“Sometimes in football, you need to score goals,” Thierry Henry once claimed. And he knew enough on the subject.
Considering the absolute mad scorelines that we’ve seen in the Premier League this season though, it’s perhaps a surprise that so many clubs are looking to upgrade up front. Aside from Kane and Son, there’s a dearth of world-class talent in the striker slots at top clubs in England: your Lewandowskis, Suarezes and Ronaldos are all plying their trade abroad right now.
Oh, sure, everyone should go out and get Erling Haaland right now - but who else could the elite English sides be targeting to bolster their attack?
Edinson Cavani, it was presumed, was a last-minute panic-buy; an ageing rockstar well past his sell-by date. In truth, he’s shown up Anthony Martial this season. Manchester United still need a prolific striker in the longterm - whisper it, but Romelu Lukaku would have them within a whisker of City in this title race - so it’s no shock the Erling Haaland links are still rumbling.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer needs to look to his mentor on this one: what would Fergie have done? Sir Alex always had three or four solid goal threats to rotate between. Greenwood and Rashford are solid options, Cavani could be kept on, but Ollie Watkins could ignite this attack. He runs with the ball like a winger, he’s technically superb, physical and at 25, he’s approaching the peak age with which to flourish at a big team.
It won’t be easy to separate Watkins from Aston Villa - he cost £25m originally and Dean Smith has signed him twice - but Villa would rather lose him than Grealish. He’s been outstanding this season - how long before everyone realises just how good and he becomes too expensive?
Sergio Aguero still hasn’t had his contract renewed and Gabriel Jesus has often found himself out of favour at Manchester City this term (when he's not conceding first-minute penalties in the Manchester derby), as Pep Guardiola toys with false nines and runners from midfield instead of a conventional forward.
We should have guessed that Pep Guardiola would move in this direction. Ever since Zlatan Ibrahimovic left Barcelona in a huff, the Catalan has favoured the supercharged wide-man to the archetypal forward. Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling have all been pillars of Pep’s fundamentals - King Kun even had to win him around when Pep first descended on Eastlands.
This makes links to Romelu Lukaku feel a little hollow; clubmate Lautaro Martinez seems a little more likely. For our money though, Dominic Calvert-Lewin would be a solid candidate - and not just because of physical prowess.
Calvert-Lewin is tall, strong and his hold-up play has improved vastly in the last couple of seasons; he’s an aerial threat that Kevin De Bruyne would love to float balls into and his movement is good enough for Guardiola. But more than that, he’s a personality who fit in.
DCL has an insatiable work ethic, he comes across as fiercely intelligent on and off the field and he doesn’t have the fiery streak that makes so many strikers tick. He isn’t the limelight-hogging centre-forward that traditionally grates on Pep: you couldn’t see him causing a fuss over whatever tactical switch-up his manager fancied that week, either.
Arsenal are in a curious boat. In the Unai Emery era, the entire side was geared towards their duel talents of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette: now, Lacazette isn’t a guaranteed starter and Aubameyang is in his 30s.
The Gunners have Gabriel Martinelli coming through, who they’re tenderly reintroducing back into the wild following a long lay-off. With Lacazette approaching the last year of his current deal though, Arsenal could really do with an upgrade.
Improved movement up top is vital if the club are ever going to get back into the Champions League. The Gunners have Eddie Nketiah as an option too: but given that he’s more suited to a counter-attacking side, he’ll perhaps be best used as a pawn transfer dealings.
Victor Osimhen of Napoli would be ideal - if a little expensive. Odsonne Edouard is more realistic, though. The Celtic forward has the best of Auba and Laca in his profile and though he’s not hitting the big numbers yet, signing him - plus another creator into the mix - could unlock the potential of Mikel Arteta’s delicate system. Add in the continued development of Martinelli, too.
Oh, Chelsea. After the multi-multi-million pound summer spree, Thomas Tuchel has inherited a team in which Olivier Giroud is still the preferred king of the castle. Timo Werner wants a big man up top to play with, while Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham all have to fit into this attacking puzzle too, somewhere.
That’s why splashing out on the next, next big thing perhaps isn’t wise. If the Blues are determined on finding another cog to fix their system, how about Raul Jimenez?
The Mexican is strong, intelligent, quick and lethal within the area. He’s competent as a lone striker or in a two - and though he won’t come cheap, he’s not a signing to put anyone else’s nose out of joint. He’d get the best out of the players around him - whoever Tuchel picks from his embarrassment of riches - and he could feasibly end up becoming… well, Chelsea’s next Giroud.
It would have seemed even laughable to suggest a year ago that Liverpool are in desperate need of a new attacker. Times change though and the fab three up front have grown stale in the shadow of their greatest triumph. Freshness is necessary. Roberto Firmino seems the likeliest casualty.
With Diogo Jota set to slot in somewhere and funds usually relatively modest at Anfield, finding a new attacker to complement what’s there is a difficult task. The Reds are therefore left in two very different places. Do they sell one of their frontline for megabucks and bring in a superstar? Or do they replace Divock Origi, of all players, on the cheap?
Depending on your answer, there are two wildly different options in Kylian Mbappe or Callum Wilson. Mbappe would be a game-changing signing for Klopp to remodel his entire team around: Wilson would simply be a proven, prolific centre-forward to come in during dry spells - the like of which Liverpool haven’t had since Daniel Sturridge. Folarin Balogun at Arsenal is another shout: the youth prospect doesn’t look like signing a new deal.
Our choice though, assuming Liverpool go for a rebuild? Darwin Nunez. The Benfica No.9 can latch onto balls and finish with aplomb but most of all, Liverpool would relish a striker who can absolutely bully defences in the Premier League.
Kelechi Iheanacho, it’s safe to say, has not turned into the player that Leicester City expected. When the Foxes won the league and Iheanacho was on the radar, Leicester were worrying that Jamie Vardy might not have much longer left in the tank at the top level: five years later, he’s still one of the premier marksmen in the country and limiting the Nigerian to bit-part roles.
Depending on how much longer Leicester think Vardy will provide the goods depends on where they go next. Tammy Abraham would be a superb signing, though. He wants to feel wanted, Brendan Rodgers is happy to play a front two and the Chelsea man is a strong option in a possession-based side with proven goalscoring ability. He would relish the link-up with the likes of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.
If you’re looking to replace Vardy and Iheanacho in one fell swoop, Eddie Nketiah might be a good shout, too. He suits Leicester’s penchant for counter-attacking, he’s a good presser and he’s a natural in the 18-yard box. Knowing Vardy though, we’ll still be having this conversation by the time he’s 45.
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