The Premier League Golden Boot is a very popular betting market. While it’s often the same names who are in the running to score the most goals each season, are there any trends which can help bettors identify where the value in the market lies? Data is readily available on which games players score in, and there is also underlying statistics that can help bettors make more informed decisions.
The recent history of the Golden Boot
The number of goals scored by the top scorers has been on the rise in recent times. Since the English top flight went down to 20 teams in 1995/96, the average goals scored by the Golden Boot winner has been 25.8. However, in the last ten seasons it has been 26.7, and across the past five campaigns the top scorer has averaged 28.6 goals.
In the seven years since Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov shared the award with 20 goals in 2010/11, the Golden Boot winner has always scored at least 25 times. Of course, with such a high benchmark, it does limit the number of players who are realistically in the running each year.
Understat has data for the past four seasons, so in this study we will look at the 11 occasions in that period that a player has scored over 20 league goals. The 11 examples are split across just six players though; Harry Kane has hit this benchmark in all four campaigns, with Sergio Aguero doing so three times, while Jamie Vardy, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah have all done so once.
Does starting slow affect Golden Boot chances?
But is it important to hit the ground running in order to win the Golden Boot? Not necessarily. Sergio Aguero scored ten goals in the opening ten matches of 2014/15 on his way to becoming the top scorer, but Jamie Vardy did likewise the following season and fell one goal short in the end.
At the opposite end of the scale, Harry Kane (with his famous aversion to scoring in August, prior to Tottenham’s win over Fulham in 2018/19) scored just twice in the first ten games of 2016/17, in part due to injury.
However, he roared back with 19 goals in his final 15 appearances to finish four goals clear of Romelu Lukaku. Kane scored seven goals in his last two games that year, which, while impressive, can’t be relied upon season after season.
Although that was an extreme example, it does seem that elite goal scorers improve their record as a season progresses. Of the 11 examples in the study, only three of them saw the player score more goals in the opening 19 games of a season than in the second half of the campaign.
Two of those examples were Sergio Aguero, who suffered with injuries on both occasions and the other was Jamie Vardy in Leicester’s remarkable title winning campaign. As he set a new league record by scoring in 11 consecutive matches early in the season, it was almost inevitable that his goal rate would cool later in the year. Indeed, the Foxes’ talisman had two runs of six games without a goal later that season.
Since 2010/11, the Golden Boot winner has always scored at least 25 times.
Vardy is also unique in this study in another way: he didn’t score a hat-trick, and the other 10 examples all feature one. Of those, six feature the player scoring four-or-more on at least one occasion too. While Vardy’s consistency early on powered him over the 20 goal mark, a player usually needs to take the match ball home at least once to reach those heights.
The hat-trick rate goes up as a season progresses too. Of the 19 hat-tricks scored by this group, seven occurred in the first half of the campaign with 12 being scored in the home straight. Collectively, these 11 player seasons saw 126 goals scored in the opening 19 matches, but 155 after that.
Using statistics to identify trends
But why does the improved scoring rate after the half way point occur? As season’s progress, teams get more tired which makes space easier to come by. Struggling clubs may have to open up more in pursuit of three points, and in the last few weeks of a season some teams have nothing but pride to play for.
This is reflected in the underlying statistics too, where the collective figures for the half seasons are 107 and 125 expected goals respectively. Sergio Aguero in 2017/18 and Jamie Vardy in 2015/16 are the only two cases from the 11 here that saw a higher expected goals tally in the first half of the campaign, and the Leicester man’s total was only 0.3 more.
It’s not just in xG totals either, but also how players perform against those expectations. As a group these players scored 16 percent more goals than their chances would suggest in the first halves of the seasons, but 26 percent more in the second batch of 19 games. The players have a range of going from 18 percent under to 40 percent over expectation in a half season, but the general trend is that finishing improves as a campaign goes on. As with all football data, there will always be exceptions.
The information here can be a useful guide, but nothing is set in stone. However, eight of the 11 seasons in the study saw the player score at least five goals in the opening ten games, so if your Golden Boot tip doesn’t do likewise this season, chances are they aren’t going to score over 20 goals or win the prize.
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