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Peter "No Slouch" Crouch: What Should Capello Do With This Guy?

Sports News - March 04, 2010

Another England match, another goal for Peter Crouch. Sure, the one against Mexico yesterday was hardly artful, in fact, it was illegal on two fronts: handball and offside.

But to speak of that Mexican injustice misses the point. Peter Crouch somehow, someway finds the back of the net for England at an astonishing, befuddling, flabbergasting, headscratching, have-to-rub-your-eyes-twice-when-you-read-the-numbers-to-make-sure-your-vision-hasn’t-failed-you… rate: 21 goals in just 38 matches, and 17 in the 18 he’s started. Perplexing to say the least.

One of the most dimensionally-awkward players in the history of the sport, Crouch, on paper, should seemingly be a role player, one where when you’re pumping the ball in the box late in a game you’re losing, he can ruffle a few defenders and even grab the odd goal.

But that is not Peter Crouch. In his finest moments, Crouch is an outstanding center-forward. Yet, he is not simply a CF for which you simply whip crosses in and let him tower over defenders to pluck easy goals. In fact, his heading accuracy and power is lamentably below-average, particularly for a man of his enormous stature. Oddly enough, it is his feet that are his best attribute.

For the beanpole that he is (just being realistic here, people), you would never expect Crouch to have a deft first touch. But his touch is remarkably efficient, as his long frame disguises the distance at which the ball bounces off his foot, for he can quickly get a second touch on it due to his long legs. This ability allows him to be quite good at holding up play for fellow players to join the attack, and with the array of attacking talent at England’s disposal, such abilities from the man playing with Wayne Rooney up front could prove vital in South Africa.

That ability to drop deep could, of course, cause problems because Rooney likes to do the same, but with Crouch, England have a striker whom they can pump the ball long towards and cause defenders problems with his height (see Mexico), or another option to play the short ball while he is stationed deep, allowing Rooney to play higher to run onto passes from Gerrard or Lampard.

And Rooney can, frankly, play up top with anyone, as he is England’s most positionally-intelligent player.  He can adapt to any striker he plays with, so fear not. Crouch simply provides more options for England (this without even mentioning the havoc he can wreak on set plays, particularly for teams lacking height).

The question for Capello is: what do you want that second CF to do? Because, sure, Emile Heskey can serve you as more of a battering ram, and can allow Rooney to impose himself on the match, but his hold-up play is a step below Crouch’s, and don’t even get started on actually putting the ball in the back of the net. The game is, and the World Cup this summer will be, determined by goals. And Crouch is simply on fire for his country in that department. So the question begs: a) Heskey, whom “Rooney plays better with?” Or b) a man that actually scores goals?

For England, Crouch has become a proficient finisher. Something about the international stage brings out the best in his scoring abilities, because at club level his numbers are quite pedestrian. In Liverpool’s 2006-07 run to the Champions League final, Crouch finished second to only Kaka (2007 world player of the year) in goals scored. Underscoring his surprising technical ability was his absolute stunner of a goal against Galatasary in the group stages that season. One of the great goals of the past decade:

There is something to these startling international statistics. In World Cup 2006, England won their first two matches with Crouch in the lineup alongside Michael Owen, scoring in the win over Trinidad and Tobago. In game three of the group phase, Rooney returned against Sweden, relegating Crouch to the bench. Crouch did not start again in the tournament as Sven-Goran Eriksson utilized Rooney as a lone striker to little effect.

Perhaps the reason Crouch excels in international settings is due to unfamiliarity. In England, clubs understand his abilities and his limits, they see him year in and year out. While there can be no doubt that the United States, Algeria and Slovenia will attempt to simulate defending Crouch in training (in the chance that he actually sees the field in SA), there is simply no player with his ridiculous height on the world stage, and simulation will prove fruitless because few players have his odd skill set. His 18 goals in 40 European appearances over the past 5 seasons, and his 21 goals in 38 England appearances prove that Europe and the rest of the world have found little success in stopping Crouch.

Even though soccer is hardly a game of statistics, another adage holds just as true: stats don’t lie. Peter Crouch scores goals for England, and it would be naive to see this stopping any time soon. He is a handful for defenses that don’t understand his unique game, and he gives England their best scoring option alongside their talisman Wayne Rooney. His record speaks for itself, and he deserves to start in South Africa.

What do you think? Leave comments below about your thoughts on the phenomenon that is Peter Crouch.

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  1. Johnny Storm

    May 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Oh, and playing Crouch against teams with height deficiencies at the back is not because he is a great header of the ball but because high balls played in to him cause panic in the opposition and draws defenders in to him. This creates space for Rooney to run into and has been a winner for England in the past.

