The shrinking pool of quality strikers
At 8.5 million pounds, Loic Remy was clearly too good to be true.
Reasons for the collapse of his move from QPR to Liverpool remain clouded, with Harry Redknapp disputing Liverpool's briefing that a medical had been failed. Whatever the reasons, the collapse of the deal reflects the continuing difficulty of landing quality strikers.
Liverpool are just one of a number of aspirant Premier League clubs casting around. The modern-day demands of playing as a striker, usually as a lone front man, have led to the position becoming ever more demanding and specialised. Strikers must now contribute to overall team play as well as bang in the goals. Pressures on strikers increase year by year while, in turn, the pool of quality candidates is shrinking.
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Remy looked to fit the bill for Liverpool. Luis Suarez is in almost every respect irreplaceable, but it is his goals that Liverpool will undoubtedly miss most. Rickie Lambert, at 32, and not blessed with the pace that took his new club so close to the title, can be expected to play only a supporting role to Daniel Sturridge, on whom a great burden is now placed.
Remy, with similar attributes of pace, ability to hold up the ball, and as a better long-range finisher, might have mirrored Sturridge's contribution to a season in which Liverpool take in the added frontier of Champions League football.
Now, with teenager Divock Origi set to be parked back at Lille for a season, Brendan Rodgers and his transfer committee must recalibrate targets. Swansea's Wilfried Bony is believed to be next on the wanted list, but, as opposed to Remy's budget value, Swans manager Garry Monk says his Ivorian hit man is available only at an "astronomical price."
With Liverpool having already spent the Suarez money on a significant recruitment drive in other departments, a heavy outlay is now required on a striker. There is also the possibility that Liverpool enter the season under-resourced in such a key position.
Rodgers may be left to count the cost of failing to convince Alexis Sanchez that Merseyside is a better place to reside than London or the Home Counties. In landing the Chilean, Arsene Wenger doubled his striking options, when last season it was clear that Olivier Giroud could not lead Arsenal's line all campaign without suffering drops in form and fitness. In making an uncharacteristically swift, opportunistic move in the transfer window, Wenger stole a march on his rivals. Pacy and proven, Sanchez is a forward whom all of them considered buying.
At Chelsea, Jose Mourinho griped all last season about his quality of striking options, landed Diego Costa and then made a retrograde step in welcoming back Didier Drogba. His hand looks significantly strengthened without looking unassailable; Costa is a player who scores in streaks rather than consistently, while Drogba's return to Stamford Bridge last season with Galatasaray suggested a player whose age was showing.
Where Fernando Torres continues to fit in will remain open to interpretation, as must Mourinho's faith in Romelu Lukaku, without whom Everton will struggle to repeat their success of last season. Roberto Martinez may love a loan deal, but it is far harder to recruit quality forwards in that secondary market when the primary now places such a high premium.
Last summer saw Tottenham Hotspur bet a 26 million-pound farm on Roberto Soldado, a striker whose qualities did not fit the strategy that coach Andre Villas-Boas prescribed. During Tim Sherwood's brief but glorious (in his mind) reign, Emmanuel Adebayor was first choice, but now the ill-matched pair is the responsibility of Mauricio Pochettino, a coach who favours a lone front man.
Such strategic concerns also now confront Louis van Gaal at Manchester United.
He can call on strikers the envy of his peers yet must meld them together. David Moyes never found a way in which to make a pairing of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. Then again, neither properly did Sir Alex Ferguson; both have tended to shine while the other's light fades. Meanwhile, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, the supporting cast, have both been unsettled in recent months.
Repeated links to PSG's Edinson Cavani -- a rarity of an elite striker available on the market -- currently make little sense, but the Uruguayan might actually fit Van Gaal's team better than his current star couple.
It will not have escaped the attentions of those contenders that last season's champions, Manchester City, possessed by far the strongest striking weaponry. Now that Suarez has departed, Sergio Aguero can be viewed as the Premier League's prime hit man, with by far the most potent strike rate. Yet last season, City survived the Argentine's long-term absences, thanks to a talent pool leagues deeper than the rest.
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- Horncastle: European transfer grades
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- Macintosh: We worship goals, not balance sheets
At first, Alvaro Negredo took on the baton, only for Edin Dzeko to assume it at the business end, where Stevan Jovetic also made a belated contribution.
"When the team needed him, in crucial moments, he made the difference," said Mourinho of Dzeko. Finding one quality striker is hard enough, locating more to contribute usually proves even more difficult.