It was arguably Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez that truly popularised the idea of an iconic front three. A holy trinity of South American geniuses that together, scored an unprecedented 122 goals combined in Barcelona’s 2014/15 treble-winning season.
MSN was followed by Real Madrid’s BBC of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Paris Saint-Germain stole Neymar for their own glitzy triad, incorporating him with Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. Bayern Munich had Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery either side of Robert Lewandowski. The front three is still going strong in the Premier League today too - with Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane perhaps the most famous example.
The best things come in threes, as we all know. BLTs, Destiny’s Child, Lord of the Rings. So we thought we’d tally up each of the Premier League’s top threes and work out the best… and the not so best. Are any of these threatening MSN? Or even BBC?
20. Sheffield United - Brewster, McGoldrick and Burke
Not unlike the Premier League table itself, Sheffield United sit bottom of our pile. Their best trio, in our opinion, omits captain Billy Sharp - we’re opting for new signings Rhian Brewster and Oliver Burke up top with David McGoldrick.
But as Sheffield United also proved wonderfully last season, the Blades are more than just the sum of their strikers. The true strengths in the team lie at wing-back, centre-back and the dynamism of that midfield. And Chris Wilder, of course, who it’s safe to say is a master tactician. It’s a compliment of sorts to the rest of the team. Honest.
19. Brighton - Maupay, Connolly and Trossard
It might seem harsh to put Brighton and Hove Albion, one of the season’s brightest sparks, penultimate in our list. But similarly to Sheffield United, they’re about so much more than just a spikey attack and have quality throughout the side - and in the dugout.
Neal Maupay is the standout striker, yet growing in stature, still. Aaron Connolly is still developing too. Leandro Trossard made the most sense to put in here - for balance - though former England stars Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck both have shouts. A well-oiled machine, yes. A fearsome frontline? Not for us.
18. West Bromwich Albion - Perreira, Diangana and Grant
We love the balance of Matheus Perreira, Grady Diangana and Karlan Grant in the West Bromwich Albion attack. It’s a bit… light though.
There isn’t a Premier League-proven attacker in there. It offers youth and pace - and would kill it in the Championship - but like much of West Brom’s side, it hasn’t shown what it can do on a consistent basis as yet. Hence its placing in our relegation zone. Signs are good though.
17. Burnley - McNeil, Wood and Rodriguez
Famously, Burnley do not play with three up top but two. It’s 4-4-2 at happy place Turf Moor - it probably always will be.
Selecting the best three attackers in the Burnley ranks isn’t difficult, though. Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez are the best two options as strikers, with Dwight McNeil the outstanding attacking winger. Is it really top-class? No. But those three create and bury enough to be considered a decent trio.
16. Fulham - Mitrovic, Lookman and Cavaleiro
Fulham have outstanding talent in a number of areas of the pitch, with the backline considered to be the weakest area in the squad. If they go down this season, as many predict, it certainly won’t be because of the attackers - though scoring penalties never goes a miss, boys.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ademola Lookman and Ivan Cavaleiro are one hell of an odd trio. All three could get into a lot of teams in the country though. They haven’t played many matches together but the Cottagers could stay up if they start gelling as a trident.
15. Crystal Palace - Batshuayi, Zaha and Townsend
Crystal Palace also play as a 4-4-2 more often than not. Wilf Zaha is the standout option in the side and improves everyone in the Premier League. From there, it’s a choice of who complements him.
RICHARD JOLLY Why Wilfred Zaha really is worth £80m to Crystal Palace
Michy Batshuayi gets the nod over Andre Ayew and Christian Benteke for us, with Andros Townsend’s experience favouring him over the exciting Eberechi Eze. It’s a solid frontline but like so many other Premier League sides, it’s not the attack that wins them games - it’s the compactness and shrewdness of the team as a unit.
14. Newcastle United - Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Fraser
Last season, Newcastle United’s attack of Allan Saint-Maximin, Joelinton and Miguel Almiron looked like it could gel on paper. They’ve since replaced the latter two for Bournemouth pair Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser, who are upgrades - though these three haven’t had a lot of game-time together. Well, Wilson and Fraser have, just not in the North East.
In theory though, it’s excellent. A proven goalscorer able to hold up play, an unpredictable creative spark to stretch play and a traditional winger. It’s well-balanced with good individuals.
13. Leeds United - Costa, Bamford and Rodrigo
It’s hard to know what, who and where Leeds United’s front three actually are in Bielsa's ever-shifting formation. Jack Harrison has a strong shout to be in this frontline on the left, but can we really ignore one of Helder Costa and Rodrigo to get him in for balance?
Costa and Rodrigo are both best-suited to the right, but both exceptional at their jobs. Patrick Bamford is an extremely well-rounded No.9 that Marcelo Bielsa has been right to put faith in. Whether you squeeze in Harrison over one of the former two, the Peacocks’ trinity still sits around here in the table, for us.
12. Southampton - Ings, Adams and Redmond
Another team who don’t really play a front three, we’ve gone with Southampton’s well-drilled striking duo, plus Nathan Redmond - the best winger at the club.
There’s a goal machine in Danny Ings, a striker who drops off in Che Adams and a workhorse out wide in Redmond. They compliment each other nicely and similarly to some of the teams around the bottom, they’re much better as a sum of their parts than alone. But Ings’s quality almost alone brings their average up. That and Adams’s ever-improving contribution.
11. West Ham United - Antonio, Bowen and Benrahma
West Ham United wanted to build a Hollywood attack around Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson and Sebastien Haller. One relegation fight later and they’ve remoulded to the talents of Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma. It’s much better for it.
