Saturday’s clinical dissection of a sorry Sunderland side was a classic example of a myth buster which I’m fully signed up to.
The myth in question? That in order for a club to survive and prosper in the cruel world of the Premier League it needs a striker who can get 15-20 goals a season.
It’s a myth which has been doing the rounds over the summer and which reached an online crescendo when Lewis Grabban missed that early doors sitter against Palace.
“A nailed-on consistent 15-20 goal-man of Premier-league experience,” is what the bloggers and tweeters demanded. Funnily enough, no names which really fitted the bill were offered.
Glenn Murray and Dwight Gayle seem to keep popping up on the yellow and green radar. Capable enough, but hardly 15-20 men. Who knows, by the time this gets to print a deal may have been done with one of them.
A cluster of exotic-sounding overseas players from afar are continually suggested by twitchy fans.
Big gamble and not fitting the exacting criteria of above in any way.
Remember how terribly excited we all got when a Ricky van Wolfswinkel came to our fine city? Whoever you choose to blame for his failure, he’s never a 15-20 man at this level.
What happened at the Stadium of Light was a comfortable win that could have been by a larger margin and no strikers were on target. The ‘long suffering’ folk of the north-east found the exit gates faster than a dose of salts.
Cameron Jerome by all accounts was outstanding in stretching the Black Cats’ centre-halves this way and that almost at will, while linking play with the midfield and creating space for even our much-maligned defenders to get forward and contribute two goals; the first from the back four under the mercurial reign of Alex Neil.
Great performance from big Cam but no goals and not even an effort on goal as far as I remember. But it didn’t matter.
The best form of defence was certainly offence and long may it continue. It worked under Paul Lambert with some great away-day results, while Chris Hughton paid for his adherence to the over-cautious alternative. He’s doing a good job in the Championship though.
With a fluid, dynamic team allowing midfield and defence to get in the box and contribute goals throughout the season, we could comfortably finish mid-table without Jerome, Grabban or Gary Hooper breaking that rather arbitrary 15 goal target.
With a top scorer of 10-12 goals and four or five others chipping in half a dozen or so plus a few from the back and you have 40+ goals – generally plenty enough for a good finishing position.
West Brom comfortably finished 13th last season and only found the net 38 times.
Palace scored 47 goals and finished 10th with the aforementioned Glenn Murray their top scorer on just 7 goals. Stoke were 9th with a top scorer on 11.
Boom goes that myth surely?
In 2013/14, Palace finished 11th and only troubled the scoreboard 33 times. Their top scorer, one Dwight Gayle, scored just 7 times.
Clearly, the goals-shared hypothesis depends greatly on a tight-ish defence in order for the goal difference to not sink to unmanageable proportions.
Much criticism has been directed at centre-half and right-back over the months, despite the fact that we conceded fewer goals than anyone last season (including the notoriously frugal Middlesbrough) once Alex Neil got his hands on the squad.
Mistakes were made in the curtain raiser against Palace, but I’m confident that the current back four can cut the proverbial mustard against most opposition we’ll come up against.
Aguero or Sanchez will no doubt be a different can of worms, but then even the much heralded back-fours of Chelsea and Palace back struggled against such £30million plus of quality. Thankfully, Senor Suarez who seemed to take particular offence to our defence is plying his trade elsewhere.
A fully fit Jerome is capable of double figures. Grabban or Hooper more than capable of half a dozen. Nathan Redmond, Jonny Howson, Graham Dorrans, Youssouf Mulumbu, Wes and Bradley are all capable of chipping in with four or five. And the defence will surely add to their Wearside tally with the positive frame of mind instilled by the boss.
There may be one or two new faces in the squad come 1st September, but the current crop have the ability, know-how and goal threat to get us to the middle of the table and stay there.
And that’ll do me nicely.