Normally, every team wants to have a 20 goal striker leading their line. A good striker who is guaranteed to be one of the top scorers in the league. There aren’t that many available and teams will fight for them with big fees and wages.
But for smaller clubs, I don’t think that it should be the aim. Relying on one player for a majority of your goals is dangerous, an injury can see your goals dry up. And if they get bought in January you might struggle for the rest of the season, such as Exeter last season when Jayden Stockley was sold to Preston. And selling them at the end of season results in uncertainty for the rest of summer as they desperately try to replace 20 goals.
For smaller clubs who can’t hold onto 20 goal strikers, a better solution is to spread out the goals. Let’s look at Cheltenham Town. Two seasons ago they signed Mo Eisa from the depths on non-league. He scored 23 league goals and was sold to Bristol City for £1.5m. This season, Eisa moved onto Peterborough and is the joint top goal scorer in League One with 11 goals in 15 starts.
Cheltenham is a good case study in my opinion. This year Cheltenham have made a great start to the season sitting 3rd with games in hand on the teams around them. They’re top scorers in the league with 26 goals. They have three main sources of goals. Attacking midfielder Ryan Broom with 6 goals and strikers Luke Varney and Gavin Reilly with 5 and 4 goals respectively. They have a great set-piece taker in Chris Hussey, who just signed a new deal, and physical defenders who are dangerous on set pieces such as Ben Tozer and Will Boyle.
It’s a makeup of a strong squad that can score goals, and goals which can come from all over the pitch. There’s no reliance on one player for goals and another for assists. Although they received good money for Eisa, the next season goals were rare and manager Gary Johnson was sacked early in the season. They couldn’t replace his goals and tried to find more hidden gems and underappreciated talents such as Manny Duku from non-league and Liam McAlinden from Exeter. They were lucky that new manager, Michael Duff, brought in Luke Varney who was still without a club in late September and came in and helped the team massively to avoid relegation.
Having your goals spread among several players lowers your risk and will mean you’re more likely to keep those players past the end of the season. For me, signing two strikers you know can score 8-12 goals a season is better than one who can score 20-25. Alternatively, you could be Peterborough and have two 20+ goal strikers in Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa, but most teams aren’t that lucky.