  2. Johnny Storm

    May 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I like Crouchie a lot and I know his awkward-looking style doesn’t endear him to the purists.
    But let’s be honest about this; his link play is questionable, he is prone to giving the ball away in good positions, he rarely provides for other players and all too often tries running with the ball as if he thinks he’s Steve McManaman.
    I’m sorry but he’s an impact player, for me. Bent or DeFoe are more natural goal scorers and have more to offer the rest of the team. Crouch must go to SA but I would only start him against a team with known height deficiencies at the back.
    He’s literally another dimension but for the sake of the style and agenda of the whole team I don’t know if I like the idea of guaranteeing a starting place.

    • ranndino

      May 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm

      I disagree. I think that bringing other players into the game and passing are actually his strong suites for which he does not get enough credit. If anything, heading is not his strong suit. In fact, if he could get that sorted out he’d be unstoppable in front of goal.

      • Johnny Storm

        May 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm

        Sorry mate, Crouch can’t cross the ball, I’ve never seen a lethal through-ball from him and he’s not enough of a one-touch player to properly lay the ball off.
        His passing range is pretty good and he’s decent with the ball at his feet but he relies on players showing for him in order to keep the flow of play going. When he gets caught on his own he has a tendency to try to be too clever and loses the ball.

        I like him as a player and would have him in the squad every time but a proper defender with a bit of strength and positional awareness can put Crouch in his pocket.
        Against a team like Italy or Germany I’d either play someone with better movement like Defoe or someone with genuine strength like Heskey. I guess Bent is the happy medium between Defoe and Heskey but it’ll depend how he gets on in the friendly with Japan as to whether he even gets in the squad. 50-50 I’d say.

  3. Bobby

    May 27, 2010 at 1:13 am

    I’m probably the biggest Crouch apologist in the world aside from his family. I’ve backed him to play for England since he was at Southampton scoring goals with a very modest supporting cast.

    He’s a fantastic player, a gift, really. A gift some people in England still seem unwilling to accept. Here you have a player of Premiership talent that works extremely hard and every time he’s given a chance with England he makes the most of it. People always point to the teams he scores against and say “these are terrible teams” without mentioning that he can only score when he’s on the pitch.

    He’s a special, special player. And a decent human being to boot.

  4. Brit-Ball

    May 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    There are loads of valid arguments for each of the strikers. However, the simple truth is England without Rooney has NO HOPE of coming anywhere close to challenging for the World Cup. So logic suggests that you pick a formation to maximise Rooney’s potency. Heskey doesn’t score anywhere near the same amount of goals as the other contenders but his selfless working for the team is what sets him apart. His job is to take take at least 2 defenders out of the game. Don’t forget that Lampard and Gerrard, are prolific scoring midfielders and Heskey allows them to push forward. Therefore the individual goal tally of the 2nd forward is not as crucial as the team’s ability to score more against the opposition. A striker willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team? That is Rooney’s ideal partner.

  5. Scott Alexander

    May 26, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Maybe it would be helpful to state where, against whom, and in what context Crouch has scored his goals. Here is a start, draw conclusions accordingly….

    March 2006 Uruguay (H) 2-1 Friendly 1
    May 2006 Hungary (H) 3-1 Friendly 1
    June 2006 Jamaica (H) 6-0 Friendly 3
    June 2006 Trinidad & Tobago (Ger) 2-0 WC 1
    August 2006 Greece (H) 4-0 Friendly 2
    Sept 2006 Andorra (H) 5-0 Euro2008Q 2
    Sept 2006 Macedonia (A) 1-0 Euro2008Q 1
    June 2007 Estonia (A) 3-0 Euro2008Q 1
    November 2007 Austria (A) 1-0 Friendly 1
    November 2007 Croatia (H) 2-3 Euro2008Q 1
    April 2009 Ukraine (H) 2-1 WC2010Q 1
    June 2009 Andorra (H) 6-0 WC2010Q 1
    October 2009 Belarus (H) 3-0 WC2010Q 2
    March 2010 Egypt (H) 3-1 Friendly 2
    May 2010 Mexico (H) 3-1 Friendly 1

    • ovalball

      May 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Interesting. Now, if you’ve got nothing better to do……

      Who were the other scorers in those matches?

  6. Patrick Dresslar

    May 26, 2010 at 9:29 am

    After even more reflection, Crouch simply HAS to start. Just look at the Mexico match. England were far outplayed in the first half but were up 2-0, and who was key in both goals? Crouch.

    Winning the header to set up King and then bundling Rooney’s header home after a scramble. So even in moments where England are supremely outpassed and outclassed, Crouch provides the goal threat that can win games where they are not at their best. He is a must-have.

  7. ovalball

    May 26, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Well, I’m a Peter Crouch fan, so this is hardly unbiased, but if the crux of England’s WC plan is “ball to Heskey…Heskey to Rooney…Rooney to net”, they might as well not even pack their bags.

    I think Crouch just offers so much more, but will concede you have to go with what works. My question is just how often has “Heskey-to-Rooney-to-net” worked? Do they really work so well together or is that just another piece of conventional wisdom?

