As the Premier League has panned out in the last few seasons, of the teams having reasonably good defences*, those having the best striker win the title come the end of the season, more often than not. Last season, it was Manchester City, riding on Sergio Aguero. The season before that, it was Manchester United, for whom Robin Van Persie was firing on all cylinders. The list goes on.
Great strikers win you the games that are seemingly headed towards a draw. They come up with a moment of magic, that extra something from the tank, that takes the team to 2-1 from 1-1, as Diego Costa showed for Chelsea in the weekend at Anfield or as Aguero showed the same day for Manchester City, to 2-2 from 1-2 at Loftus Road. These will prove to be very important points as the season goes on.
*That obviously discounts Liverpool, as despite having the best striker in the league, they had a paper-thin defence.
Talking of such great strikers leads me to the two I just mentioned. Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa. While one is a proven predator of Premier League defences, the other just led his team to the title win in Spain. Both are clearly the best strikers in the Premier League and are some way above the rest of the chasing pack, bar perhaps Falcao, who hasn’t hit the right form so far. They are scoring at insane rates – both Aguero and Costa are scoring at nearly 1.1 goals per game. They have won their team some crucial points and they have managed to inspire the rest of their team to punch above their weight as well. To think that given all these similarities, they might have a similar style of play would be highly misleading.
While Aguero is a pacy forward who likes to make incisive, mazy runs and get into proper space to receive through passes from the midfield. Diego Costa, on the other hand, is a bit like Didier Drogba. He likes to bully opposition defenders, hold the ball up and make runs into space. Both are somewhat complete strikers as in they can score off either feet as well as their head. They are proven match winners and absolutely crucial to their side’s title chase this season. One can probably even say that Chelsea and City are the main title contenders and therefore, are highly dependent on these two to keep firing for them.
As said earlier, both players are scoring at insane rates, but so are their teams. So let us see what direct contribution they offer to their teams’ goal tallies. As seen, Aguero has racked up over 50% of City’s goals, while Chelsea have managed when Costa hasn’t scored. This is probably biased by the fact that Costa had to sit out of two games with an injury and was not sharp in the game against QPR when he returned. Had they both played similar minutes this season, one would expect that their contribution to their teams’ tallied would have been similar. Also, Chelsea have had other players as well in superb form, like Hazard, Fabregas and Oscar, that has inflated the team goal tally.
Aguero has proven to be a tricky customer from all over the pitch. While scoring from inside the box is his speciality, he can also nick the odd goal from outside the box. In fact, he attempted 11 shots, nearly a fifth, of his total of 57 shots from outside the box, scoring once. On the other hand, Costa has only taken the metaphorical ‘lottery ticket’ from outside the box only thrice, out of a total of 28 goal attempts. As shown, Costa is also shyer than Aguero in terms of goal attempts. He has attempted about half the number of shots (28) that the Argentine has (57). Though he is more clinical with a much higher shot accuracy, one wonders how much better his goal tally will be if he starts to get into more shooting positions.
As has been visible throughout the article, both Aguero and Costa are top-class strikers who have been lighting the Premier League up this season and propelling their side to a sure-shot Top 2 finish. Out of the two, who will win might go down to the wire. Yes, Chelsea are a good eight points clear of the Citizens, but as we saw last season as well, City suddenly hit top form and notch up long winning streaks. To do that this time around, Aguero will be crucial for City, with Costa playing a similar role for Chelsea, who have been unbeaten so far and will be trying to emulate the ‘Invincibles’. All being said, these two are the most in-form strikers in the League and unless someone like Falcao wakes up and starts banging them in for fun, these two will be vying for the Golden Boot come May.