By Bariyo Brian Tumuramye
Jamie Vardy is the Premier League’s current Golden Boot holder having found the net 23 goals last season, but the Leicester City striker is nowhere to be seen among the favourites for the 2020/21 season’s top-scorer award.
So who are the contenders and how seriously should each of them be taken? The following top 10, ordered by percentile odds by SBK, provide a good measure of how the land lies heading into the 2020/21 season.
1. Mohamed Salah (13.51%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 19 (0.59 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,884 | expected goals (xG): 19.15 (0.6 per 90)
Mohamed Salah has durability on his side. Of the four Golden Boot favourites for 2020/21, he and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played the most minutes by a comfortable margin as Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero succumbed to their annual injury problems. His shooting skill, ability to get into dangerous positions and consistency season upon season probably explains why he’s favourite to be top-scorer in the upcoming campaign.
He recorded the third and second-highest xG totals in the two most recent Premier League seasons (we don’t have that data on 2017/18, but he did score 32 goals), as well as having recorded the most touches in the opponent’s box in each of the last three. He has also maintained the second-highest per-90 average for shots on target in the Premier League since signing for Liverpool.
Lastly, his status as Liverpool’s first-choice penalty taker is another advantage, albeit one shared by most of his expected competitors.
2. Harry Kane (12.50%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 19 (0.59 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,589 | xG: 12.51 (0.43 per 90)
There is arguably no player in English football who puts higher expectations on himself than Harry Kane. Having bagged 29 league goals in 2016/17 and hit the 30-mark in 2017/18, injuries have prevented Kane from reaching 20 in each of the last two campaigns. The England captain will be desperate to start pushing 30 goals a year again as he enters what should be his peak years.
The only way that will happen is if Kane is able to stay fit for the entire season this time around. His final figure could depend on whether Tottenham are better and more creative than the last term. Kane’s numbers probably would have higher had he been wearing a Liverpool or Manchester City shirt last season; Spurs must step it up for their talisman.
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (10.87%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 22 (0.63 per 90) | Minutes played: 3,138 | xG: 14.75 (0.42 per 90)
Only Jamie Vardy outscored Arsenal’s lethal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last term. There is a sense of momentum behind 31-year-old’s push for the Golden Boot. He finished last season by scoring twice in the FA Cup final and started the new campaign with a goal in the Community Shield; said momentum could result in a quick start in the Premier League.
Like Kane, Aubameyang will hope the rest of his team steps it up so that there are more chances for him to convert in Premier League matches. His final tally could also be influenced by whether Mikel Arteta primarily deploys him through the middle or down the left, although he seems to be prolific in either role and can be expected to hog more than the lion’s share of Arsenal’s goalscoring output. Aubameyang was responsible for 41% of their 54 league goals last season.
4. Sergio Aguero (9.52%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 16 (0.99 per 90) | Minutes played: 1,456 | xG: 14.63 (0.9 per 90)
Sergio Aguero is always there and thereabouts when it comes to the top of the goalscoring charts in England. That said, fitness problems have hindered his quest to win the Golden Boot in the past, so he will be hopeful an injury-free campaign is on the campaign. His hugely impressive per 90 numbers show just what he could achieve if he plays more matches; The fact he averaged a league-high (excluded those who played fewer than 650 minutes) goals-per-90-minutes rate of 0.99 show what he is capable of if he played more matches. The question is whether his body is capable of playing more matches.
With Gabriel Jesus in reserve (more on him later), Pep Guardiola knows he is able to rest Aguero when necessary, even if the Argentine isn’t injured. Ironically, Manchester City’s depth could have an adverse effect on Aguero’s quest for personal glory. But that doesn’t mean he will be quiet this term.
5. Timo Werner (8.00%)
Bundesliga goals in 2019/20: 28 (0.9 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,807 | xG: 21.25 (0.68 per 90)
The time it takes for Timo Werner to adjust from the Bundesliga to the Premier League will be a crucial factor when it comes to his Golden Boot chances. But the fact only Robert Lewandowski outscored him in the German top flight last season suggests Chelsea could have a genuine contender in their ranks. What’s more, Werner looked more than comfortable when he was the only scorer for Leipzig at Tottenham in the Champions League back in February.