Benrahma hasn’t had time with the other two but as the best player in the Championship last season - arguably, of course - West Ham get a good score for this one. And consider how well Bowen and Antonio click together. It’s actually a very dangerous frontline with goals, creativity and nuisance a-plenty. Not something you’d have said about the previous attack they were building.
10. Arsenal - Pepe, Saka and Aubameyang
Arsenal’s attack is a strange one. Alexandre Lacazette’s form has dropped off a cliff in the last couple of years. Willian is looking a little lost. Reiss Nelson isn’t the finished article yet, Eddie Nketiah looks good and Mesut Ozil… well, let’s not talk about him.
It probably all started going wrong for the Gunners when they replaced outgoing left-winger Alexis Sanchez with a forward in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Debates still rage about where he should play but for us, the best possible attack sees him central - Bukayo Saka on the left, of course. Then it’s a case of who slots in best on the right - Nicolas Pepe’s record of goals and assists make him the best option. Compared to the other big six, it’s not as impressive.
9. Aston Villa - Trezeguet, Watkins and Grealish
Jack Grealish moving from the midfield to the left-wing has been a masterstroke on Dean Smith’s part. Aston Villa look frightening in attack compared to last season and Ollie Watkins has certainly helped with that, too.
Trezeguet on the right is a solid, hard-working player capable of chipping in with goals and assists too. OK, it’s not the best attack anyone will face in the Premier League - but it almost certainly has the best footballer outside the big six in it.
8. Leicester City - Vardy, Barnes and Under
Jamie Vardy is showing absolutely no sign of slowing down and is still one of the best strikers in Europe. Harvey Barnes has come on leaps and bounds in the past two years. Together, they’re excellent - but who do you link up with them at Leicester City?
We’re saying Cengiz Under. Ayoze Perez has blown hot and cold, Kelechi Iheanacho is clearly misunderstood somehow but the on-loan Turk has already made a couple of assists for Vardy. If it gets more game-time, it could well develop nicely - thanks to Barnes and Vardy’s link-up, it’s already a top-eight trio for us.
7. Wolverhampton Wanderers - Neto, Jimenez and Traore
Let’s get one thing straight - Raul Jimenez may well be one of the most underrated strikers in the world. He would get goals at any club in Europe. He is the gem in Wolverhampton Wanderers' frontline - despite the obvious attention Adama Traore gets.
Pedro Neto is a fine footballer to complete the set. It’s a good attack, capable of goals, creativity and consistency. There are better attacks but not many worse than this in the league right now.
6. Manchester United - Greenwood, Martial and Rashford
Two-thirds of this attack is from the Manchester United academy - it balled post-lockdown, even if it’s had a little trouble reigniting that flame since.
But on paper, all three of those players are good finishers. Marcus Rashford is a world-class talent by now and Mason Greenwood is learning fast. The problems with United are, evidently, not in this attack, despite the obvious need for depth up there. These three are as good as anyone on their day.
5. Everton - Rodriguez, Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison
It’s bonkers that Everton can boast a trio as good as this up top. But it’s not just in the individual brilliance of this front three - they complement each other fantastically.
THE GOLDEN GENERATION How England's most talented squad never came good
James Rodriguez is the orchestrator with that incredible left foot. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the traditional No.9, offering strength, hold-up and poachery in the box, while Richarlison cuts in from left to offer sheer power and might on his right foot. Factor in the crosses from Lucas Digne? There aren’t many sides who will keep Everton out this season.
4. Chelsea - Pulisic, Werner and Ziyech
If you’re going for balance at Chelsea, Tammy Abraham up front, supported by Hakim Ziyech or Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner with Kai Havertz at No.10 is probably the go-to option. But then Chelsea aren’t necessarily all about the balance - and so we’ve crowbarred Pulisic, Ziyech and Werner into one line-up - sod the rest of the team.
Pulisic is deadly one-on-one, Ziyech endlessly creative and Werner lightning quick and superb without the ball. Together, they would - and will this season - rip most teams apart. It almost gives you a migraine to consider Abraham, Havertz, Mason Mount, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson-Odoi are their other options in attack.
3. Manchester City - Sterling, Aguero and Mahrez
Manchester City have a wealth of options in attack that include Phil Foden, Ferran Torres, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus - yet we’ve chosen Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez as the front three for this exercise, based on the trident’s stunning individual form over the past couple of years.
CITY'S REBUILD How Pep Guardiola faces a daunting new task
You know what you’re getting with each of these players. Each one is a game changer in their own way and each offers something different. Guardiola would never stick to the same three players in attack all season long but if he did, this trio could become iconic.
2. Tottenham Hotspur - Son, Kane and Bale
If this were a contest for the best attacking partnership, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane would absolutely walk it. The leading scorer and assist-maker in the league so far, respectively, this pair are the front and centre of everything good about Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur empire. They complement each other perfectly and they’re just about two of the best footballers on Earth right now.
Factor in Gareth Bale, too. Another gamechanger on the right, capable of supercharging the Spurs attack. It’s not been unleashed to its full potential just yet - it’s just as well Steven Bergwijn, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura are worthy stop-gaps.
1. Liverpool - Mane, Salah and… Jota
As mentioned, Liverpool’s holy trinity up top has become a blueprint for other sides; an example of teamwork and individual brilliance in perfect harmony. And yet, we’ve chucked Roberto Firmino from our choice based on Diogo Jota’s superb start-of-season form.
He does most of what Firmino does and he scores more goals. Besides Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, arguably the best two widemen in the league, it’s actually infuriating to rival fans that Jurgen Klopp has managed to bring in another capable attacker quite this easily.
Even if you do pick Firmino, Liverpool still take the title of having the league’s best front three. The record speaks for itself.
While you’re here, subscribe to FourFourTwo and save 48% – available until Christmas. It’s the perfect gift idea for anybody who loves football (including yourself)!
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.