Connect in the back of the net
After compiling a list of the top 10 defenders of the Premier League, I decided to try and do something similar on the attacking players we have been fortunate enough to watch over the last 20 years. 


The criteria for the list was to combine sheer talent, goals scored, trophies won and the duration that each has spent in the Premier League. 


The man at No. 9 was one of the most aesthetically pleasing strikers of the Premier League era, but a lack of silverware/goals prevents him from getting nearer the top. 
 
 


10. Didier Drogba- Club: Chelsea- Goals: 100

Taken from Zonal Marking

Didier Drogba completed a £24million move to Chelsea in the summer of 2004, one of a raft of big money signings made by new boss Jose Mourinho. 


The big striker initially struggled to net regularly, scoring just 22 goals in his first two seasons, but was still part of a side that won back to back Premier League titles. 


Chelsea failed to make it three on the bounce in 2006/07, but the Ivorian’s 20 league strikes were enough to win the Golden Boot award. In 2009/10, Drogba scored 29 and made 10 in just 32 appearances, winning his third Premier League winners medal in the process. 


Drogba has also scored the winning goal in three F.A Cup finals, as well as the clinching penalty in Chelsea’s long awaited Champions League triumph this season.
 




9. Gianfranco Zola- Club: Chelsea- Goals: 59

Taken from The Sun

Gianfranco Zola was one of the most gifted players to play in the Premier League. Whilst the majority of his exploits for Chelsea came in Europe and the cup competitions i.e. scoring the winner in the Cup Winners Cup final in 1998 and the famous backheel goal in the F.A Cup in 2003, Zola still scored nearly 60 league goals, and his creative displays were a joy to behold.


Unfortunately, he became an all too regular victim of Claudio Ranieri’s rotation policy towards the end of his Chelsea career, and he left to join Cagliari in 2003.
 




8. Andy Cole- Clubs: Newcastle, Man United, Blackburn, Fulham, Man City, Portsmouth, Sunderland- Goals: 187

Taken from the Telegraph

Andy Cole signed for Newcastle from Bristol City in early 1993, helping them to promotion to the Premier League by scoring 12 goals in as many games. He then netted an astonishing 34 times in his first season in the top flight, winning the Golden Boot as well as the Young Player of the Year award. 


After a decent start to 1994/95, Cole left Newcastle to join champions Manchester United for £7million. He continued to score consistently, netting 12 in 18, but his new club were pipped to the title by Blackburn.


Cole almost left to join Blackburn in the summer of 1996, in a potential deal that would have seen Alan Shearer move to Old Trafford, but Shearer instead joined Newcastle. 


He also suffered a double leg break in a reserve team game, therefore bringing a stagnation in his progress. 


He bounced back to finish as joint top scorer in 1997/98 with 18 goals, and in the following campaign, he formed a devastating partnership with Dwight Yorke as United swept all before them, both domestically and in Europe. 


He netted sporadically rather than regularly in the years that followed, with first team chances at a premium. In December 2001, he finally made the move to Blackburn, for a fee of £8million. 


He netted 27 goals whilst at Ewood Park, and went on to have spells of differing success at Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Sunderland, before ending his playing career at Championship side Nottingham Forest in the autumn of 2008.


His final tally of 187 Premier League goals is bettered only by Shearer.
 




7. Robbie Fowler- Clubs: Liverpool, Leeds United, Man City, Blackburn- Goals: 163

Taken from Vietnam Swans

Robbie Fowler broke into the Liverpool first team in 1993, netting over 65 times in his first three full seasons at Anfield. He is the scorer of the fastest ever Premier League hat-trick (4 minutes and 33 seconds) and won successive Young Player of the Year awards in ‘95 and ‘96. 


Only Alan Shearer was able to better Fowler’s tally of 28 league goals in 1995/96, two of which came in Liverpool’s famous 4-3 victory over Newcastle at Anfield.


In 2001, Fowler played a huge part as Liverpool won the treble of League Cup, F.A and UEFA Cups. But his chances in the first team became progressively limited, with Michael Owen and Emile Heskey established as the main strike partnership. 


In November of that year, Fowler completed a £12million move to Leeds United, scoring 14 league goals in an injury hit stint. After 3 years at Manchester City, Fowler made a shock return to Liverpool in January 2006. 


