Strike partnerships had become as unfashionable as the Ford Capri, pagers and Myspace. They were the inside-forward of the Premier League era, as arcane as dubbin-treated boots and the sure sign that a manager who went with two up top was a tactical dinosaur.
Not any more. At Manchester City the urbane Manuel Pellegrini fields Sergio Agüero and Álvaro Negredo, who netted all the goals in Tuesday's 5-2 hiding of CSKA Moscow to take their combined tally to 21. Across the city at the champions, David Moyes believes in the two-pronged attack of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United combo that has finished 14 times. And in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez, Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers has an SAS pairing who have also scored on 14 occasions.
Bar-room debate now centres on who is the best of these twosomes. A glance at the appearance stats and goal ratios offers one answer, with City and United each having 14 Premier League and Champions League outings, to the 10 of Liverpool, who are not in Europe.
Of City's leading tally of 21, Agüero, in 12 appearances, has contributed 13 times at a rate of one goal every 78.3 minutes, and Negredo (14 matches) has eight at 92.1 each.
Although recording the same count of 14 goals as their United counterparts, Suárez and Sturridge have a fair claim for being the more deadly, as they have spent less time on the field. The Uruguayan has needed only five appearances for six goals that have come at 74.8 minutes each, while Sturridge's eight strikes (in 10 games) have required 112.3 minutes per finish.
Rooney and Van Persie lag behind as each have featured 12 times, with the Dutchman's average of one goal every 134.9 minutes, his accomplice's 140.3.
On the assists table, Agüero and Negredo lead with nine, ahead of Van Persie and Rooney's six, with the three of Sturridge and Suárez again reflecting the latter's early-season suspension and Liverpool's comparative lack of games.
After Pellegrini led City to the knockout stages of the Champions League with the win over CSKA, he was asked if Agüero and Negredo were better than the main men of United or Liverpool. Sticking to his style of avoiding inflammatory comments, the Chilean answered in general terms: "I think both of them have played really well, not only today but the whole season," he said. "For Sergio he is in a great moment, because he is not only scoring but his movement and his contribution to the team is important. Álvaro too. They have got the goals they deserve."
The reinvigorated Samir Nasri, who alongside David Silva, supplies most of the bullets for "Beauty and the Beast", says: "For me, Agüero and Negredo are really complete together. One is small, quick, has good feet; the other one is just a beast – he can keep the ball, score goals – and the last couple of games they've banged in goals for fun."
Negredo, nicknamed the Beast of Vallecas after his playing style and hometown, says of linking with Agüero: "It's been very good from the first day, and especially with both if us speaking Spanish, we understand each other well. He's a great player, and with great players it's easy to get along. From the first moment we did well together and with him, Edin [Dzeko] and myself, when we play, we understand one another.
"I'm happy to score goals. For a striker it's a [big] part of the game, I am delighted to get three so quickly in a team like this [the hat-trick against CSKA] and let's hope I can get a lot more – that'd be a good sign for everybody."
Negredo is clear why City are piling up the goals. "It's down to the type of players we've got, who have a lot of movement – they are not static, and movement does a lot to unsettle the other team," he says. "We're doing it well and thanks to this are getting a lot of goals."
The other three of the Premier League big six still deploy a lone wolf, with Arsenal plumping for Olivier Giroud, Chelsea favouring Fernando Torres, and Tottenham Hotspur going with Roberto Soldado.
The numbers suggest that if they too had a sidekick more goals would be harvested. In 13 appearances Giroud has seven every 162 minutes. Torres, in 10 games, has three at 170.7. Soldado, also in 10 matches, has managed four at 198.5.
In Arsène Wenger, José Mourinho and André Villas-Boas these clubs have three of the most progressive managerial minds. But are they missing a trick in continuing with only one in attack?
For differing reasons, across the continent the elite favour a strategy of solo artist or false No9, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Juventus heading this band, while Paris Saint Germain go with two forwards.
As Real and Barcelona each posses a phenomenon in Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 13 goals in 12 La Liga games, and Lionel Messi (eight in nine), the stance here is that even one striker may be surplus to requirements, while at Bayern Pep Guardiola's midfield-centric strategy means there is room only for Mario Mandzukic, whose Bundesliga tally is eight in eight. The same is found at Juventus, where Carlos Tevez has six in 10 Serie A games but is the sole man in attack.
Only at PSG is the new fashion in English football mirrored, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic has five in 11 Ligue 1 appearances and Edinson Cavani has nine in eight – numbers to compete with the dynamic duos at City, United and Liverpool.