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Cantona, Anelka, Henry – Ranking the five best French strikers in Premier League history

Olivier Giroud returned from the wilderness at Chelsea to score a crucial goal against Tottenham last weekend, the forward netting the opener in a huge victory for Frank Lampard’s side at Stamford Bridge.

The Frenchman has played a largely peripheral role since moving across the capital from Arsenal, though his time at the Emirates also saw him struggle to win permanent favour despite an impressive goalscoring record since moving to the Premier League.

Following Giroud’s latest intervention, we’ve decided to look back at some of the best French forwards to have starred in English football during the Premier League era, but does the 33-year-old make our list?

Here are our rankings of the top five French strikers in Premier League history…

5. Olivier Giroud

The man of the moment sneaks into our list, having proven a reliable spearhead during spells at two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs.

Giroud would arrive in England having fired Montpellier to a first ever Ligue 1 triumph, becoming the latest Frenchman to join compatriot Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The forward would score double figures for Premier League goals in each of his first five seasons at the Emirates, whilst his robust style and clever link-up play would prove the perfect foil for the club’s attacking players.

His final full season at the club would see Giroud score 12 times from just 11 starts, before the arrivals of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw him fall out-of-favour and move to city rivals Chelsea.

His current record stands at 79 Premier League goals, coming from just 135 starting appearances.

4. Louis Saha

Saha would turn out for several Premier League clubs throughout his career, though it would be a prolific spell in west London with Fulham that would attract the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.

After firing the Cottagers to promotion and helping consolidate the club in the top flight, a blistering first half of the 2003/04 season would see Saha head to Old Trafford in a deal worth a reported £12.4m.

The Frenchman would score seven goals in his first 12 league appearances, part of a haul of 42 goals in 124 appearances for the Red Devils, a spell that would deliver two Premier League titles, the League Cup and a Champions League.

Another successful spell at Everton would be added to by short stints at Newcastle, Tottenham and Sunderland, Saha scoring 85 goals over a Premier League career that would span 15 years.

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3. Nicolas Anelka

Another French forward who would enjoy a somewhat nomadic career, Anelka would enjoy spells at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton, Chelsea and West Brom, scoring 125 Premier League goals and winning a host of major honours.

Signed as a teenager by Arsene Wenger, Anelka would burst onto the scene as a precocious talent in north London, helping the club to a domestic double in 1998 before being named as the PFA Young Player of the Year after scoring 19 goals in all competitions the following year.

Having left in a big-money move to Real Madrid he would return to the Premier League via Paris Saint-Germain, enjoying a brief loan spell at Liverpool before a prolific two-and-a-half year period at Manchester City.

Another venture abroad in Turkey with Fenerbahce would come before joining Bolton, impressing under Sam Allardyce to earn a move to Chelsea – where he would arguably enjoy the most consistent period of his career.

Winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot in 2009, Anelka would win the second domestic double of his career the following year, playing an influential role in Carlo Ancelotti’s free-scoring Chelsea side.

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2. Eric Cantona

Amongst the most influential players of the Premier League era, Cantona would prove one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most inspired signings and the catalyst behind Manchester United’s early successes under the Scot.

The controversial forward would bring a touch of class to an emerging team at Old Trafford, possessing a swagger and style that has his name still regularly sung on the Old Trafford terraces more than two decades after his departure.

Cantona would simply ooze self-confidence and an aura that would have a transformative impact on those around him, his peerless abilities in his pomp helping establish United back at the summit of the English game.

After helping United end their 26-year wait for a league title in his debut season, Cantona would lead the club to three further titles over the next four seasons, being named as the PFA Player of the Year in 1994 and as the FWA Footballer of the Year two years later.

1. Thierry Henry

Regarded by many as the greatest player in both the division’s and Arsenal’s history, Henry was simply a phenomenon at his Premier League peak.

Blessed with pace, power and nerveless finishing ability, Henry was the league’s stand-out forward across an eight year spell at Arsenal, later returning for a brief loan period and finishing with 175 Premier League goals – the sixth-highest tally in history.

He would win two league titles and two FA Cups under Arsene Wenger, the latter triumph part of the north London side’s famed unbeaten season in 2004.

His individual hours also include a record four Premier League Golden Boots as the league’s leading scorer, whilst three times being crowned FWA Footballer of the Year and twice PFA Player’s Player of the Year.

A statue of the Frenchman now sits outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium; few, if any, deserve it more.

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