A lot of column inches go towards the super-star strikers of elite-level teams during the season, increasing ten-fold when the transfer window opens. You’ve all seen the storylines before “Does X score enough?”, “What else does he bring to the team?” and “What could Y bring to Z team?”.
It’s the first question I’m going to take a brief look at in this article: there’s been plenty of talk of clubs similar to Liverpool’s stature needing a consistent goalscorer alongside Arsenal and Manchester United’s well documented, apparent need for a 30+ a season striker who’ll apparently fire them to a title or two.
But here’s the catch, the statistics prove that across Europe’s top leagues, the leading strikers don’t score 30+ goals in a league season anymore. So why is this assumption still prevalent? Many teams now spread the goals across the forward line, so much so that in Europe last year this is who Europe’s top scoring players are (courtesy of WhoScored.com);
If you look at this list, you can discount Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and Griezmann because they’re not strikers, they’re forwards who played alongside their respective strikers in Benzema, Suarez and Mandzukic last season. This leaves 6 players who can be considered out & out forwards. None of whom hit 30 league goals and only Aguero from that list can be considered an elite-level, ready to go striker if he were to transfer. Kane, Icardi and Lacazette are young players, enjoying a spectacular break-out season in their respective leagues whilst Luca Toni at 38 is far too old to be considered anymore.
This leaves Andre-Pierre Gignac as the only potential candidate, and a rather late-blooming one at that as he has only hit more than 20 league goals in a season once before scoring 22 & 23 league goals in the past two years. A look further down the list and you start to see all these ‘top level’, ‘elite’ strikers, hitting 17-20 goals last year; Bacca (20), Tevez (20), Costa (19), Ibrahimovic (19), Aduriz (18) leading into Charlie Austin (18), Cavani (18), Higuain (17).
Of that list, only Bacca, Costa, Austin, Cavani and Higuain are sub-30 years old and only three of that five might be available for a transfer. Would Higuain improve a top level side? Yes, I think he would – would he improve a top level side like Arsenal or Manchester? No I don’t think so, because if you take out the 3 penalties he’s scored this year you’re down to 14 league goals, almost half the 30 goals the media likes to fantasise about top-tier teams needing.
This leaves us with the transfer-column’s own darling, Edison Cavani. He’s been linked with every big English club since he first hit 30+ goals in the 2010/11 for Napoli. His scoring statistics are very impressive, he’s only dipped under 30 league goals once since that first season. However, this is in a PSG side who’ve run rampant (less so last year but still finished 8 points clear at the top) in Ligue 1 since the petro-dollars came flooding in. It’s that age old question isn’t it? Can he do it on a windy night in Stoke playing in the Premier League? Time’s running out for the 28 year old to find out, PSG will certainly ask for an exorbitant fee, the player himself will ask for an improvement on his €270,000 a week wages, or as close to as any suitor club can get, additional bonuses aside. Is it worth it then? Not in my book.
“But Señor!” I hear you cry, “You’ve just discounted the top 20 league goalscorers in Europe!” Yes I’m fully aware of that. This entire article was written to shatter the myth that all top-level strikers consistently score 30 league goals in a season and it’s not as easy as going & splashing £30-40million on one of them. Take a look at Suarez, arguably the best out & out striker last year only managed 16 league goals, because he’s too busy being an integral part of the Barcelona team and laying on 14 assists for his team-mates. So next time you’re down the pub, and someone says “Oh yeah, all Y team needs to do is sign X player, he’ll bang in 30 and the title will be ours”, you’ll be able to educate the poor fellow.
Bear in mind, Lewandowski, Benzema, Bas Dost, Giroud, Benteke, Rooney all scored sub-17 league goals last year, and Rooney languishes in 60th based on league-goals scored last year. I’ve picked out these players because they’re the only out & out strikers worth mentioning in my opinion. An honourable mention goes to Luciano Vietto, but even then he’s already been snapped up by the red, white & blue half of Madrid, because they’ve realised that he was probably the most readily available striker on the market, who has the possibility of scoring anywhere 20 goals in the league (he scored 12 this year for Villarreal if you’re curious).
There you have it. In modern tactical systems, in modern football – there are very, very few strikers who can do what the media fantasises about in opinion pieces and transfer columns. There are a lot of ifs & buts written, but the numbers don’t lie.