This season there seems to be very little excitement left in the Premier League. The manner in which Chelsea have managed to dominate the league has ensured that there is very little chance involved in deciding the eventual winner of the league.
Other teams and their fans do try to manufacture excitement – will Manchester United pip Liverpool to the fourth place in the league? Will Everton pip them both? Will Sunderland get out of jail again? Which of the seemingly safe clubs can fall into the drop zone at the end of the season?
But if we look closely, there is still one race that is on in the league. The race for the Premier League Golden Boot. At this stage, the top ten goal scorers in the Premier League have scored between 11 and 21 goals and each of them have 9 – 11 games yet to be played. The top four among the goal scorers have scored between 17 and 21 goals, so the competition is even tighter for them. In addition to winning the prestigious accolade of Golden Boot and also helping their teams achieve their respective goals, many of these strikers are also trying to impress future suitors, as Richard Jolly explains in this ESPN article.
In this post, I will take a look at the stats behind these superstars’ scoring charts and see if some of them are more valuable than the others. Are there any that potential employers should focus more on in the summer? Or may be steer clear of?
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The Volume and the Variants
The Golden Boot is an award for scoring the most goals in a Premier League season, so the natural starting point of any such analysis is to find out how many goals have these top ten strikers scored and also who these top ten strikers are.
Romelu Lukaku caused controversy a few days back when he declined to sign a contract extension with Everton. But if you are the leading goal scorer in the Premier League, it is a bit natural to expect some of the bigger European clubs chasing you in the summer. The Belgian’s 21 goals in 28 appearances perhaps justify his desire to make him look more attractive in the summer. He is followed by Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to complete the top five.
Taking a look at the shot locations for their goals, most of the top strikers like to score from within the penalty area but out of the six-yard box. However, some like Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero clearly relish goal scoring opportunities closer to the goal. It is perhaps reflective of Arsenal and Manchester City’s style of play that is geared towards creating the best opportunities up front and then converting them.
Other than Lukaku, the other nine strikers seem to favor their right foot more, as only Lukaku has scored more of his goals with his left foot. In fact, the Everton striker seems to be quite adept at scoring irrespective of the body-part he is using. All other are heavily dependent on their right foot. Interestingly, Dele Alli has scored four of his 14 goals with his head, but he generally wins only 0.3 aerial duels per game. That speaks volumes about his poaching abilities.
In terms of type of goals, the top ten strikers have generally scored from open play or counter attacks. But Jermain Defoe and Harry Kane have scored 5 and 4 goals as penalties. In case of Sunderland, it can be understood as Defoe is their primary penalty taker and their style is more suited to gaining penalties. Perhaps it is not surprising that Costa has scored 5 of his 17 goals from set pieces as that is completely suited to his style of play. But, what is surprising is that Sadio Mane has not scored a single goal on a counter this season. Considering that he plays for Jurgen Klopp, I expected Liverpool’s top scorer to have more counters.
The number of goals these guys have scored is great and it can give them an award. However, how much effort do they have to put in to score all those goals?
Clearly, Harry Kane is the most clinical striker in the league this season. He scores a goal every 100 minutes and at every 3.6 shots. In comparison, for all his stature (both physical and reputational), Zlatan has to put in 150 minutes and 7.3 shots for every goal he has scored in the league. Also, it is perhaps Hazard’s primary role as a creator in Conte’s Chelsea that has led the Belgian to score a goal every 197 minutes and after every 5 shots.
The Benefit to the Team
It is well and good to score a bagful of goals and to be clinical in doing so, but fans are going to remember how much these goals help these teams move up the league table.
On this aspect two names really shine through, Harry Kane and Diego Costa both have scored 8 game winning goals. On the other hand, the lead scorer Lukaku has scored only 4 game winning goals for Everton. Alli has scored three but Kane takes care of the bulk of the games for Spurs, while Defoe also has three but Sunderland have only won five matches and Defoe has won three of them for them. His importance to the Black Cats is further emphasized by his contribution in his team’s overall number of goals – 58%. Defoe is responsible for almost 2/3rds of goals scored by Sunderland.
If the forthcoming summer is indeed the summer of the striker as Richard Jolly says, many of these strikers will command similarly high valuations as some clubs will look for high volumes of goals, others for the style that suit them, while some others might actually be looking for goal scorers who will bear their entire goal scoring burden.
Irrespective of what happens in the summer though, this is one race that will keep the Premier League interesting in these final stages.
Outstanding piece of work. Very thoughtful and well presented.