about the Chinaglia principle – ergo to be a truly great goal scorer one must have a bit of the bastard about oneself. Giorgio Chinaglia was a world class bastard, and a world class goal scorer. This was not a coincidence.

The self-belief comes hand in glove with the arrogance (if Dynamo fans can reference the Smiths…). To always be in the right place at the right time and to demand the ball is key. Chinaglia did this with unerring ease. He was the only man ever to bawl out Pele for not spending enough time on the wing getting the ball into the right position for him to score.

Bear with me, this is going somewhere. I first suggested that John Jairo Mosquera could use a bit more of the bastard about him, but he has now received his new contract, and can return to the 1.FC Union squad on Sunday, after a suspension, with the renewed self-belief bestowed upon him by Uwe Neuhaus. The boss who has stuck by him continuously.

Karim Benyamina – the clubs’ all-time top scorer – on the other hand couldn‘t buy a place in the side since early on this season.

Apparently this is because he was deemed not to be trying hard enough in training since his first international call up for Algeria, but he is also a victim of the way that strikers’ roles have changed in football. Jonathan Wilson argues in his fantastic book Inverting the Pyramid that the little nippy goal scorer’s days are numbered, and have been since the death of Michael Owen (albeit a very well remunerated death).

New tactics and defensive proficiency have rendered the little striker as useful as a pair of tits on a bulldog. He, nowadays, is thought of having to do so much more than just being there. But poor old Karim, when he has appeared since Christmas it has mostly been stuck out on the right where he struggles to get the ball down in front of him so he can have a real go at the defence.

As he finally made it back to the starting line-up against Rot Weiss Oberhausen on Sunday was it the lack of first team action that caused him to miss, what would normally for him be, a standard headed chance, or was it the missing of such chances in training that have caused him to be left out of the team in the first place? It’s chickens and eggs.

His contract is over in the summer and it is very possible that the club are angling for a new striker. Mosquera has signed on for another two years and Santi Kolk and Halil Savran still have their contracts to run. That leaves Benyamina, whose last was hard fought and reflecting of his status as the number one striker in the club. That he is not any more obviously changes his scope for negotiation.

So what kind of player would Neuhaus want to replace him with? Kolk is a gifted footballer of a different kind to Benyamina, somehow easier dropping deep in search of the ball. Savran has impressed with his diligence and his tireless, selfless running. But the kind of striker scoring in the second division tends to be of the Nils Peterson or Michael Thurk variety. Big and strong yet mobile. Basically, in a word, like Mosquera or Savran. But with more goals.

So the classic “big man, little man” partnership could presumably still be on the agenda. The amount of chances created from crosses at the Alte Försterei is still at a minimum, so two big men would not necessarily work out.

Before we get bogged down in this too much we should also remember that Stephan Guivarch goes home every night to snuggle up to his World Cup winners’ medal, so although actually being any good at football can be a bonus, it is not always necessary for a striker. We live in a strange world where Andy Carroll costs more than David Villa and Pippo Inzaghi is still scoring despite not knowing the offside rule. There is always hope for Benyamina yet.