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Goals galore

What would happen if the 20 best strikers in the world played in the Premier League?

We used Football Manager 2017 to see what would happen if the finest strikers the game can offer all played in the English top-flight

The Premier League is brimming with some pretty fine strikers, agreed?

Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez are all considered among the very best forwards on the planet.

And lucky for us, they all ply their trade in England’s top-flight.

Love a goal, this lot

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Love a goal, this lot

But what if all of the world’s best forwards turned out for clubs in the Premier League.

It’s a tantalising thought, right?


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Well, we only went and did it, didn’t we.

Using the very best data analysis technology at our disposal (the wonderful Football Manager 2017) we simmed an entire season of the Premier League, with 20 of the best forwards we could think of strutting their stuff for each club in the top-flight.

Who got whom?

Here’s the ol’ long list:

Arsenal – Andrea Belotti

Bournemouth – Edin Dzeko

Brighton & Hove – Lionel Messi

Burnley – Cristiano Ronaldo

Chelsea – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Crystal Palace – Karim Benzema

Everton – Edinson Cavani

Huddersfield – Luis Suarez

Leicester – Radamel Falcao

Liverpool – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Manchester City – Alvaro Morata

Manchester United – Gonzalo Higuain

Newcastle – Paulo Dybala

Southampton – Alexandre Lacazette

Spurs – Bas Dost

Stoke City – Mauro Icardi

Swansea – Neymar

Watford – Robert Lewandowski 

West Brom – Antoine Griezmann

West Ham – Dries Mertens

We tried to fair it up as much as possible by giving the likes of Brighton, Huddersfield, Swansea and Burnley the very best (so basically, MSN + CR7), but quite frankly most of the selections were completely random.

We then sat back and let the game work its magic.

Firstly, here’s how the season ended:

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So, United finished top, Chelsea and Arsenal weren’t far behind, while West Brom, Bournemouth, Burnley and Watford all finished fairly high up.

But poor old Everton had a nightmare.

How did our boys get on?

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Well, look at that.

Ronaldo topped the Premier League goal scoring chart on his return to England, while Ibrahimovic showed us all that his real life season with United wasn’t a fluke, finishing joint-top with 23 goals.

Suarez and Messi are up there too, while Solomon Rondon and Callum Wilson stole some of the limelight from their loftier counterparts.

Fancy some extra detail?

Arsenal – Andrea Belotti

EPA
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The Italian forward is hot property this summer, having notched an impressive 26 goals in Serie A.

The usual suspects, including AC Milan, Chelsea and Man Untied have all been linked with big-money moves for the Torino hotshot.

So naturally, we paired him with Arsenal.

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Arsenal finished 3rd with Belotti leading the line, who scored 13 goals and finished the season with a pleasing 7.27 rating.

He couldn’t match his experienced teammate Alexis Sanchez, who once again ended the season as Arsenal top goalscorer with 22.

Bournemouth – Edin Dzeko

Reuters
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Dzeko never had much of a fair crack at Man City, but has returned to his previous Wolfsburg-era glory with Roma.

He scored 29 times for the Italian giants last season (even more than Belotti) as the Giallorossi finished runners-up to Juventus in Serie A.

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With plucky Bournemouth, he was outscored by fellow-striker Callum Wilson, finishing the season with 8 goals compared to Wilson’s 18.

Still, if we’ve learned anything from the Bosnian’s career, his first season at a new club is always underwhelming, while his second season is spectacular.

Brighton & Hove – Lionel Messi

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We gave the big man to newly-promoted Brighton & Hove, as we figured they could benefit from the odd moment of magic.

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And Messi didn’t disappoint, scoring 15 times for the Seagulls and finishing the season as by-far their best performer with a rating of 7.82 overall.

He even helped them stay up, with Brighton finishing a respectable 15th place in their first season with the big boys.

Now they just need to convince Messi to join up in real life.

Burnley – Cristiano Ronaldo

PA:Press Association
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There’s no end to Ronaldo’s talents.

At 32, the Portuguese maestro is still banging them in.

He finished top goalscorer for the fifth straight season in the Champions League, leading Real Madrid to yet another Champions League title and their first La Liga since 2012.

