Football used to be a lot simpler. The ball would be lumped up to the big centre forward, who would knock it down to the little one, who would duly score and send the fans into raptures, singing the names of the front two.
Tiki-taka and gegenpressing has changed the outlook of football since those simpler times, as most managers have moved away from playing two strikers, let alone a burly centre forward alongside a quick one.
The improvement in defending at the top level have partially led to these partnerships to die out. Centre-backs aren’t just brain dead heading machines anymore, they are both strong and quick, as well as good on the ball. To get past the best defenders, the best strikers usually have to be able to do a bit of everything.
But that is not always the case, and there is still a place for big-man-little-man partnerships to flourish, and one team showing this is struggling Sunderland.
The Black Cats failed to win any of their first ten games of the season, but since bringing in Victor Anichebe, they have won twice in a row, scoring five times in two matches.
Admittedly, he is not quite in a partnership with Jermain Defoe, who plays slightly to one side of Anichebe with Duncan Watmore on the other, but it is a close as you’ll get to Owen and Heskey in the modern day Premier League, and it is working a treat.
Sunderland had scored just seven goals in their first ten games, virtually all of which were down to the predatory instincts of Defoe, but these have been allowed to shine much more now Anichebe is in the side.
The former Everton man not only distracts defenders away from Defoe with his huge presence, but he also takes a lot of the burden of holding the ball up away from the ex-England striker. Before, Defoe was having to try and play with his back to goal, which is not his strength, now he can concentrate on scoring goals.
Anichebe wasn’t directly involved in Defoe’s excellent first goal, which took him to 150 in his Premier League career, and nor was Defoe involved in either of Anichebe’s, but their link-up throughout the game was excellent and caused Hull City a number of issues.
The game may have changed, but there is still a place for good, simple football and Anichebe and Defoe typify that perfectly. If they can keep firing, and do so against bigger sides, Sunderland still have every chance of staying up.