Some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs moved to strengthen their attacking options this summer, with the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku amongst the most high-profile of the transfer window.
The 2021/22 season has the potential to be one of the most fascinating and competitive in recent memory with a whole host of teams confident of a title challenge.
We’ve decided to look at the players set to spearhead those charges and assess the attacking options at each of the Premier League’s ‘big six’.
Arsenal were amongst the highest-spending sides in Europe during the transfer window, though there was minimal reinforcements when it came to attacking areas.
The failure to sign a centre-forward leaves the Gunners heading into the 2021/22 season with unconvincing options at present, with club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having toiled last season.
Aubameyang has been one of the Premier League’s most prolific players since arriving at the Emirates in January 2018, but struggled badly for form last season and has looked a shadow of his former self across the past 12-18 months.
Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah were both linked with exits but have remained at the club, with the former a steady – if far from prolific – source of goals and the latter having struggled for opportunities.
Folarin Balogun provides further forward depth, whilst Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe are expected to contest for the wide roles in Mikel Arteta’s side.
The former duo both possess huge potential with Saka already cemented as a key figure in this side, though Pepe continues to flatter to deceive despite a strong finish to last season and the Ivorian has so far failed to justify the club’s £72m record investment.
Thomas Tuchel identified the signing of a centre-forward as the leading priority for Chelsea this summer, splashing a club record £97.5m to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge.
The Belgium international has scored 64 goals across the past two seasons for Inter Milan and opened his account for the west Londoners before the international break, his signing viewed as potentially the final piece of the club’s title puzzle.
Lukaku will spearhead the side and will be supported by a host of wide talents, with Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi amongst an embarrassment of riches to choose from for Tuchel.
Werner or Havertz will deputise in any absence of Lukaku this season, though the former has failed to replicate his prolific Bundesliga record in the Premier League since his arrival from RB Leipzig.
The arrival of Lukaku will ease the pressure on the Germany international who struggled for confidence during a disappointing debut campaign, whilst Havertz continues to grow into his role at Chelsea and showcase the talent that made him amongst the most sought-after players in Europe.
Liverpool’s front three have been integral to the Reds’ successes in recent campaigns and Jurgen Klopp will continue with his current options during the 2021/22 season.
Much of the transfer talk had centred around the potential signing of a new forward, though the German added only centre-back Ibrahima Konate to his squad during the window.
Mohamed Salah remains one of the most prolific and consistent performers in the Premier League, though both Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will need to improve on disappointing seasons last term if the Reds are to challenge.
Diogo Jota’s arrival from Wolves last summer provides competition and freshens up the forward options, but there is a glaring lack of depth beyond that quartet with Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi a notable drop in standard.
The emergence of Harvey Elliott has been a bonus ahead of the campaign, but with a mid-season Africa Cup of Nations set to deprive the club of Salah and Mane for an extended period there is concern amongst the club’s fanbase.
Opinion is divided on whether Liverpool needed change in forward areas, but time will tell whether faith in experience and understanding or stagnation is the narrative of the club’s championship challenge.
Manchester City’s desire for a new centre-forward was amongst the worst-kept secrets of the transfer window, though the Premier League champions pursuit of Harry Kane ultimately ended in failure.
The inability to prise Kane from north London has left Pep Guardiola’s side short at number nine, with Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus expected to feature predominantly through the centre.
The former has shown encouraging signs in the role despite arriving at the Etihad as a wide option, whilst Jesus boasts an impressive goal record despite stating a preference for a position on the flanks.
City operated without a recognised number nine during last season’s title-winning campaign, but can the club maintain that success with rivals elsewhere upgrading their options?
The likes of Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling will also provide invaluable goal contributions this season, however, can City retain the title – and challenge for an elusive Champions League – without a genuinely prolific player amongst their ranks.
Manchester United’s transfer business has created cautious optimism around a title challenge, with the summer signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho a statement of intent.
The return of the former over a decade after his world-record departure is one of the stories of the summer, Ronaldo returning to Manchester as a five-time Ballon d’Or winner following a record-breaking career.
Whilst not the same player he was at his peak, the 36-year-old remains an elite goalscorer and finished as Serie A’s leading scorer last term with 29 league goals for Juventus.
Ronaldo has failed to score less than 20 league goals in a campaign since his final campaign with the Red Devils in 2008/09 and the Portugal captain is set to operate in a central role as the lead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attack.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Sancho will compete for positions in the wide areas and offer pace and directness, whilst Edinson Cavani is an understudy of the highest calibre after netting 16 goals from 17 starts across the Premier League and Europa League last season.
United have a fine blend between youth and experience this season and Solskjaer’s task is to now forge a cohesive attacking unit that does not become centred entirely around their new number seven.
Tottenham’s best piece of business of the summer transfer window was keeping Harry Kane out of the clutches of Manchester City, with last season’s Golden Boot winner remaining in north London.
Kane and Son Heung-Min provide Nuno Espirito Santo with two genuinely elite forward talents, though the club’s options beyond that duo have often struggled for consistency.
The work-rate of Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura is admirable, but a combined haul of just four Premier League goals last season tells the story of two players who have failed to regularly contribute towards the scoresheet.
Bryan Gil has promise but is another player whose goal involvement has been limited during his fledgling career to date, whilst the failure to replace departed loanees Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius leaves Spurs short.
Dane Scarlett has been mentioned as a player who could feature in cup competition and Europe, but at 17 the England youth international is raw and inexperienced with just four senior appearances.
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Author: Harry Diamond