What is the best option up front for Europe’s top teams?


Have you ever looked at your club and wondered what’s going on up front? Well, fear not, we have you covered. This is the best possible attacking option that will have them scoring and creating tons of goals, assuming everyone is fit and healthy.

Gabriel Martinelli, FW – Kai Havertz, ST Bukayo Saka, FW
Martin Ødegaard, AM

With Martinelli and Saka miles ahead of their teammates on the wing, the main challenge for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is undoubtedly the choice of centre-forward. Eddie Nketiah has shown flashes of brilliance this season but, much like Gabriel Jesus, telling contributions come in bursts rather than on a weekly basis. By going with either of the two, Arsenal tend to be more direct and can stretch opposing defences. Yet the key for Arteta is to involve the wingers more as they are world class and pose the greatest goal threat.

For that reason, Arteta might find Havertz more useful as a “false No. 9.” The Germany international hasn’t set the Emirates alight since arriving in the summer and doesn’t seem suited to a deeper midfield role where he has to win the ball back. However, he does have the awareness to dink balls through to runners and, while he may not hit the back of the net as much as some other strikers, he will open the door for teammates to contribute.

Using Ødegaard in a slightly withdrawn No. 10 role — with two deeper midfielders behind him — may also ensure that Arsenal get all their most technically gifted attackers on the pitch at once.

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Christopher Nkunku, FW – Nicolas Jackson, STRaheem Sterling, FW

Due to injuries and a huge influx of new faces over the last few months, Chelsea‘s attack is still a work in progress, though the midfield trio of Enzo Fernández, Conor Gallagher and Moisés Caicedo is starting to look settled.

Nkunku’s injury-enforced absence has been a big blow for the club as he scored 36 goals in the past two Bundesliga seasons for RB Leipzig. Yet the lack of a central striker with a strong link-up game remains an issue to be looked at in January, as Jackson predominantly loves attacking space in behind.

While Chelsea can expect more goals from midfield — using Fernandez in an advanced role should eventually see his name appear more frequently on the scoresheet — neither Noni Makueke or Mykhailo Mudryk have shown anything to suggest that they can be depended upon in terms of attacking impact.

When Nkunku returns, the issue will be what to do with Cole Palmer. His form has been exceptional since arriving from Man City this summer and he could theoretically feature as a “false No. 9” or slot in as a No. 10 if you sacrifice one of the three central midfielders. Mauricio Pochettino will certainly have options.

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Could Leroy Sane replace Mohamed Salah at Liverpool?

Janusz Michallik debates whether Leroy Sane would want to return to the Premier League if Mohamed Salah leaves Liverpool.

Luis Díaz, FW – Darwin Núñez, STMohamed Salah, FW

We have yet to see the full potential of the Liverpool front three, but there’s every reason to believe they will soon start to click with devastating effect. Salah’s goal-scoring record (196 goals in 320 games) and knack for quick one-twos on the edge of the box are well known, but there’s also Diaz’s flair and movement which can mesmerise defenders.

Nunez may struggle to hold a particular position as it’s in his nature to roam, but he can be devastating in the transitional phase and few forwards in Europe can match him for pace and power.

Klopp also has the option of pushing central midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai up higher to the left of the centre-forward. Such a move would grant a playmaking option in attack without sacrificing the goal threat.

Jérémy Doku, FW – Erling Haaland, STPhil Foden, FW
Julian Alvarez, AM

No matter how manager Pep Guardiola lines up his attack, he can choose from a magnificent blend of characters, spearheaded by the No. 1 centre-forward in the world: Haaland. With unmatched physicality, pace and poacher’s instinct that has seen him net 67 goals in 70 games for the club, the 23-year-old’s mere presence opens up space for the supporting cast to roam.

In particular, Avarez benefits from this room to work as he is allowed to drift between the opposing lines — much as an old-fashion second striker.

On the wing, Doku has been a revelation since arriving this summer. The speedy Belgium international has brought even more unpredictability with his relentless dribbling abilities — 6+ successful take-ons per 90 minutes is an extraordinary feat — and his progressive style of play. More of a combination player, Phil Foden is creative, an avid presser and as interchangeable (position-wise) as the rest of the supporting attacking midfielders.

But what about Jack Grealish? He can be brought off the bench for his ball retention capabilities. Bernardo Silva? He is deployed deeper usually, or can be pushed up higher. Kevin De Bruyne, when he returns from injury? Guardiola has some thinking to do when that happens.

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Is Rasmus Hojlund a good signing for Manchester United?

Rob Dawson debates whether Rasmus Hojlund will be a success at Manchester United after signing from Atalanta.

