Football Features

Ranked: Europe’s most effective attacking machines right now

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 10:30, 16 April 2019

Defence may win championships, but offence sells tickets.

As much as keeping the opposition at bay is vital, we’d be remiss to not acknowledge that football played on the front foot is what drives the sport’s popularity.

If anything, the game’s most important art form is goal scoring. It comes easily to some, having the right personnel and set-up goes a long way. Whilst supporters for others yearn for their side to play like ‘Brazil 1970’.

With the 2018/19 season drawing to a close, it’s worth looking at the most ruthless sides across Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, as well as in Portugal and the Netherlands.

To rank them, we’ve created a cut off: only clubs with 75 or more league goals feature. And here they are from the least productive, which is still a lot, upwards.

Of course, the ranking would likely look very different with the difficulty of each division taken into account. But we’re here to put talk of farmers aside and strictly discuss numbers, numbers, numbers.

7. Liverpool

Goals: 77

Number of different scorers: 15

Top scorers: Roberto Firmino (12), Sadio Mané (18), Mohamed Salah (19)

Liverpool’s front-three was Europe’s most feared last term. They’ve not been as electrifying this season, but they still remain a force to be reckoned with. Chelsea were reminded of that in their Anfield meeting when Mane and Salah breached their defence in a matter of minutes.

6. Benfica

Goals: 81

Number of different scorers: 14

Top scorers: Jonas (10), João Félix (11), Rafa Silva (12), Haris Seferović (19)

Benfica and FC Porto are currently locked in a heated battle to be Portuguese football’s number one. Both are level on points, but it’s Porto who has the better defence having shipped in just 17 goals across their opening 29 matches. However, we are not here to discuss mean rearguards, Sérgio Conceição’s team presently find themselves 20 goals shy of their fierce rivals. Among the goals is the highly impressionable João Félix, playing in his debut top-flight season, who has bagged 11 goals in 21 appearances.

5. Barcelona

Goals: 81

Number of different scorers: 11

Top scorers: Luis Suárez (20), Lionel Messi (33)

It comes as no surprise to discover Messi is responsible for 40% of Barcelona’s league goals this season. Beyond himself and Suarez, no one Blaugrana star is in double digits. If we add his assists, it then moves up to 55%. To say he’s doing his part is an understatement. The day when the Argentine playmaker is no longer pulling the strings will come, maybe not for another half-decade, but for now, all we can do is enjoy him.

4. Manchester City

Goals: 86

Number of different scorers: 13

Top scorers: Raheem Sterling (17), Sergio Agüero (19)

Liverpool and Chelsea remain the only clubs who have denied Manchester City this season. That being said, for a free-scoring team, the defending Premier League champions incredibly have just two players with 10+ league goals. One explanation could be Pep Guardiola’s setting his side out to share the burden; there’s a couple behind leading lights Agüero and Sterling on five or more (6) including Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus.

3. PSV Eindhoven

Goals: 89

Number of different scorers: 14

Top scorers: Gaston Pereiro (10), Steven Bergwijn (13), Hirving Lozano (17), Luuk de Jong (26)

PSV won last season’s Eredivisie title having scored 87 goals. They’ve already surpassed that number with four matches remaining, though it’s still possible the men from Eindhoven could end this campaign empty-handed. It would be a bitter pill to swallow if that happened. In a normal season, their attack would be the envy of the championship, but as we are seeing in the Netherlands, it’s not been a normal season.

2. Paris Saint-Germain

Goals: 90

Number of different scorers: 14

Top scorers: Neymar (13), Edison Cavani (17), Kylian Mbappé (27)

Paris Saint-Germain are first among equals in France and it comes as no surprise they lead the way in terms of goal scoring. Incredibly, the gap to second-best (Lille, who recently scored five against them in a devastating 5-1 win, and Strasbourg) is 36 goals. And they’ve played a game less. Naturally, the source of these strikes has been their intimidating forward line. To put that into some context, even though he’s now missed 18 matches, Neymar is comfortably the club’s third most productive attacker.

1. Ajax

Goals: 106

Number of different scorers: 14

Top scorers: Kasper Dolberg (11), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (14), Hakim Ziyech (15), Dusan Tadić (22)

Ajax became the first club to register 100 goals in a major European league this season when Erik ten Hag’s men recently put four past Willem II on the road. Such relentless onslaught hasn’t always been there, as they’ve been shut out in three games, all of which they lost. But more often than not, Ten Hag’s willingness to play with so many attack-minded footballers, including deploying two ‘number 10s’ on the flanks, has paid off.