Manchester City may have the Premier League's best defensive record, but the lack of a killer touch at the other end has left them a distant second in the title race. Even a 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Monday did little more than delay the inevitable.
Their roster of star strikers, who so effectively spread the goal burden last year, have disappointed to varying degrees. Edin Dzeko, a pale imitation of his Wolfsburg self, is top scorer with 12, while Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have only just broken into double figures.
A return of 32 goals between them is desperately underwhelming for such talented players, although injury is a mitigating factor in Aguero's case. His Argentine colleague has no such excuse, though. After a stellar first two seasons in a City shirt, attitude problems have affected Tevez's output.
The lingering sense remains that he would rather be somewhere else. So with a summer departure perhaps on the horizon, it's time to identify some alternatives.
It's a good job that money is no object for Man City, because Edinson Cavani won't come cheap. The endlessly prolific Uruguayan could be Roberto Mancini's No.1 target to ensure there will be no repeat of this season's struggles in front of goal.
He combines the bustling work rate that makes Tevez so popular with frightening composure in one-on-one situations.
There are concerns that the Napoli striker doesn't involve himself enough in build-up play to suit the patient approach City favour, but would evolution be such a bad thing?
In addition to enabling Serie A's top scorer to do his business, finding a more direct way to break down the opposition would take some of the burden off their squat creators, Samir Nasri and David Silva.
Cavani's physical stature could also compensate for the potential loss of Edin Dzeko too.
Since his arrival from Genk, Christian Benteke has simply been a revelation.
The strapping 22-year-old had a few hairy moments soon after his arrival in England but Paul Lambert's decision to parachute him into the starting lineup ahead of Darren Bent now looks inspired.
Any concerns that he may be a one season wonder should be allayed by the consistently excellent nature of his performances. Aside from the goals, Benteke has showcased the ability to keep an entire defence occupied with his sheer physicality and clever running off the ball.
The competition for his signature promises to be fierce, as Tottenham and Arsenal have already been heavily linked to the striker. Whether Villa survive or not, it's difficult to imagine him staying in the Midlands much longer.
The Atletico Madrid man is as close to a sure thing as you can get in football. The Colombian has been a guaranteed source of goals, with a startling variety of penalty-box poaches to his name from four seasons in Europe.
Intelligent movement and a true striker's instinct mean that Radamel Falcao often finds himself free in the area, pulling away from defenders before delivering an expert finish. He's also a fantastic header of the ball, bringing another dimension to City's attack should he sign.
As the only non Barcelona or Real Madrid representative in the FIFA World XI, Falcao is fighting a losing battle against Spain's reigning duopoly. Alongside these two, City are one of a small clutch of clubs who could afford his astronomical buyout clause.
Reluctant to field more than a single striker, Roberto Mancini might prefer the versatility offered by Stevan Jovetic. Capable of leading the line or playing a slightly withdrawn role, he is closer to the Tevez template.
Although he lacks the Argentine's natural aggression and prolific goalscoring record, Jovetic is a busy, creative force, prone to floating across the pitch in search of space. He orchestrates attacks as well as finishing them, carrying Fiorentina's charge for Champions League qualification after a prolonged absence.
City's relationship with the club could prove crucial. There are even rumours that, following the deal to sign Matija Nastasic, they have first option on the Montenegrin forward (via Goal.com).
Or is the answer already staring City in the face? Although John Guidetti has been on their books for three years, he is still to make his debut. The powerfully built striker and master penalty-taker has been repeatedly farmed out on loan in search of experience.
He had his most successful coming-of-age stint in the Dutch league, firing 20 goals, at a rate of almost one a game, as Feyenoord earned their highest finish for over a decade. It was an amazing return for a teenager and led Guidetti's parent club to re-examine his prospects.
Awarded a new contract in October, there followed much talk of a loan to a Premier League team that failed to materialise. A virus intervened, but the supremely confident Swede has been playing well for City's development side as he continues his comeback.