There is a reason why Paul Pogba is the only player in the top ten most expensive signings of all time who would not be considered a forward or at least an attacking midfielder.
The old adage of ‘goals win games’ still rings true in most cases and it is the position where if you do not have a clinical or creative forward, then it doesn’t matter how good your defence or midfield is: you will not win football matches.
In the Premier League this season we have seen a number of leading forward players struggle to recreate the form of yesteryear and have welcomed the emergence – or at least the significant improvement – of several attacking players, including several young English talents.
Here, we list our top ten forwards from the 2020/21 Premier League season.
10 – Kelechi Iheanacho
It feels wrong to include a player who only made two league starts prior to February in this list – especially when consistent performers like Ollie Watkins, Chris Wood, Danny Ings and several others have missed out.
But when it comes to the last three months, Kelechi Iheanacho ’s numbers have been outstanding.
The Leicester City man has scored ten goals in 11 Premier League games since February 3 and he has been crucial to the Foxes’ maintaining their Champions League qualification push.
Iheanacho’s goals-per-90 ratio of 0.78 is the best in the Premier League, with Jesse Lingard second on 0.76 and Harry Kane third on 0.69.
Jamie Vardy has scored more goals than his striker partner this season, with 13, but six of those were from the penalty spot and he has only found the net twice since Christmas.
So if Leicester do find themselves playing in the Champions League during the 2021/22 campaign, they will have the Nigerian to thank when it came to the business end of the season.
9 – Phil Foden
In truth, I did not initially have Phil Foden in this list but then after chatting with a colleague, decided to include him.
My reservations were because he has still only made 15 league starts this season, coming off the bench a further ten times, and I was wary that my decision to include him may have been swayed by his superb showings in the Champions League knockout stages and in the domestic cup competitions.
But whilst you could hardly claim it was Foden’s ‘breakout’ season considering he made his debut in the 2017/18 campaign and has been in the squad for some time, he has started to justify on a weekly basis why he has long been hailed as a potential superstar.
Foden has made 32 starts in all competitions this season and is scoring big goals and dominating matches in a way he was not doing so before on a consistent basis – finding the net seven times and creating five assists in the Premier League this term.
8 – Patrick Bamford
Six loan spells while at Stamford Bridge included four in the top flight, with Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Burnley and Middlesbrough, but the forward only managed one Premier League goal in 27 appearances for the quartet and left Chelsea five years after his arrival without making a senior appearance.
Bamford had proved he knew where the goal was in the Championship, scoring 61 goals in 172 games, but few could have expected him to score ten goals in his first 15 outings following Leeds United’s promotion to the Premier League.
But as with any player who plays for Marcelo Bielsa, the likeable Bamford offers much more than just goals and the 27-year-old can feel somewhat hard done by to still be waiting for a first senior England call-up after 14 goals in the Premier League this season.
7 – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
It feels like Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been around forever – he made his debut during the 2014/15 season – so it is easy to forget he is only 24 years of age.
And whilst the former Sheffield United youngster had shown signs of his talent, it was really the departure of Marco Silva which seemed to be a catalyst for Calvert-Lewin’s change in fortunes.
Having bagged a double during interim boss and mentor Duncan Ferguson’s first game in charge, Calvert-Lewin went on to score eight goals in Carlo Ancelotti’s first 12 games in charge in all competitions, before lockdown ended his impressive run of form.
But it was the 2020/21 season where Calvert-Lewin proved he was ready to be Everton ’s No.9 for years to come, as he scored 11 goals in 11 games at the start of the campaign, temporarily guiding his side to the top of the Premier League table.
Calvert-Lewin would probably have been even higher in the list had he not suffered a drop in form, with four goals in his last 17 league games, but the striker’s 15 goals this season is still an impressive return and saw him earn his first England cap, with four goals in seven games for the Three Lions thus far.
6 – Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford ’s form has dipped at times this season but considering his long-standing shoulder problem and foot injury, it is hardly surprising.
The forward has been integral to United’s attack for several years now despite being just 23 years old and he continues to play through the pain barrier, as he looks to cement his place in England’s Euro 2020 squad.
Rashford’s versatility has seen him play through the middle and on the right this season but it is on the left wing where he has been the most dangerous.
With skill, speed, vision and an eye for goal, Rashford has the talent to star for United and England for years to come and would almost certainly have bagged more than his ten goals and ten assists in 33 outings had it not been for his injury problems.
5 – Jesse Lingard
The reemergence of Jesse Lingard has been one of the feel-good stories of the Premier League season.
But his decision to join West Ham United on loan in January has proved inspired, finding the net nine times in 12 games for the Hammers and earning his Three Lions place back in the process.
His goal conversion of 36%, shot conversion of 76% and goals-per-90 ratio of 0.83 are the highest of any player in the Premier League’s top goalscorer charts.
Where he will be playing his football long term remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: Jesse Lingard is back and in a big way.
4 – Jack Grealish
When it comes to football, I love watching ‘entertainers’. So it has been an absolute joy to see Jack Grealish terrorising top flight defences since Aston Villa’s promotion back to the Premier League.
Attacking midfielder, winger, wide attacker, forward…whatever you want to call his position, he does it expertly, cutting in from the left.
Grealish is no longer just the precocious talent we had all heard so much about. No, the Villa skipper is delivering for club and has shown signs he may well do so for country too.
When you click through the creative stats on a site like FBRef, Grealish is usually in the top five for pretty much all of them.
Only Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount have more ‘shot creating actions’ than Grealish, but then the Villa man has been out since mid-February so might have actually topped many of these lists had he not been ruled out with a shin injury.
His absence contributed to Villa’s European hopes coming to an end but there has been good news for his club and England, as he is set to return to full training this week.
3 – Son Heung-min
Cole and Yorke. Henry and Bergkamp. Shearer and Sutton. It’s fair to say you don’t get strike partnerships quite like you used to. But this season we saw a duo which would have given those iconic pairings a run for their money in Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
There will be more on Kane to come but Son was just as crucial to that partnership, chipping in with 16 goals and ten assists.
With a shot conversion rate of 33% and shot accuracy of 67%, Son has actually been more clinical than the two men above him in this list. But with Kane playing in the same side, the South Korean is always likely to play second fiddle when it comes to getting efforts away, with his skipper having almost twice as many shots, with 96 compared to 49.
2 – Mo Salah
Liverpool ’s front three was the envy of world football in recent years. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah had a strong case to be arguably the best, or at least the most effective, trio on the planet.
That certainly wasn’t the case this season though, as Mane has only managed eight league goals and it is just six for Firmino. But whilst his strike partners – and Liverpool as a whole – have seen their form plummet this season, Salah has actually improved his goalscoring compared to their title-winning season, with 20 already to his name compared to the 19 last time out.
The Egyptian has not created as many during the 2020/21 campaign, with just three assists compared to ten last season, but his goals-per-90 record is only 0.01 worse off than Kane’s 0.69 and his shot accuracy (58%) and goal conversion (26%) is better than the Spurs captain’s.
1 – Harry Kane
Usually there is an element of subjectivity to articles such as these but there was never any doubt when it came to number one was there?
Topping the scoring charts with 21 goals and leading on assists with 13, Kane has been the Premier League’s standout striker this season.
There is of course the caveat that he has taken 123 shots this season, 19 more than anyone else, and that his non-penalty shots on target percentage actually puts him outside the top 100, according to Statsbomb data provided by FBRef .
But the headline figure of 34 goal involvements in 31 appearances – especially for a side who have only won ten games since November – is hugely impressive nonetheless and means he tops my list.