Tactics Zone: Pure Goal Poachers Where Are They Now?

Before I start, What is goal poaching? and who are the goal poachers?

“Goal Poachers are the forward players who waits for the right ball inside the penalty area or more often inside the six-yard box. They have extremely good instinct and they do not involve in the game much. But when the right time comes, they score, they only score!”

Typical position of a poacher

In the above pic, ‘P’ is the goal poacher. You can clearly see that all the passes and the build up play is executed by his team mates but most of the final balls are fed to the poacher so that can slot home or head in from the close range.

Late 1990’s and early 2000’s was the golden age of goal poachers. Players like Pippo Inzaghi, Ruud Van Nistlerooy, Crespo, Andy Cole, Alan Shearer and some time even Michael Owen were the master poachers during their time.

I would rate Pippo Inzaghi as the best goal poacher in modern football scoring goals, week in and week out for nearly two decades. Legendary Johan Cruyff once said,

“Inzaghi can’t actually play football but He just always seems to be in the right place in the right time.”

Cruyff was absolutely spot on here. Poachers don’t play football, they don’t need to either.

My second favorite is Ruud Van Nistelrooy. He even used new offside rule to his advantage to stay away from defenders. Let’s have a look at how he actually did that,

Position 1 – stays in offside position Position 2


Situation is something like this, Ruud stays in an offside position and probably pretending to walk slowly to an onside position (Position 1). But then one of his team mate breaks the  the offside trap from a through pass and run with the ball in the wings. Till that moment Ruud will never show any signs of movement, but once the winger gets past him Ruud will run along with him to get a parallel ball from him for an easy finish.

Typical Goal Poacher – Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Those were really the glory days! Now it’s very rare to see any goal poachers in action. Probably they will become completely extinct after another decade. We will look at the reasons behind why the teams now don’t prefer these goals hunters any more.

Negatives of having a Goal Poacher:

The main problem of a team with a goal poacher is that they inevitably find themselves playing all their attacks through him. The poacher himself score lot of goals, but the team end up scoring less goals.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy is a typical example of this. He scored a hatful of goals, but Manchester United as a team were scoring significantly less goals than what they were scoring in pre-Ruud seasons. Manchester United won one league title in five years with Ruud in their squad. That’s less considering their usual winning standards. But after the departure of the goal scoring machine, United improved in a dramatic way to win three league titles in a row.

This even happened to Arsenal last season with Robin Van Persie. RVP is not an exact poacher (I will come to that later). But the point is Arsenal even forgot their usual beautiful free flowing football last season. In most of the games, all they did was to find or create space for RVP to weave his magic. As an Arsenal fan myself, I have to admit that technically last season was one of the worst since Wenger Era.

These are the some of the reasons why teams don’t prefer to have a goal poacher in their team.

Future of Goal Poachers:

Will this rare breed of players become extinct in near future? I don’t think so – not completely. Now a days, every team wants fast, skilful forwards or tall, physical strikers who can hold the ball well. Football is evolving. The poacher’s genes will get mixed up and new species of striker will be produced. They already have a name- “Hybrid strikers” or ” Number 9.5″. This number 9.5 player is neither a classic no 10 nor a false 9. Number 9.5 = Goal poacher + No 10 + false 9.

RVP – The number 9.5

Typical example is Robin Van Persie himself. He has the play making abilities of a classic no 10, he also track back to help the midfielders like a false 9 to confuse the man marking system of the opponent defenders and he also has the poacher’s ability to steal goals by showing a good movement in the final third. This is the future.

I would like to conclude this article by mentioning some the few rare goal poachers still left in today’s game,

  1. Mario Gomez
  2. Huntelaar
  3. Chicharito

Want to share your views on the article? Post your opinions below!

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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