It is a thankless task to delve into the greatest Premier League strikers of all time and come out of it with an exact number who fairly, and objectively fit the bill. Far too many names have dominated the sport, and continue to in the modern era. The London clubs are no exception, boasting some of the league’s best talents in front of goal over the years.
If we are talking London football, nothing can be said without mentioning Arsenal. Based in the northern suburbs, the Gunners have been the most successful club from England’s biggest city and continue to be one of the world’s most popular. The club was buoyed by two men in particular during the early stages of the Premier League era, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp who were present for many league and cup wins. They were a nightmare for defences thanks to their talent as much as their goal scoring ability.
When there is red, there is blue. Chelsea have been the most successful London club this century, producing some of the best teams along with the best managers leading them to many league titles. In the front third, while the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Diego Costa come to mind, none have made more of an impact than Didier Drogba. Hailing from the Ivory Coast, Drogba overcame a rocky start to his club tenure, to become one of the club’s all-time leading goal scorers. In and amongst a sea of talent at the club during his time, Drogba emerged more often than not as the go-to attacker.
As the modern era takes shape with notable forwards making their mark, few have been as prolific in front of goal as Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane. Since the Englishman’s breakout season in 2014-15, Kane has garnered an incredible goals to games ratio and at the age of 26, he still has a lot more to give the game of football.
But lining them all up on the start line, with the anticipation for a fascinating race ahead, which Premier League London forward crosses the line in first?
In order to determine this I have used four categories that are integral in assessing a striker and footballer’s career.
1. Thierry Henry, 2.Harry Kane, 3. Didier Drogba, 4. Dennis Bergkamp
The bread and butter of a forward and most of the time, what determines their importance on the pitch. As expected, it was Henry’s forte.
The Frenchman currently ranks as the six highest Premier League goal scorer of all time with 175, making up a big chunk of his 226 goals in all competitions. He trails Alan Shearer (260), Wayne Rooney (208), Andy Cole (187), Sergio Agüero (180) and Frank Lampard (177) in league goals. Though out of the six he boasts the second best goals to games ratio with 0.68, trailing Manchester City’s Agüero by just 0.01. He also had six consecutive campaigns of 17 or more goals.
Coming in at number two is Kane, and if the numbers are anything to go by, he could find himself closer to the top of the all-time scoring list one day. Kane currently has 136 Premier League goals to his name and 181 in all competitions. He averages an incredible 0.65 goals a game in all competitions, which rises to 0.68 in the Premier League. Add to that he has claimed two Golden Boot awards, as well as four consecutive seasons of 30 or more goals from 2015 until 2018.
It is a slight drop off to the third-placed Drogba with 104 league goals and 161 in all competitions. Contrary to Henry and Kane, he never scored in bunches on a consistent basis, but that is largely due to the widespread talent he shared the field with. At Chelsea Drogba donned the blue strip alongside Lampard, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Hernán Crespo, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda, among so many others, who were all prolific goal scorers in their own right.
Bergkamp falls under a similar umbrella. His goals total of 87 in the Premier League goals and 120 overall fall short thanks to some handy strikers playing next to him. Ian Wright shouldered the scoring load for Arsenal in the 90’s, a duty that was handed over to Henry when he joined the club in 1999. He made up for it in the assists column, grabbing an impressive 94 in his Arsenal career – far more than any other on this list.
Back in his Ajax days Bergkamp was the focus, and the numbers do show it.
Talent and Impact
1. Thierry Henry, 2. Dennis Bergkamp, 3. Didier Drogba, 4. Harry Kane
Time to get controversial! Every player is good, but there are different levels of talent displayed on the field as each player goes about their craft, and their ability to execute their skill against other professionals helps proclaim their status.
As well as that, what makes someone more special is how their talent benefits their team.
It is hard to look past both Henry and Bergkamp ranking one and two by this method. The pair were able to split defenders via a multitude of skilful ways, whether it be slight touches on the ball, silky footwork or dazzling runs at and around the defence. When you look up the greatest solo goals in Premier League history, both men will have one or two of their own featuring.
Here is where it gets interesting. For all the arguments that can be accurately conjured up that regard Drogba as the greater overall player than Kane (and he is), the Englishman’s impact on Spurs’ fortunes in recent years has been immense and needs recognition. Without him the club would have nowhere near the ‘value’ they do now, and his many Golden Boot and Team of the Year honours attest to that.
In saying that to suggest Drogba did not have a positive impact on his Chelsea sides is absurd. Let’s place him third, by a hair, over Kane.
1. Thierry Henry, 2. Dennis Bergkamp, 3. Harry Kane, 4. Didier Drogba
This one, on the other hand, is far more objective and easy to work through.
There genuinely are too many personal awards to go through for Henry, so let’s trim it down to the most important. He was named PFA Player of the Year twice and received six PFA Team of the Year nominations. He was also FWA Footballer of the Year three times and Premier League Player of the Year twice. He received four Golden Boot awards and was the highest assister once.
After that it gets interesting, but Bergkamp’s Premier League Player of the Year award pushes him up to second. He also has a Team of the Year honour and top assist award to show-off.
Kane and Drogba each have two Team of the Year recognitions, but Kane’s four Golden Boots to Drogba’s two place him in third.
1. Didier Drogba, 2. Dennis Bergkamp, 3. Thierry Henry, 4. Harry Kane
Drogba benefitted from playing under a number of world-class coaches for the majority of his Chelsea tenure, thanks to their insatiable owner Roman Abramovich.
As a result, Drogba won an impressive four Premier League titles, and his teams finished 2nd or 3rd in four of the other five campaigns he competed in. During the 2011-12 season, while Chelsea finished a disappointing 6th, the club did win their only Champions League title, where Drogba netted the equaliser in regulation to send the game into extra time, and the winning penalty in the sudden-death shootout.
Bergkamp won one less than Drogba in the league titles column with three, his first coming in 1998. Despite finishing 5th in his first season with the Gunners, the club went on to finish 3rd or higher in the next nine consecutive campaigns thanks to the arrival of Arsène Wenger as manager.
Henry boasts a similar record to Bergkamp, but arrived a little over a year after the club’s first league title under Wenger, giving him two title winning medals as opposed to three. However like Bergkamp, Henry helped give the club a flurry of top four finishes. Henry also helped carry the club to their first and only Champions League final to date in 2006, which ended in defeat against Barcelona.
Kane unfortunately has nothing more than a Champions League runner-up medal to show for his successful tenure at Spurs so far. The club did finish second in back-to-back seasons in 2016 and ’17. If all goes well, trophies will come his way.
Unsurprisingly Thierry Henry comes in at number one using this method, with a total score of 14 out of a possible 16 points. Dennis Bergkamp was a fair way back, finishing with 10. Didier Drogba was close behind the Dutchman, scoring nine while Harry Kane managed seven.
Sports writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. I have a strong passion for a range of codes, including the NBA, NFL, Soccer, Rugby and more.