By Ben Lynch  

In the last 5-10 years, many football fans and pundits felt that the game had outgrown the so-called ‘Target Man’. For many managers that was the case with Pep Guardiola winning multiple Premier League titles and other major titles, even at Barcelona in fact – where his team won the Double twice in both 2009 and 2011 without a recognised striker. It felt like the days of Chris Sutton’s, Alan Shearer’s and Niall Quinn’s were over.  
In recent years, teams’ such as Burnley were lambasted for their approach with Chris Wood upfront. However, in the last two years – managers that play a high-pressing style of football have purchased ‘target men’ in the window. This season alone has seen the signings of Erling Haaland to Manchester City and Darwin Nunez to Liverpool and now Erik ten Hag’s signing of Wout Weghorst from Burnley.  
It seems managers have found a need to have a striker that is good in the air, can hold up the ball and link-up play, all while being able to score goals at the highest level. But why have managers started to buy players with these abilities?  
Well in my opinion, teams of less quality are more prone to low blocks in defence – which is very effective against teams that are better than you. A low block helps a team to suppress the opposition, cutting off passing lanes through the thirds of the pitch.  
A target man in modern football can be present in the box and can also link up with his team-mates. Teams like Manchester City will eventually break down a low block, as they keep the ball moving – stretching the opposition, creating halfspaces. A striker without the quality to link-up play will essentially be marked out of the game against a low-block.  
For this reason, I expect the ‘Target Man’ to become somewhat of a trend in world football in the next couple of years as teams continue playing high-pressing styles. It is something to look at as we continue to watch football in the next few years.

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