English Premier League – Best Strikers?
If you had to pick just three English Premier League strikers as the greatest since its founding, who would you go for? There have been plenty of outstanding strikers to have played in this competition, so it’s certainly not a decision to make lightly. To name a few, there were Sheringham, Shearer, Fowler, Wright, Owen, Ferdinand – and that’s just some of the English ones! Representing the foreigners, you could easily look at Zola, Bergkamp, van Nistelrooy, Aguero, Drogba, Henry – the list goes on. Who would make your three, though? Having given it careful consideration, I’ve opted for the following three in no particular order;
1. Thierry Henry
It’s exceedingly rare that you’ll ever find a footballer like Thierry Henry. It’s even rarer to find someone as talented as he is that wasn’t cocky about his ability, too, which I liked. There was a lot to enjoy about his performances as a striker, ranging from his lightning pace to his control to his finishing. Left foot, right foot – it didn’t really matter to him. He wasn’t your conventional “I’m not going to move outside the 18-yard box” striker, either – he’d happily run the channels for his team, making him even harder to handle. If you got tight to him, he’d roll you. If you sat off him, he’d run past you. That’s why nobody ever really managed to stop him from dominating the English Premier League with frequent goals, a great number of which were outstanding goals.
You know what I liked most about him, though? His awareness. At all times, he knew where his teammates were, and he knew the right decision to make. That kind of skill is extremely rare in footballers nowadays, or so it seems, but Henry had it in abundance. He was a wonderful forward.
2. Ruud van Nistelrooy
Unlike Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy was very much a “proper” striker, if I can indeed phrase it that way without sounding derogatory toward the superb Frenchman. What I mean is that van Nistelrooy was always in the box, because that’s where he knew he had to be. It didn’t matter where he was in the box, the former PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United poacher could score from just about anywhere in that space. If you want to see examples of how crazily good he was at scoring goals from impossible situations, look up videos on YouTube of Manchester United’s 3-1 win in Basel many years ago. Basel dominated United in the first-half, and should have been out of sight. Van Nistelrooy was unleashed in the second-half, bagged himself a hat-trick, and United won the game. I’ve lost count of how many times that happened during in that particular era, too.
The difference between van Nistelrooy and other strikers was that he was world-class in a team that wasn’t, at that time, and it still showed. Most strikers need the players around them to be top-notch, but not van Nistelrooy; he could always work himself a bit of room, and find the back of the net from a single opportunity. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever seen a better poacher in the Premier League than van Nistelrooy. He could use both feet, was good in the air, was strong, and was a superb finisher. It’s hardly surprising that you’ll still sometimes hear United fans singing his name on the terraces, or in the pubs around the stadium.
3. Alan Shearer
Last, but not least, we have Alan Shearer. As a Manchester United fan looking back on the way things were back then, I am still gutted that we didn’t managed to sign him. At that time, he was one of the absolute best in the business, and had he joined United, I firmly believe that everything would have gone to United in that period of time. The combination would have been perfect. Instead, he gave Newcastle United some of the best years that they’ve ever experienced because of his ridiculously impressive ability to score goals.
He was tremendous in the air, on the ground, and he had one of the most powerful shots that I have ever seen on a forward. There was simply no way to keep Alan Shearer out of a game of football; he was too hard to play against in every sense of the word. He was a complete striker, capable of scoring from distance, or at close range. I wouldn’t say he was the classiest of finishers, per se, but that’s because he didn’t need to be. Alan Shearer kept everything about his game simple, straightforward, and he mastered both. He was easily one of the best strikers to have ever played in the English Premier League, for my money, and I wish that he was still playing now!