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He wasn’t bad for Burnley, either.

Ronny finished the season as top scorer in the Premier League, aiding Burnley’s 10th place finish with 23 goals.

We’re not even that surprised.

Chelsea – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

PA:Press Association
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Zlatan was one of the surprise packages in the Premier League last season.

His advancing years meant there were plenty who felt he would struggle to score goals in the Premier League.

But actually, it turned out to be a breeze for the towering-Swede, scoring 28 goals for United.

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We figured if Zlatan could handle life at Man United, then Chelsea would be a walk in the park, right?

Yup.

23 goals and a 3rd place finish for the Blues tells you all you need to know, really.

Crystal Palace – Karim Benzema

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Benzema doesn’t get the recognition he deserves at Madrid.

Which probably has something to do with the fact he’s sharing a forward-line with the likes of Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Still, 11 goals in La Liga last season is fair enough, and who are we to question a forward who’s won it all at club level?

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Benzema had to share scoring-rights yet again, with Palace forward Christian Benteke already top-dog at Selhurst Park.

And the towering-Belgium outscored his French teammate, with Benteke ending the season with 12 goals compared to Benzema’s 8.

Try harder, Karim.

Everton – Edinson Cavani

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Here’s a guy we’d love to see strutting his stuff in England.

Cavani had an incredible season for Paris Saint-Germain last term, besting the likes of Lacazette and Falcao in Ligue 1 with an eye-watering 35 goals.

He’s clearly enjoying life as PSG’s main now, now that Ibrahimovic is out of the picture.

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Life wasn’t quite so sweet at Everton.

The Toffees season imploded as they finished 19th.

Despite his club’s struggles, the Argentinean still managed 19 goals, while United’s real-life new boy Romelu Lukaku managed only 9.

Surely one of the most devastating strike-partnerships in football, on paper?

Huddersfield – Luis Suarez

PA:Press Association
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We’re a little worried about Huddersfield.

The Premier League newcomers look a little sparse at the moment, but we’ve got faith in the managerial genius of David Wagner.

That’s probably why we decided to give ’em Suarez then.

The Barcelona striker is one of the most devastating forwards on the planet, and has the added bonus of previous Premier League experience.

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The Terriers limped home, finishing dead-last with 13 points.

Not quite on the same level as Derby’s 2007-08 campaign, but close.

16 goals for Suarez and a 7.58 rating shows that he can still do it, even with a club right at the bottom.

Leicester – Radamel Falcao

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The less said about Falcao’s time in the Premier League, the better.

The Colombian hitman had two pretty underwhelming seasons at United and Chelsea, but has since re-found his best form with Monaco, ending the Ligue 1 season as the French outfit’s top goalscorer.

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Leicester pretty much did what they did last season; never quite reaching the dizzy heights of their Premier League winning season, but still managing a respectable mid-table finish.

The Foxes made room for Falaco by putting Jamie Vardy out on the wing for some reason.

An odd decision indeed, but it resulted in a pretty alright 10 goals for Falcao.
Liverpool – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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Aubameyang is fairly regularly linked with Liverpool, mainly because of the whole Jurgen Klopp/Borussia Dortmund thing.

We don’t really see it, personally.

But we gave the Gabonese forward to the Reds anyway, to see if he could replicate the 31 goals he scored in the Bundesliga last season.

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He did alright, hitting 15 goals as the Reds finished in the top four.

He linked up well with Philippe Coutinho, while Daniel Sturridge was often used on the wing. No sign of Roberto Firmino, though.

Manchester City – Alvaro Morata

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Ah, Alvaro.

The Real Madrid forward is fed up with being on the peripherals at Real Madrid and will seemingly be a Chelsea boy next season.

Naturally, we sent him to Man City to see how he gets on.

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The Spanish forward’s first season in England ended well enough, with 8 goals and a 7.03 rating.

He didn’t quite managed to displace Sergio Aguero, though, who finished the season as City’s top goalscorer yet again with 18.

What could Morata bring to fantasy football?

Manchester United – Gonzalo Higuain

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It wasn’t a bad season for Higuain, was it?