With his best days behind him, his second coming at Anfield was only moderately successful, scoring 8 in 30. He left in 2007 to join Championship side Cardiff, and after a very brief stay at Blackburn, he moved to Australia to play in the A-League in 2009.
 




6. Michael Owen- Clubs: Liverpool, Newcastle, Man United- Goals: 149

Taken from The Offside

After progressing from the youth team at Liverpool, Michael Owen made his first team debut as a 17 year old in May 1997, scoring against Wimbledon. 


In the next campaign, Owen became a first team regular, scoring 18 league goals to win the Golden Boot. He was also voted the PFA Young Player of the Year to crown a promising first full season.


After an explosive World Cup for England in ‘98, Owen was regarded as the greatest young talent in world football. He followed up his travails in France with another fine season domestically, finishing joint top scorer in the division again with 18 goals. 


With pace allied to his clinical finishing, Owen was generally one of the best strikers in the country in the late 90‘s, early 2000‘s. He scored 23 goals in 1998/99, and continued to net regularly, despite brief spells on the sidelines with hamstring injuries. In 2004, after almost 120 Premier League goals to his name, he left Anfield to join Real Madrid for £8m.


After an unsuccessful 12 month spell in Spain, Owen returned to sign for Newcastle in the summer of 2005. His time at St James Park was punctuated with injuries, and following their shock relegation to the Championship in 2009, he left for champions Manchester United on a free transfer, where he made just 30 league appearances in three years. 


He has a single Premier League title to his name (technically), playing a bit part as United triumphed in 2010/11. 


It’s a crying shame that Owen decided to wind down the latter years of his career in such uninspiring fashion. Still a clinical striker when fit, one can hope he will go in search of more regular first team football in the very near future. 
 
 


5. Eric Cantona- Clubs: Leeds, Man United- Goals: 70

Taken from Football Champs

Eric Cantona was a key figure of Manchester United’s domestic dominance during the 1990’s, winning 4 league titles in an all too short career. He completed the move from arch rivals Leeds in December 1992, and his 9 goals in 22 appearances helped United along to the first ever Premier League title in 1993.


Cantona scored 18 times in the league the following season as United retained their trophy, and he was voted the PFA Player of the Year for his efforts.


As well as immense ability on the pitch, however, there was also a dark side to Cantona’s game. In January 1995, he received an eight month ban for a shocking assault on a Crystal Palace fan during a game at Selhurst Park. In his absence, United missed out on the Premier League title to Blackburn.


Cantona returned from suspension in 1995/96, as United won the League and F.A Cup double. He won his 4th title in 1996/97, scoring 11 goals in the process, but at the end of that season, Cantona announced his retirement from the game, aged just 30. 


In 2002, he was named as one of the best two overseas strikers of the first 10 years of the Premier League.
 
 


4. Wayne Rooney- Clubs: Everton, Man United- Goals: 143

Taken from Who Ate All The Pies

Wayne Rooney announced himself as English football’s most precocious talent with a stunning 30 yard strike for Everton against Arsenal in October 2002, aged just 16. 


After a fine Euro 2004 tournament with England, Rooney completed a near £30 million move to Manchester United. His first season at Old Trafford yielded 11 goals and the Young Player of the Year Award, an honour he retained the following season.


The striker then played his part as United won 3 league titles in a row between 2006-2009, and in 2009/10, he posted his best scoring return with 26 league goals, winning the Player of the Year Award, as well as being named in the team of the season. 


He won his fourth league title in 2011. This season, he bagged 27 in 31 appearances, yet missed out on the Golden Boot to Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie.
 




3. Dennis Bergkamp- Club: Arsenal- Goals: 84

Taken from AFH News

One of the Premier League’s finest foreign exports, Dennis Bergkamp’s time in England with Arsenal was illuminated with magical skill and breathtaking goals. 


A £7.5m signing in 1995 following a modest two year spell with Inter, the Dutchman was a key figure in Arsenal’s first ever Premier League title in 1997/98 by scoring 16 league goals, including a wonderful strike against Leicester that is still widely regarded as one of the finest ever seen in English football.


Usually deployed behind a main striker, Bergkamp was one of the most technically gifted players of the Premier League era. 


He won two more league titles and four F.A Cups before retiring in 2006, having contributed 87 goals, the majority of which were of sublime quality.
 