He will likely be handed spot-kick duties by Frank Lampard, whose own eye for goal should help Werner to adapt. The German’s pace should suit the Premier League perfectly, but to match his 28 Bundesliga goals from the last term would be a big ask.
6. Raheem Sterling (6.25%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 20 (0.68 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,660 | xG: 18.84 (0.64 per 90)
Under Guardiola’s management, Sterling has honed his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He is still prone to the odd missed sitter (go back and watch his inexplicable miss against Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals, unless you’re a City fan) but generally, Sterling’s composure has been on point over the last three campaigns.
Guardiola seems to trust Sterling implicitly, a result of the England international’s consistency. Topping last season’s tally of 20 goals will be a challenge, and winning the Golden Boot is unlikely unless he can begin to push towards the 25-mark.
7. Sadio Mane (5.41%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 18 (0.59 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,753 | xG: 13.67 (0.45 per 90)
Sadio Mane’s importance to Liverpool became more evident than every last season. Though slightly down on the previous campaign, Mane’s 19 goals were instrumental as Liverpool charged to a first Premier League title in 30 years. Any chance they have of retaining the trophy will come down to whether Mane can once again keep up with his prolific teammate Salah when it comes to goals.
Not being Liverpool’s penalty-taker may see Mane’s quest for the prize suffer, but it only goes to show how impressive his goal tally was the last term. A slightly more selfish Mane could give the rest of the contenders a real run for their money this time around.
8. Jamie Vardy (5.00%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 23 (0.68 per 90) | Minutes played: 3,034 | xG: 19.53 (0.58 per 90)
There are plenty of high-quality usurpers to the current holder’s crown, but when has pressure really threatened Jamie Vardy before? The ultra-confident Leicester striker has justified his decision to retire from international football by looking fitter than ever for his club, scoring more goals than anyone else last season and ensuring he remains the top dog at the King Power.
The reason Vardy isn’t may be higher on this list is that there will be doubts a 33-year-old can win back-to-back Golden Boots. But this 33-year-old has experience making the impossible seem possible, so don’t rule him out.
9. Gabriel Jesus (4.55%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 14 (0.62 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,027 | xG: 18.49 (0.82 per 90)
While Aguero remains at Manchester City, it’s unlikely Gabriel Jesus will win a Premier League Golden Boot. But the fact he features on this list at all isn’t solely down to the fact many expect him to play a more significant role up front for Guardiola’s men in 2020/21.
If Aguero isn’t fit and firing from the off, Jesus might be thrown into the deep end and will need to eradicate his tendency to miss good chances to avoid floating back to the bench. Since his arrival in the Premier League, he averages more shots on target and ‘Big Chances’, as defined by Opta, than anyone. His conversion rate for such chances, of which Jesus has had 92, is a little below the 42% average, at 37%.
The Brazilian excels in getting into strong positions, though, and does most of his business in the box. In that regard, he is ideal for a City side that often likes to take its time in working the ball around the penalty area.
10. Anthony Martial (4.00%)
Premier League goals in 2019/20: 17 (0.58 per 90) | Minutes played: 2,638 | xG: 12.1 (0.41 per 90)
The second half of last season saw the real Anthony Martial come back to life at Old Trafford. Not only did he begin to find the net regularly, but most of his goals were also fantastic. Deft chips, fine curling efforts. You name it, Martial scored them.
The Frenchman prospered from the added creativity Bruno Fernandes brought to the team after arriving in January. If Bruno remains in form, so could Martial.
Martial is an outside bet perhaps because topping goalscoring charts is unfamiliar territory for him. Before last season his best Premier League tally was 11, and so he’ll need to prove 2019/20 wasn’t an anomaly, but a sign of things to come.