Signing for Juventus from Napoli, he lifted the Scudetto and reached the Champions League final, scoring 34 goals in all competitions in the process.

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We gave him to United, who had a gap up front following the departure of Ibrahimovic.

And he gave Lukaku something to think about, scoring 17 goals as United won their first post-Fergie title.

Not bad at all.

Newcastle – Paulo Dybala

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Dybala was really awesome last season, and will surely be one of the very best in the world in a few years time.

The youngster scored 11 time in Serie A, but it was his performances in the Champions League that really caught the eye.

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We quite like the look of Dybala in black and white stripes, so we sent him to Newcastle for his first season in England.

And he did extremely well, endearing himself to the Toon with a return of 19 goals and a rating of 7.62, beating the likes of Lewandowski, Aguero and Cavani.

Southampton – Alexandre Lacazette

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We’re pretty excited by the prospect of seeing Lacazette in the Premier League next season.

The Arsenal new boy has been one of the finest goal scorers on the continent in recent seasons, ending last term with 28 goals in Ligue 1.

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He wasn’t quite so impressive with Southampton, finding the net only 8 times as the Saints finished 14th in the table.

We expect him to do a little better with the Gunners this season, right?

Spurs – Bas Dost

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Who?

The Dutch forward was pretty underwhelming during his time at Wolfsburg, but had an incredible season with Portuguese giants Sporting, topping the scoring charts with 34 goals.

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We weren’t too sure what to do with Dost, so we gave him to Tottenham.

We figured they already had Harry Kane, so they didn’t necessarily need a Cavani or Ronaldo.

As it turned out, the Dutchman struggled to get a game and was gone by January.

Sold to Juventus for £8million.

Ouch.

In hindsight, we probably should’ve chosen someone like Lorenzo Insigne for this experiment instead.

Stoke City – Mauro Icardi

AP:Associated Press
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Icardi is an enigma.

We get the feeling he’s not too popular with the club’s fans (especially after releasing that controversial autobiography), but he still has plenty of purple patches.

24 goals in Serie A last season is certainly nothing to frown at.

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We gave him to Stoke, just for a laugh really.

He did alright too, proving it can be done on a cold night at the Bet365 Stadium.

14 goals is 35 appearances is a good return, but the Potters will be disappointed with a 16th place finish.

Swansea – Neymar

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We do love Neymar, and for good reason.

The Brazilian isn’t quite on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo yet, but he’s getting there.

Some of his performances for Barcelona last season were simply spell-bounding, while we’re pretty sure we’ll remember his role in the 6-1 win over PSG for years to come.

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There was no Champions League for Neymar this season, but there was still goals.

12, to be precise, which was enough to keep his Swansea side in the top-flight for another season, albeit just five points off the drop zone.

Close call.

Watford – Robert Lewandowski

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It was another efficient season from the Polish big-man, who notched 30 goals for Bayern as they steamrollered their way to another German title.

It was a different story in the Champions League though, as the Bavarian giants fell to Real Madrid in the last eight, although Lewandowski still finished the European campaign with eight goals.

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We liked Lewandowski more when he was at Borussia Dortmund, so we decided to give him another yellow shirt to strut his stuff in.

Watford had a fine season with Lewy running things up front; 19 goals from their star man (coupled with a very nice 7.17 rating) resulted in an all-round decent 11th in the end of season table.

West Brom – Antoine Griezmann

AP:Associated Press
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We definitely won’t be seeing Griezmann in the Premier League this season, so we’re afraid this is as good as it gets.

The Frenchman was at the forefront of everything good Atletico did last season, scoring 16 goals in La Liga and six in the Champions League.

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West Brom got the most out of their new man, finishing a brilliant 7th in the table, while the golden-haired boy notched 12 goals for the Baggies.

West Ham – Dries Mertens

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Mertens had an incredible season with Napoli.

Following the sale of Higuain and the injury to Arkadiusz Milik, Mertens took centre-stage and didn’t disappoint, scoring a brilliant 28 goals as the Neapolitan side finished just behind Roma in the Italian top-flight.

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He didn’t have quite the same effect for West Ham, as the Hammers finished 18th.

Mertens played in an awkward wide midfield role, and struggled to get goals, notching just 8.


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