Berbatov and Tevez are two strikers who have played for Manchester United. Both strikers are considered are polar opposites by a good number of football followers around the world. Dimitar Berbatov is regarded as a lazy player who loves to wander around the pitch looking completely disinterested. Anyone with this opinion should try watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Francesco Totti to have a change of heart. Carlos Tevez on the other hand is considered a fighter, a terrier, a player who gives 110% and chases till the very end. These descriptions paint two very different players. I think there might be more to this pair than meets the eye.

The tactical standpoint

Watching both these players play can be frustratingly annoying for the casual football fan. “We need a goal, get into the box and score”. Thing is neither of these strikers will do that. They both love to enter move into the midfield. This movement into midfield has a number of effects:

– Increased ability for team to retain possession As the casual fan would have noticed, the more midfielders a team has, the easier it is to retain possession. For this reason, both strikers will constantly drop into midfield to help their teams retain possession.

– Nightmare for man-markers and zonal-markers In a man-marking system, the centre-backs are at loss. To follow or not to follow. If they follow, they create a space/hole at the back which another team-mate can exploit (Tevez drops deep and Balotelli enters this space to score two goals against West Brom). If they don’t follow, the striker’s team will dominate an area of the field because he is unmarked wherever he goes. In a zonal-marking system, such movement will clearly cause problems because the striker will naturally be unmarked wherever he goes creating an overload for his team. It should be noted that effective systems have been developed to help teams cope with such movement but the effects can still be seen everyday.

It should be noted that Manchester City and Manchester United currently play different systems but the similarities are apparent still. As noted by Jonathan Wilson in this article for the Guardian (http://tinyurl.com/32da8y8), Tevez can be regarded as a false nine whenever he leads the line for City in their 4-3-3 system. On the other hand, Dimitar Berbatov usually plays in a 4-4-2 at United and failed to successfully replace Rooney in 4-3-3/4-5-1 system when Rooney was injured last season. The clear reason for this failure was because, Rooney was a world-class poacher last season. He was something of a classic No. 9. A clear aerial threat, an ability to sniff chances as they presented themselves and finish precisely. Rooney was making runs of the last man all the time and this was evident with his 26 premier league goals and only 2 assists. Berbatov meanwhile is a different man. I still believe he can play in a 4-3-3 but the team will have had to adjust to a very different man leading the line. Berbatov meanwhile in a 4-4-2 can effectively form what is called a creator finisher model with his strike partner. A fully confident Berbatov and an 09/10 Rooney on paper can form one of the deadliest contemporary striker partnerships. Clear reason, a fully confident Berbatov is a world-class deep-lying forward while an 08/09 Rooney is a world-class finisher.

Statistical Analysis.

Though statistics can be very deceiving, it is very interesting to note that both Tevez and Berbatov have very similar statistics. This statistics are premier league statistics.

  Berbatov Tevez
Games 146 136
Goals 54 56
Goals/Games Ratio 0.37 0.41
Shots/Goals Ratio 0.16 0.16
Shots on Target Ratio 0.61 0.59
Left Foot Goals 5 7
Right Foot Goals 41 44
Headed Goals 8 5
Yellow Cards 8 17
Fouls 211 136
Fouls/Card Ratio 0.04 0.12

– The higher Goals/Games ratio Tevez possesses is due to his incredible goal haul under Roberto Mancini which is due to the level of confidence placed in him and the decision of the manager to play solely to his strengths.

– The number of headed goals scored by both attackers should show that both aren’t brilliant in the air so Berbatov being taller has a better chance of scoring the header goal

– Berbatov might have more fouls but this should show these fouls are mostly fouls conceded during aerial tussles. The clear difference in Fouls/Card Ratio is due to the difference in the physicality of these players.

One clear difference between these two players is the level of consistency shown by each of them. Carlos Tevez has shown himself under Mancini to be one of the most consistent players in the Premier League. Dimitar Berbatov showed good consistency at the start of the season but his form seems to be falling. Consistency in a my opinion is a function of maturity and confidence. Both these players are matured. Confidence seems the key difference. Giving Tevez the captain’s band, telling him he’s the only player that can score and playing to his strengths (no matter what Tevez says) clearly show how much Mancini is reliant on this man. Adjusting the team to suit Rooney and dumping Berbatov show the exact opposite. This isn’t a criticism of Ferguson’s decision but what do fans expect when Ferguson takes this type of action. Some may name Solksjaer as a player who delivered whenever he was called upon but Ferguson showed a confidence in Solksjaer to do that. All United faithful had that confidence in him to do exactly that.

Another point is the fact that some consider Tevez a brute who relies on strength and force to make sure his will is done. Tevez at Manchester City has shown himself to be quite a refined player with good/brilliant technical abilities. Dimitar Berbatov is considered as a good technical player with a poor workrate but this does not have to be a con.

Both these players easily fall into the category of deep-lying forwards, false nines, and creators (in creator-finisher model). I also believe they could also be classified as trequartistas had they had some football education in Italy. The truth is that these two are similar strikers, more similar than people would like to admit.

Uanhoro James can be found on twitter @stonegold546

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