A talk with Grant Needham ex-Montreal Impact and CJAD 800 Analyst: The Wenger Identity

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Grant Needham draws a blue print of what strikers are supposed to do to be successful and what Andrew Wenger needs to do to get to the next level.

Grant Needham is what I call an Original Gangsta. One of the members of CJAD 800's Soccer Gang Of 4, the radio soccer analyst was also a striker, one of the original members of the 1993 Montreal Impact. Having played 5 years with the Impact, the no non-sense analyst talks goal scoring, striker and Andrew Wenger.

Sofiane: Grant, what are the core characteristics of a striker?

Grant:

Do you notice that the best in the world seem to have that little "extra" whenever they get in the box? That is because they do. Strikers, more than any other players, realize that the last time they touch the ball must be their best. It is for the ultimate glory : scoring a goal!

Sofiane: Talking of box presence, is a straight line the most efficient way to get there?

Grant:

Goal scorers conserve energy by not making runs out of positions, that ultimately does not get them into goal scoring situations. You will always notice as well that when a striker gets the ball in his own half, he is always looking to give it to another player. But when they are within the attacking third, they are always looking for goal.

This is because strikers do not want to give defenders opportunities to tackle them in non-dangerous areas. Taking a hard foul in the attacking third is part of the striker mentality because ..... it is in a goal scoring position.

Sofiane : Having said all this, the Montreal lmpact switched to a 2-striker formation. How do you evaluate up it until now?

Grant:

If we do the Andrew Wenger vs Marco Di Vaio comparison,

Di Vaio - He is the master of playing on the defenders' shoulder. He becomes frustrating because he gets caught offside a lot. For a predator like him, the more aggressive he is, the more effective it is. He will always walk that thin line between the offside trap, a scoring chance and a goal.

He gets caught offside 7 to 10 times per game. But the 3 times he is not, he scores 2 goals and that works for me!

Di Vaio does not work super hard defensively. He channels the defenders to one or the other side but rarely do you see him actually challenge someone: Pressure? Yes . Tackle? Rarely.

Wenger - He is a work horse but he makes a few ill advised runs into wide positions. As a striker, your job is to score and not be the one passing the ball. I had a coach that told me

As a striker I don't pay you to pass the ball I pay you to score! That is your job.

Wenger works so hard all the time that he forgets the golden rule for strikers: Your last touch has to be the best. He does not save up that little extra that you see Di Vaio have in front of net.

At this point because the Montreal Impact is getting great productivity from Di Vaio, Andrew Wenger goal totals do not affect the club as much...yet.

He needs to be sharper and "smarter" with better quality runs: smarter runs, better timed runs. That will be key for him to become that great secondary scorer. Most importantly he needs to put himself in dangerous areas and leave the other areas for other teammates, who are better suited to perform those tasks.

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