A new generation of strikers are beginning to gain prominence across the English Premier League, with new names and maturing regulars among the ranks looking to make their mark this season. While some have come through youth systems or been brought in for nominal sums, others have carried fees of £30m upwards.
FIFA.com looks at some the young names and potential surprises that look set to challenge the Premier League's top marksmen in the 2011/12 campaign.
One of the highly-priced, fresh-faced forwards is also arguably the biggest signing of the summer in England, Manchester City new-boy Sergio Aguero. It’s easy to forget that this lethal striker is still just 23, having racked up over 100 goals in five years at Atletico Madrid. Having made his debut for Argentinian club Independiente at the age of just 15, and appearing for his national side just two months after his 18th birthday, his mass exposure is no surprise.
Another beginning this season with the burden of a hefty transfer fee on his shoulders is Liverpool’s Andy Carroll. With the Reds having to shell out £35m in January to prise the Newcastle-born striker from Tyneside just weeks after his 22nd birthday, he has much to live up to at Anfield. Carroll was sidelined with a hamstring injury for much of the final stages of last season, so has yet to fully make his mark and expectations will be high as a result for the season ahead.
The moniker of the North East’s hot striking prospect has quickly been filled, but now it’s fierce rivals Sunderland in possession of the bright hope. Connor Wickham is his name, and despite being just 18 he has spent the last two years being linked with a plethora of top clubs while at Championship side Ipswich Town. With the build and confidence of someone many years his senior, the striker looks to be a bargain at £8m.
Wickham will help fill the void of the departing Danny Welbeck, who looks set to remain at parent club Manchester United having been on loan to the Wearsiders last season. Operating just off the main striker or out wide, Welbeck found himself in rich goalscoring form, including one in a famous 3-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, before a knee injury curtailed his campaign. Two goals during England’s unsuccessful UEFA European U-21 Championship this summer has only widened the 20-year-old’s appeal.
However the Englishman will be competing for places with one of the bargains of last season in Javier Hernandez. Having made a huge impact in helping take United to the Premier League title, the 23-year-old will be set on improving on his 20 goals in 2010/11, with many tipping the Mexican to go on and become one of the best forwards in the world.
All the focus at Chelsea at present may be on English record-signing Fernando Torres, but challenging for a place in the Blues’ attack, after an impressive end to the season on loan at Bolton Wanderers, is Daniel Sturridge. The 21-year-old, who is able to play wide or through the middle, boasts a vicious left-foot and an impressive turn of pace. The former Manchester City man burst into life with eight goals in 12 games to keep Owen Coyle’s side clear of a relegation battle and put himself firmly in new manager Andre Villas-Boas’ plans.
He will be waiting in the wings with one of the most coveted of teenage strikers in the world however, with Belgian prodigy Romelu Lukaku yesterday moving to Stamford Bridge for a reported £20m fee. Touted as ‘the next Didier Drogba’, the 18-year-old already stands at an imposing 6ft 3in and has been causing havoc for Anderlecht for the last two years. Having led the line since the age of 16 and winning the golden boot in his first full season, he has long been on the radar of Real Madrid and AC Milan, amongst many others, and is one with potentially a huge future.
Another newcomer to the league, who’s perceived to have a bright career ahead of him is Arsenal’s Joel Campbell. The 19-year-old Costa Rican had been plying his trade for Saprissa and Puntarenas in his homeland, but has really come alive in the colours of the national team. In what has been a big summer for the youngster, he scored on his debut for Costa Rica in the Gold Cup, led them to a famous win over Bolivia in the Copa America and scored twice at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. On Campbell, manager Arsene Wenger said: “Joel is a young prospect, he has talent and he can play right, left or centrally. We took a gamble on him but, from what we have seen, it is worth taking.”
Norwich City will be looking to a more familiar, if still unproven, striker as they make their return, but one who is still surprisingly youthful considering the length of time he has been on the Premier League scene. Still only 23, James Vaughan is the youngest scorer in the league’s history, scoring for Everton against Crystal Palace aged just 16 years and 270 days. Unfortunately, during his seven years at Goodison Park, injuries and a lack of opportunities hindered his chance to progress. A nippy player who is well schooled at causing a nuisance in and around the penalty box, Paul Lambert will hope he can pop up with the goals his side will surely need to maintain their Premier League status.