Mason Mount, FW – Rasmus Højlund, ST – Marcus Rashford, FW
Bruno Fernandes, AM

With Erik ten Hag struggling to get the best out of his attacking trio, it might be time for a minor rejig. The way out of the goal drought could see Mount feature in a role wide on the left — from where he occasionally found success at Chelsea — and moving Rashford to the opposite side.

This would put €95m-winger Antony on the bench (long overdue, according to many) but should make United less predictable, with Mount bringing strategic thinking to the front three.

While Højlund is still looking for his first Premier League goal, Ten Hag is right to keep him in the side. The Denmark international needs service and he is sure to benefit from Mount playing higher up the pitch.

Brennan Johnson, FW – Son Heung-Min, ST – Dejan Kulusevski, FW
James Maddison, AM

So far, Spurs have proved their doubters wrong and shown that they can fare well without Harry Kane. But recent injuries will heavily compromise Ange Postecoglu’s attacking choices.

Despite not being a classic style of centre-forward, Son has done well though his instinct being to drift wide to the left, while the introduction of Maddison, tucked in a No. 10 role to orchestrate the attacks, has proven a wise move.

Spurs are reportedly still looking to sign an out-and-out centre-forward, which is understandable. Such a move would give Postecoglu the option of moving Son back to his more familiar position on the left and alleviate Maddison of some of his hold-up responsibilities, as well as allowing new signing Johnson to challenge Kulusevski for his preferred position on the right.

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Laurens praises ‘incredible’ Harry Kane after Der Klassiker hat trick

Gab & Juls react to Bayern Munich’s 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker.

EUROPE

Leroy Sané, FW – Harry Kane, ST – Kingsley Coman, FW
Jamal Musiala, AM

Bayern’s X-factor might be their strength in depth, but coach Thomas Tuchel has found fluency and goals out of his most recent attacking lineup. With Kane scoring 19 goals in 15 games so far while leading the line, the perennial German champions now have a prolific No. 9 striker to replace Robert Lewandowski.

On top of adding a missing dimension up front, the England international has also built a good relationship with his wingers — Sane and Coman. Pushing Musiala forward into a No. 10 role has also proven to be a masterstroke.

Thomas Müller, Mathys Tel and Serge Gnabry also ensure high-quality rotation options.

Victor Boniface, ST
Florian Wirtz AM – Jonas Hofmann, AM

(Alex Grimaldo, LWB – Jeremie Frimpong, RWB)

The surprise leaders of the Bundesliga have been in devastating form this season. While most of Europe’s high-scoring sides tend to line up in a back four, Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso has gone with a 3-4-2-1 which allows his energetic wing-backs to push forward to the point where they can appear more like wingers — Grimaldo has scored five Bundesliga goals; Frimpong three. The main source of creativity, however, stems from the attacking midfielders positioned behind hotshot centre-forward Boniface, who has 10 goals in 14 games so far.

A 20-year-old wonderkid, Wirtz has been in superb form, masterminding opportunities with his impressive vision and magnificent left foot. But new signing Hofman, originally a winger, has also proved extremely productive operating alongside him in central areas.

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Nicol slams ‘absolute joke’ Mbappé-PSG saga in epic rant

Steve Nicol tears into the latest developments in Kylian Mbappé’s transfer saga, with the forward now set to extend his PSG deal.

Kylian Mbappé, FW – Randal Kolo Muani, ST – Marco Asensio, FW

Despite a multitude of options, PSG are still to find the right balance in attack and Asensio being ruled out for most of the season through injury hasn’t helped as he would bring a lot.

Mbappe is unquestionably the main source of creativity and goals (12 goals from 14 games this season) from his favoured position on the left, but coach Luis Enrique still has to work out whether Kolo Muani or Benfica loanee Goncalo Ramos is best placed to score — or be most compatible to interact with Mbappe — from the No. 9 position.

PSG may lack goals from midfield, but the constant attacking presence of Achraf Hakimi at right-back creates continuous chances down that flank. Winger Ousmane Dembélé is yet to find form following his summer move from Barcelona, so Asensio’s return can’t come soon enough.

João Félix, FW – Robert Lewandowski, ST – Lamine Yamal, FW

Neither big-money signings Raphinha (€60m) or Ferran Torres (€55m) have done enough to be considered as regulars, while Atletico Madrid-loanee Felix seems happier at Camp Nou. Barca coach Xavi just has to be careful not to ask too much of 16-year-old academy wonderkid Yamal too soon — though he is incredible.

Xavi’s main concern is to get Pedri back to match fitness. With the return of the 20-year-old midfielder in a No. 10 role, the club would be a more fluent and cohesive unit as he links midfield and attack like few others in world football.

