The start of the 2017/18 Premier League season has demonstrated that English football could again be defined by prolific strikers in a way that it rarely has been since the mid-1990s, when Alan Shearer, Eric Cantona and Robbie Fowler were at their peak.
Since then, there’s been the rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal, the cultural shift of the mid-noughties inspired by Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez, and most recently the era of the so-called “super” manager.
Now, at a time when strikers once again dominates the landscape, we explore the Premier League’s finest 10 frontmen…
10. Fernando Llorente (Tottenham)
The 32-year-old Spain international’s nine goals in Swansea’s final 15 games of 2016/17 effectively secured their survival, so it’s little surprise they’ve struggled since his departure for Spurs.
That he’s unlikely to start when Harry Kane is fit again does little to diminish his abilities. There’s aerial prowess, intelligence and grace with Llorente that makes him more effective and gives him greater variety than other, more recognised goalscorers – Jamie Vardy and Javier Hernandez among them.
9. Wayne Rooney (Everton)
Even with the loss of his speed, his occasional deployment away from the frontline and Everton’s ongoing struggles, the 32-year-old Rooney has proved he remains a fine striker.
There has been a variety to his finishing in scoring his four Premier League goals which, if put to use in a superior team, could easily inspire at least one last prolific season from one of the division’s modern greats.
8. Marcus Rashford (Man United)
That Rashford is already one of English football’s most lethal strikers when he has so rarely been the focal point of Manchester United’s attack demonstrates everything about his potential.
The term “natural finisher” applies more to the 19-year-old than any other in the Premier League, so it’s to be hoped his development won’t be undermined by Romelu Lukaku’s presence, given the modern-day preference for a lone orthodox striker – and especially coupled with Jose Mourinho’s suspicion of youth. Few have ever looked so composed in front of goal.
7. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)
Even with five goals from a total of only 15 shots amid a promising start to his Arsenal career, the suspicion remains that the club’s £52.7m record signing is yet to perform to his very best.
There’s a culture and intelligence to the Frenchman’s finishing that, combined with his athleticism, makes him such a consistent attacking threat. However, at a time when players used in the final third are expected to provide so much more than just the finishing touches – and at the age of 26 – will he improve to the point of being considered truly elite?
6. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Sanchez is the typical South American street footballer – someone who, like Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez, marries extraordinary energy and desire with exceptional technique.
He’s also perhaps a superior footballer to almost anyone on this list, but the 28-year-old Chilean is not a natural out-and-out striker and in many ways would be wasted if he were restricted to such a role. If Arsenal are to return to the top four, Sanchez – for as long as he stays – will be their key figure.
5. Romelu Lukaku (Man United)
The long-term criticism of the 24-year-old Belgian surrounds a belief that he succeeds only against lower-quality teams. But he isn’t to blame for the fact that Manchester United have faced so few of those expected to rival them this season – and he is level with Sergio Aguero on seven league goals.
Yet United’s transition into genuine title contenders also owes more to the pace and mobility Lukaku has brought to the final third, since his succession of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (once criticised for the same flaw of being a flat-track bully). But neither his previous achievements nor potential suggest he is capable of reaching the level enjoyed by the world’s absolute best.
4. Gabriel Jesus (Man City)
The reason Pep Guardiola’s City would still expect to become champions if Sergio Aguero were to suffer a season-ending injury owes more to the 20-year-old Jesus than anyone else.
The Brazilian has settled into English football as impressively as any overseas recruit in recent memory, moves as intelligently as his decorated team-mate, and so far this season scored six goals at a rate of one every 82 minutes.
In the present climate, and given his age and potential, that he arrived in January only five months after agreeing a £27m transfer from Palmeiras represents remarkable value. The mercurial Emmanuel Adebayor cost City only £2m less back in 2009.
3. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
Not only was Spain’s Morata, 25 this month, given the unenviable task of replacing the often-great Diego Costa at Chelsea, he was asked to do so at a time when Lukaku appeared to be Antonio Conte’s preferred transfer target – and when doubts persisted in England over how prolific he would prove.
In already scoring six goals for a team that had been missing its finest attacking talent in the injured Eden Hazard, the Spaniard has suggested he could become Chelsea’s most important striker since Didier Drogba.
2. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
England’s most consistently prolific finisher since a prime Alan Shearer is the division’s leading scorer with eight goals, albeit having played 251 minutes more than Aguero.
The 24-year-old is, regardless, more crucial to Spurs’ ambitions than Aguero is to City’s, and also perhaps a superior predator to the Argentine having rewarded his manager Mauricio Pochettino with outstanding returns. Kane also thrives as being the focal point of his team, more so than any of his potential rivals.
1. Sergio Aguero (Man City)
He has been among English football’s truly outstanding talents from the very point of his arrival in 2011. When fit, Aguero’s incredible scoring consistency has established him as the very best finisher in the country, and he should really have more than the two Premier League titles he has inspired.
His seven league goals in 2017/18 so far have been scored at a rate of one every 78 minutes – and complemented by three assists – and while he is surrounded by so many players of exceptional quality, the 29-year-old has previously performed similar feats when City have far less impressive as a whole. He’s just one goal away from becoming their all-time record goalscorer.
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