2. Alan Shearer- Clubs: Blackburn, Newcastle- Goals: 260

Taken from the Daily Mail

Alan Shearer is still the Premier League’s top marksman by a long distance. His £3.3million move to Blackburn from Southampton in the summer of 1992 was a British record at that time. 


In his second season at Ewood Park, Shearer, the archetypical No.9 striker, scored 31 league goals as Blackburn finished 2nd in the table to Manchester United. 


The following campaign, however, he became a Premier League winner, striking up a fruitful partnership with Chris Sutton. Shearer’s 34 goals also earned him the PFA and Premier League Player of the Year awards.


Another 30 plus goals were plundered in 1995/96, and after a fine European Championship on home soil, in which he finished top goalscorer as England reached the semi-finals, Shearer joined his home town club Newcastle United for a world record £15m.


The goals continued to fly in for Shearer, but Newcastle fell just short of the title; United going on to retain their trophy. In 1997, Barcelona, managed by future Toon manager Sir Bobby Robson, failed in a bid to take the clinical striker to the Nou Camp.


Over the following seasons, Shearer continued to score on a consistent basis, yet Newcastle were no closer to winning the league title. 


In 2001/02, Shearer hit more than 20 goals in a season for the 6th time in the Premier League. 


In 2006, Shearer retired from the game. He featured in the team of the season on 6 occasions, as well as winning the Golden Boot 4 times. His Premier League goals tally concluded at a record 260.
 
 


1. Thierry Henry- Club: Arsenal- Goals: 175

Taken from Greek Soccer

After a modest spell at Juventus playing out of position on the wing, Thierry Henry was signed by Arsene Wenger for Arsenal in August 1999, for a fee of £11million. It proved to be fantastic business, as Henry went on to establish himself as one of the best players in the world during his 8 year spell in North London. 


Wenger immediately moved Henry to a more natural striker’s role, and the Frenchman repaid his manager’s faith with 17 league goals in a fine debut season, a tally he matched the following campaign.


Wenger had developed Arsenal into an attractive, easy on the eye outfit, and Henry was the fulcrum of his attack. He formed a fine partnership with Dennis Bergkamp, and in 2001/02, he won the Golden Boot, scoring 24 times as Arsenal won the League and Cup double, Henry’s first league title in England.


In 2002/03, Henry scored 24 goals and made 23 assists, also picking up the PFA Player of the Year award. He netted one of the finest goals ever seen in the Premier League, against Tottenham at Highbury. 


Picking up the ball inside his own half, he ran unchallenged to beat a number of Spurs players before finishing clinically with his left foot. However, the Gunners were dramatically pipped to the trophy by Manchester United. 


The next season, though, the league title was reclaimed in style. Arsenal went through the entire season unbeaten, with Henry netting 30 league goals to win the Golden Boot and the Player of the Year awards once more. 


Henry continued to score heavily, with more than 50 league goals in the next two seasons. But in the summer of 2007, he decided to leave Arsenal to join Spanish giants Barcelona. His time at the Nou Camp was a success, by winning a host of domestic and European trophies. 


In 2010, Henry became the second big name player, after David Beckham, to join the American MLS League, but in January 2012, he returned to Arsenal on a month’s loan, scoring a stoppage time winner at Sunderland. 


Blessed with pace, vision and clinical finishing, he was the key exponent of Arsenal’s attractive football. Some of his goals, such as the aforementioned one against Spurs, and two 30 yard strikes against United, were breathtaking. 


He made the team of the season on 6 successive occasions, as well as winning the Golden Boot 4 times, 3 in a row between 2003-2006. 


He was simply a joy to watch. The greatest striker to ever play in the Premier League!
 


Players that just missed out


If this article was written in 2010, then Fernando Torres, by way of the immediate, explosive impact he made in the Premier League, would have been a shoe-in for the top 10. 


The trio of Ian Wright, Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand were also very close, and Robin Van Persie, despite a superb 2011/12, still has a way to go to be regarded as one of the league’s greats.




Written by Nick Wall
Follow me on Twitter @NickWolf89


Please like O-Posts on Facebook
Follow the site on Twitter

A site that displays various opinions, insights, reports, etc from a host of talented writers, covering various clubs and leagues.