The Premier League Owl The Premier League Owl
Discussing Javier Hernandez’s situation at Manchester United and rebuffing some harsh criticism

Manchester United FC Team Photograph 2010/11

I’ve just finished reading this, from the Sky Sports website.

For those who can’t be bothered to read that article in full, it’s essentially a discussion of Javier Hernandez’s centre-forward attributes - and there’s a suggestion within, that because he’s principally a goal-scorer and little else, he struggles for game-time at Old Trafford alongside more versatile options like Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

The ‘old-fashioned forward’ description is also thrown around rather liberally.

I think that’s quite harsh on Hernandez, because although he doesn’t contribute as much outside the box as someone like Wayne Rooney, branding him as merely a ‘poacher’ is a simplification of his ability. When I think of poachers in the Premier League, I think of players like Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe - i.e. forwards who do almost nothing beyond goal-scoring. Yes, the penalty-box is where the Mexican’s bread is buttered, but he has a more diverse set of abilities than either of the aforementioned forwards.

The implication in the article, is that Hernandez is out-dated and not really suited to the modern game, whereas in reality he’s just not that well-suited to Manchester United. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United never really utilised an attacking pivot in their game - in fact, you have to really go back to Ruud Van Nisteelroy’s time at the club to find a player who was used in that kind of role. Since then, and so far during David Moyes’ time at the club, the forward part of the side has relied on attacking fluency and the play of forwards who can drift deep and wide into the play - therefore, putting someone like Javier Hernandez into the mixture comes at a cost to the rest of the side.

Far from being a ‘victim of a changing game’, Hernandez is really just in the wrong place. If you put him in the lone-forward role at Arsenal, Tottenham, or Chelsea, he would probably thrive, because those are all sides which have been built to accommodate a purer type of goal-scorer and who ask less of the players used in that role.

We have to move away from believing that Premier League forwards either have to be Didier Drogba or Wayne Rooney, because there’s still very much room for the Hernandez model - just with the caveat that the players behind him have to be set-up in a way which accentuates his strengths.

No, he’s not right for Manchester United at the moment, but he’s hardly a relic who belongs in the 20th Century.

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