  8. Villa

    May 26, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Unbelievable! Look, I’m a villa fan and not an Emile Donkey fan. However I am a Barren Bent fan. Emile H didn’t get the nickname Donkey by the English press for no reason last time around….people forget so easily. How can Bent not be given the chance ahead of a guy who can’t even get into his club team never mind the national squad. Bent – 24 Premiership goals. Can someone not see the obvious problem here?

    • David Jackson

      May 26, 2010 at 9:03 am

      Bent has an appalling record for England whereas Crouch has a fantastic one – he still scores against good teams – Mexico on Monday! So let us stop wasting our time and accept the fact Crouch is the best fo Rooney. No question about that in spite of his awkwardness and whatever you have in mind. He is EFFECTIVE! One cannot say the same about that sad donkey HESKEY who will definitely be one of the seven to miss the plane. Unless Capello decides otherwise – perhaps he likes his arsehole?

  9. jed

    May 26, 2010 at 3:22 am

    I have seen England play live for years. Peter Crouch scoring goals is all well and good but how many of those goals have come against world class opposition? It’s easy to rack up goals against Trinidad and Jamaica but how about the Italians? The French? The Spanish? The Brazilian? You can only beat what you have in front of you BUT that wont wash in a world cup final when the route to the final is littered with danger. Rooney clearly gets no joy playing with Crouch so it comes down to who is the better player? Obviously it’s Rooney so he needs to take center stage. That means Heskey as his partner or Gerrard playing behind him. Crouch should be a super sub coming off the bench. If you want to start him do it with Defoe BUT Rooney will never be dropped so that wont ever happen. England need to play as a team and Heskey makes that happen. I know he doesn’t score many goals BUT when he is in the team I feel Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney etc get more scoring opportunities. Crouch is more of an individualistic player but at the world cup there will be no “I” in “team”.

    • Patrick Dresslar

      May 26, 2010 at 7:36 am

      Yes, on the whole Heskey might make the team play better and create more chances for Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney, I’ll (kindly) concede that.

      But I just don’t see how Crouch takes away from Rooney’s game, and at international level, England should have TWO strikers who can get goals. Heskey simply has an aversion to the back of the net, and if Rooney is off his game one match, it would be nice to have Crouch in there because he can grab a goal from set pieces, crosses, or with his feet.

  10. ranndino

    May 26, 2010 at 2:53 am

    I’m not sure why people just can’t get it through their head that Crouch is a damn good striker. Too much attention is paid to the way he looks. Yes, he’s bean pole and looks awkward. So what? People are stuck on that. The guy is very effective and his goal rate proves it. The hardest thing to do in football is to score goals, especially at the international level. Crouch does it with the frequency that most superstar strikers would be jealous of. On top of that he has a very good first touch and is a clever, creative passer.

  11. Poker Rakeback

    May 25, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Partrick, I thought it might be a typo and if that is what it was then i am sorry for the comment, but i have seen it on here so many times i think people do actually use the term and it does my head in when i see it.
    Sorry again, you caught my previous fustration

  12. Patrick Dresslar

    May 25, 2010 at 11:04 pm


    That is seriously embarrassing, honest mistake, and it has since been changed. My bad. I actually hate when people say “offsides” as it pertains to our American football rule as well, so basically I hate myself for it right now. Ha.

    But must you be so harsh big guy?

    • Keith

      May 30, 2010 at 2:27 am

      He wasn’t harsh, don’t be such a “Little Mary”.
      You are the one that used “I hate” when people add the ‘s’.
      I dare say that hate is worse then what he said.

      He just said, “Please do not use the term ‘offsides’. There is no such thing as offsides.”

      He even asked ‘please,’ I ask is that harsh?
      & then he pointed out that there is no such thing.
      I think you’re acting a bit too sensitive, you must be taking your cues from our PC victimized don’t pick on me society…

      TOUGHEN UP… he didn’t ask to take it outsides!

  13. bob

    May 25, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Crouch is better at holding the ball up than Heskey? Are you mental.

    • David Jackson

      May 26, 2010 at 8:59 am

      Who is mental? It is you, of course! Yes, he is awkward – so what!Crouch is a MUST for England – his scoring record speaks for itself!! Never mind how he scores, he just scores a goal or two per match and gives us hope for England to reach and win the final.

  14. Kishore

    May 25, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Nice one Patrick…was juz bout to write on a similar topic, u beat me to it…but in truth, I definitely agree with u…Crouch offers more than wat Heskey does without changing the dynamics of the team much..

  15. Poker Rakeback

    May 25, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Please do not use the term ‘offsides’. There is no such thing as offsides. It refers to you being on the wrong side of the defence when the ball is played by a team-mate. you are on the wrong side of the defence, you are offside, not offsides. I have been coming to this site for a while now and can’t believe how many people use that term.
    It is as stupid as me saying he has scored a touchdowns.

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