Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poachers Conservation Foundation: Save the Poachers

Last year, I wrote about an endangered species: The Poacher. It’s too late to save Pippo’s poaching career, we can only hope that he is now instilling his incredible desire for goalscoring into the next generation. But it’s hard to know if he can pass on that which seems more innate than learned. Still, there are other poachers now who need your help. In this world of “Modern Football,” the poacher is becoming extinct. You can help save our poachers now.

This weekend’s doppietta by Pazzini demonstrated the usefulness and even the necessity of a poacher. With two very “complete” modern strikers in El Shaarawy and Balotelli, as well as a mezz’ala-who-has-been-made-to-think-he-is-a-striker in Boateng up front, the only goal in the first 70+ minutes came from a very determined midfielder in Flamini, apparently under the spell of Galliani's blessing.

Then Allegri subs in the poacher, and BAM! Two goals in three minutes. Why did Pazzini succeed where our “modern footballers” couldn’t? I think Pete Acquaviva summed it up best in his Milan v Catania Post-Match Comments:

“The ball bouncing around the box and lots of shots are occurring. None of them go in. What’s the solution? It used to be Pippo Inzaghi, the fox in the box, and now it seems to be Giampaolo Pazzini, who worked excellently playing off Mario Balotelli, turning in shots and picking up rebounds. Pazzini said he wanted to play with Balotelli, and today was a great example of why.”

Why, indeed. It only took three minutes for a poacher to do what the other 10 outfield players, 87+ minutes, and 36 other shots couldn't. What if we didn't have him? Could we have won that game?

Those snake eyes signify another kill for Pazzini

As I mentioned last year, I used to hate poachers. But the more I learned about the beautiful game, the more I came to value them. The myth that there is no more room for them in the modern game is consistently proven wrong by this dying breed. This season, Giampaolo Pazzini has quietly yet efficiently accumulated 15 goals in the league, proving that poachers still are necessary in this game. Ironically, he also has 15 starts, even if he also has been subbed on 11 times. He also has one of the better shot to goal ratios on the team, with 15 goals and 50 shots. Balotelli, for example, has 8 goals and 53 shots, even if he has done that in fewer appearances.

If you could choose only one player, would you pick a “complete” player like Balotelli? Or a poacher like Pazzini? Of course, in that scenario, Balotelli is a better option for the money. But it doesn’t make Pazzini obsolete. In fact, the best striker pairing would be to put a player with El Shaarawy’s or Balotelli’s abilities with a player like Pazzini. It should never be either/or. It should be both. Poachers are like skilled marksmen, "complete strikers" are good at shooting and a bunch of other things, too, but not as deadly in the box. And if it’s goals you need, then you need a poacher.

The last hunt for one of the most famous poachers ever to play the game

Don’t discount their killer instinct for goal, nor their ability to put the ball in the back of the net when no one else can. Milan’s success has often been owed to the predatorial exploits of poachers. From the great Gunnar Nordahl, to the incomparable Pippo Inzaghi, to the oft maligned Huntelaar, to the much injured but still scoring Pato, and now the oft underrated Giampaolo Pazzini. He certainly saved the day for us on Sunday, and I’m sure he will again, if he continues to get playing time. Imagine where we would be in the table without his 15 goals?

The modern game absolutely has room for poachers, and I believe it always will. Just because the 18 yard box is almost exclusively their territory doesn’t make them less important than players who run more. After all, it is their goals that bring glory to everything else that everyone else does, their goals that change it from zero or one point to all three. Essentially, more often than not, they are the game winners, even if they need the rest of the team to help them score. If you discount their unique contributions and write them off, they will become extinct. But so will a goodly piece of beauty in the beautiful game. Save the poachers now. And save the beautiful game.

This post inspired by the music of Front 242’s “Headhunter”

Our next match is
Milan vs. Torino
Sunday, May 5 • 15:00 CEST (9am EDT)