Friday, July 11, 2008

Portsmouth Purchases Peter Crouch

Portsmouth has completed a $22 million move to bring Peter Crouch back to Fratton Park after seven years, during which Crouch played for four other clubs and earned his way squarely into the England setup.

Crouch, the tallest player ever to put on a Three Lions shirt at 6′7″, spent the last three seasons at Liverpool, where he scored 22 goals in 85 league matches but led the club in ‘06-’07 with 18 goals in all competitions, including a hat trick in Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over Arsenal.

He was obviously out of favor at Anfield with the emergence of Fernando Torres, and manager Rafael Benitez found a formation that worked towards the end of the year — playing Torres as a lone striker with Steven Gerrard right behind him. Crouch was relegated to long stretches on the bench, usually coming in very late in games when Liverpool needed a spark. His playing style and body build wasn’t suited for Benitez’s preferred gameplan, and there was no way Crouch was ever going to be more than a role player as long as he stayed on Merseyside.

He’s come back to the South Coast now, where he’ll immediately link up with fellow England international Jermain Defoe. The two have the potential to feed off each other brilliantly — Crouch is very good at holding up balls and playing with his back to goal, allowing others to come into the attack, and the speedy Defoe should be able to run off Crouch and benefit from the big man’s dirty work.

There is no doubt that Crouch has superb technical ability, especially for a man his size, and he provides options that many teams aren’t built to defend against. His stats at Liverpool don’t truly reflect how good of a striker Crouch is; he was never put in a position to succeed and was playing in a system that limits individual creativity for the most part and focuses on the team and playing as a unit.

Under ‘Arry Redknapp, for whom Crouch will be playing for the third time in his career, he’ll have an opportunity to thrive. Niko KranjĨar and John Utaka are very good crossers of the ball from the wings and will give Crouch service he just wasn’t getting at Liverpool. He should be able to build more chemistry with the English contingent at Portsmouth (David James, Glen Johnson, Defoe, Sol Campbell, etc.) than he ever could with a semi-United Nations delegation at Liverpool, and that will come in handy.

For $22 million, Portsmouth signed a player who can score anywhere from 15-20 goals a season and almost as importantly, brings the skillset to allow guys like Defoe and Sulley Muntari and Utaka to come into the play and collect what Crouch starts out of the air. This was a very good signing for ’Arry’s club, and the regular first team games Crouch will get and the chance to continue to play in Europe (albeit the UEFA Cup, not the Champions League) will benefit the player as well. Look for Defoe and Crouch to form a productive partnership, certainly at club level, but I have a feeling they could be leading England’s front line as well in World Cup qualifiers this fall and beyond.

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