Another issue is to get Lewandowski to rediscover his sharpness in front of goal (he’s on an unusual six-game barren spell and only has six goals in 13 games.) Though the possible January arrival of 18-year-old Brazil star Vitor Roque would provide the legendary Poland international with some much-needed competition.

As a result of failing to get the wingers to shine Xavi has played around with the formation, at times lining up with two central strikers. But he needs to find some stability.

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Is Jude Bellingham papering over cracks for Real Madrid?

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Real Madrid’s questionable performances despite the excellent form of Jude Bellingham.

Rodrygo, FW – Joselu, ST – Vinicius Junior, FW
Jude Bellingham, AM

Surprisingly, Real Madrid went into the season without a big-name No. 9 striker following the departure of 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema to Saudi Arabia. However, coach Carlo Ancelotti has partly mitigated the absence of the Frenchman by cleverly deploying €103m summer signing Bellingham in an advanced midfield role.

With 13 goals from 14 games for his new club, the England midfielder has been extraordinarily impactful — scoring late winners, making great runs, and linking well with his teammates. Summer signing Arda Güler will hope to make an impact in a similar role when he returns fully from injury.

Best placed for the central striker role is Joselu, a low-key signing on loan from Espanyol who has exceeded expectations by leading the line with physicality, presence and experience. The arrival of the 33-year-old Spain international also offers Ancelotti the alternative to shift Rodrygo to the right of attack — the position that undoubtedly suits him the best.

Madrid have such great midfield options — Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Aurélien Tchouaméni — that their attack feels light by comparison. The €72m arrival of Brazil prodigy Endrick in 2024 (when he turns 18) may change that.

Federico Chiesa, ST – Dusan Vlahovic, ST

Juventus started the season with their two most high-profile attackers up front in their 3-5-2 formation, but since the 4-2 defeat at Sassuolo in September, coach Massimo Allegri has gone with other options. And it’s hard to argue with the experienced Italian as he’s led Juventus to five wins and one draw, conceding zero goals in the process.

By sacrificing either (or both) of the star frontmen (with Vlahovic seeing the fewest minutes), Juventus do look more solid. Moise Kean or Arkadiusz Milik may not stir up the same excitement, but both represent the graft and physical presence — set pieces have increasingly become a key strategy for Allegri — which Chiesa and Vlahovic don’t possess to a certain degree.

Whether they’ll ever work as a pair might be debatable, but they are both the club’s top scorers in Serie A with four goals (Milik the next, with two). So perhaps it’s worth giving them another try together?

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How concerning are AC Milan’s UCL struggles for Pulisic and Musah?

Herc Gomez debates whether or not USMNT fans should be worried by Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah’s struggles in the Champions League with AC Milan.

Rafael Leão, FW – Olivier Giroud, ST – Christian Pulisic, FW

Last season’s Champions League semifinalists have not enjoyed a bright start to the Serie A campaign, losing 5-1 in the derby with Inter and 1-0 to Juventus at home. And, with much of the criticism aimed at the summer’s transfer dealings, coach Stefano Pioli has predominantly had to rely on established stars like Leao and Giroud to provide a spark in attack.

Both were on the scoresheet as Milan beat PSG in the Champions League this week. Leao is a superstar of incredible potential and, even at 37, Giroud provides a trusted focal point at centre-forward, chipping in with goals and providing an outlet for his midfielders.

USMNT star Pulisic has done well, with four goals and two assists from his 14 games, but was taken off injured against PSG on Tuesday night. So until Samuel Chukwueze, Noah Okafor and Luka Jovic adjust to life at the club, or the midfield start to help out in the goal-scoring stakes, a lot will ride on Giroud and Leao.

Lautaro Martínez, ST – Marcus Thuram, ST

One of the few sides at Champions League level who typically line up with two out-and-out strikers, Inter have enjoyed a fine start to the season thanks to the newly formed Martinez-Thuram partnership.

Much like during the last Scudetto-winning campaign of 2020-21, Martinez is reaping the benefits of playing alongside a more physical partner (which was Romelu Lukaku back then), leaving him more space to exploit. The Argentina international has scored 14 goals from 15 games already and prefers to operate close to the box, where he can use his outstandingly quick finishing skills.

Meanwhile, Thuram tends to drift into wide areas, drop deep to pick up the ball, or take care of the more physically demanding duels. But always without losing sight of his sidekick. Though Inter were dealt a blow with September’s injury to Marko Arnautovic, the versatile and intelligent Thuram has settled in so well that the duo look unlikely to be split up any time soon.



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