Before the start of any Premier League season, the question of who will win the title is often the centre of attention. Bettors can also predict which player will be the top goalscorer and win the Golden Boot. What do the stats tell us about the main contenders to be the top scorer in the Premier League? Read on to inform your Premier League top scorer predictions.
Using expected goals to make Premier League top scorer predictions
- Read: What is expected goals?
These are the players that produced the highest expected goal totals in the premier league last season. Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah were in a league of their own in 2017/18 and are deservedly the two leading contenders this campaign:
Of course the total amount of minutes played has a big impact on these totals. Sergio Aguero is the leading example of this with his 21 goals coming in just 1985 minutes. Harry Kane, in contrast, played over 3000 minutes in the Premier League last season.
Expected goals per 90 minutes played (minimum 900 minutes)
Expected goals per 90 minutes played (minimum 900 minutes)
Adjusting for minutes played highlights which players were the most threatening per 90 minutes on the pitch. In terms of expected goals per 90 minutes the Manchester City strikers are the leaders. However, they are both constantly rotated by Pep Guardiola and are prone to injuries.
If either can nail down a regular starting place in the Manchester City team then they will be leading contenders to top score in the Premier League. However it seems unlikely either will be able to do so.
Pierre Emerick Aubamayang is probably the most interesting player highlighted by the xg/90 rankings. The Gabon international joined Arsenal midway through last season so did not play the minutes required to challenge in the overall standings.
His stats since joining Arsenal have been impressive, placing him alongside Kane and Salah. This makes the gabon international one to watch for bettors, especially considering he averaged greater than 1.00 xg/90 during his time at Dortmund.
Will finishing have an impact on the golden boot race?
Expected goals provide a good way to analyse the top scorer contenders but players frequently over and underscore compared to their underlying stats.
By looking at how many goals each player scores per expected goal we can see if finishing could be a strong factor in the top scorer race.
Goals scored vs expected goals since 2014/15
Table Goals scored vs expected goals since 2014/15e
As you would expect, most of the elite forwards outscore their expected goal total. Salah and Kane, in particular, appear to be strong finishers. This is concerning for the prospects of their rivals considering they are also amongst the elite in terms of xg/90.
Whilst Aubameyang’s Dortmund numbers suggest he may be the best of the favourites at finding goal scoring opportunities but he may also be the poorest finisher.
Note, however, the relatively small sample size available for all of these players so these statistics may not be a true reflection of a player’s finishing skill.
Which Chelsea striker will benefit from Maurizio Sarri’s appointment?
Chelsea only scored a total of 59 goals last season with their attack blunted by the tactics of Antonio Conte.
New manager Maurizio Sarri prefers a more attacking style which should see an increase in the number of goals scored by the club. His Napoli sides scored an average of 83.7 Serie A goals per season in his three years at the club.
The central striker in his 4-3-3 system was the player to profit from Sarri’s attacking tactics in terms of goal scoring.
Dries Mertens scored 28 in the 16/17 season (0.88xg/90) whilst Gonzalo Higuain’s 36 goal 2016/17 season broke the single-season Serie A goalscoring record (0.82 xG/90). The Chelsea strikers will hope to see their number of goals increase under the Italian.
Pending any signings, Sarri’s options in attack are Olivier Giroud, Alvaro Morata and the returning Michy Batshuayi.
Chelsea strikers' exepected goals per 90
Morata endured a tough opening campaign in the Premier League but still produced decent attacking numbers. His return of eleven goals disguises a stronger expected goals total (13.90) and, as shown above, last season’s poor finishing appears to be a blip rather than a trend. The Spaniard notched 15 goals from 9.52 expected goals in his final season at Real Madrid.
It is difficult to see Giroud or Batshuayi becoming Sarri’s preferred choice in attack but they both produce strong goals when they get an opportunity. If either could replicate those statistics across a full season as a starter they would be a contender for the top goal scorer crown.
Is Harry Kane fatigued?
As the clear favourite to win the golden boot award Harry Kane’s form has a knock-on effect for every contender.
Of cause for concern for Kane and Tottenham Hotspur is the fall in his underlying numbers after his return from injury towards the end of last season.
Harry Kane pre-injury vs post-injury
It seems questionable to query the form of a player who has just won the World Cup golden boot but Kane’s goal return was reliant on set pieces in that tournament (three penalties, two goals from corners and a deflection). He did not look his usual threatening self in open play.
This becomes marginally more worrying when looking at his declining expected goal statistics post-injury. Kane covered up this fall in production with an unsustainable glut of finishing so his struggles have gone mostly unnoticed. Should this continue into the new season then bettors should be wary about his golden boot prospects.
Top goalscorer betting: Other considerations
World Cup fatigue
Players who made it to the later stages of the World Cup will have under four weeks to prepare for the new season. This set of players includes Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku who may miss the opening fixture.
The shortened preseason schedule for these players can exacerbate issues like Kane’s potential fatigue.
Rotation around European fixtures
Jesus and Aguero are often rotated around European fixtures which leads to them missing significant minutes in the league. This is likely to continue into the new season.
Mo Salah is another player who may be subject to rotation. Liverpool have added Xherdan Shaqiri to the squad and Salah was rested at times last season.
Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane were fairly rotation resistant last season but both took part in deep runs in the World Cup.
Arsenal and Chelsea are unlikely to prioritise the Europa League so their first choice forwards should play regularly, increasing their top goalscorer chances.
The World Cup has delayed many transfer moves so expect business to be conducted right up to the deadline.
The transfer window will close the day before the start of the new season and any market movers could have an impact on the top scorer race.
Chelsea are a team to watch as they have been linked to a range of forwards. Any new additions in this position would certainly harm Alvaro Morata’s prospects.
Departures are equally as important as the new arrivals. Riyad Mahrez assisted seven of Jamie Vardy’s 20 Premier League goals for Leicester last season. The Englishman will be missing this supply after Mahrez’s move to Manchester City.
Bettors interested in backing a Chelsea striker will also need to monitor outgoings at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard and Willian have both been linked with moves away from West London. The duo provided 13.47 expected assists last season.
Who will be the Premier League top scorer?
Salah, Kane, Aubameyang and the Manchester City forwards are all set to challenge with Chelsea’s leading striker a potential surprise package. Outsiders will need to produce unprecedented seasons or hope for a decrease in production from the leading contenders to have a chance of challenging.
If Kane’s expected goal numbers continue to be lower than last season’s then Salah and Aubameyang look best placed to profit. The Egyptian combines outstanding expected goals numbers with elite finishing making him a difficult man to stop.
The Arsenal striker will probably play a greater number of Premier League minutes than the current golden boot holder. He will to make the most of them and perhaps be a little more clinical to take the title from Salah.
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