Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poachers: An Endangered Species?

I used to hate poachers. I considered them lazy and opportunistic, leaving the lion’s share of the work to their teammates, and taking all of the glory when they scored. But as my knowledge of football increased, they became one of my favorite specialists. Their predatory stalking, their innate sense of where the goal and the keeper were, and their killer instinct made me realize that they are every bit as valuable as any of their teammates. But are they going extinct?

The emphasis today is on “total players,” players who can do it all: handle the ball, create, pass, defend, and score. And while a few players make this look ideal (like Messi with his 5 goals in the Champions League yesterday,) most players struggle to be as great in many areas as they are in a single area. Kind of like jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It is true that having players who are versatile helps the team, and I am not saying that moving in this direction is a bad thing.

Gone are the days when what you did depended on the number you wore on your jersey. And that is probably a good thing. As a general rule, the player who can do everything well is better than the player who specializes in just one thing. But there are two positions for me where I still want the best of the best: goalkeeper and prima punta, or more specifically, poacher.

Would you hire James Bond to hit a simple target? No, you would hire an expert marksman. He would be a better shot, and you don’t need all of those spy skills or an escort service. You want someone to hit the target, plain and simple. For me, every team needs an expert marksman. A hired gun who will only be worried about scoring. Because in the big games, no one will care if he tracked back or helped the other 9 outfield players who are capable of doing the rest. At the end of the day, you need someone who shoots to kill, because the score is the most important thing. And a true poacher is better at scoring than someone who is trying to be good at everything.

In honor of my favorite poacher, please enjoy this video. Meanwhile, I am off to found the Poacher Conservation Foundation. I hear Atalanta share my sentiments.

Our next match is Milan vs. Lecce
Sunday March 11 • 15:00 CET (9am EST)

This post inspired by the music of Filter