Aug 11, 2020
Aug 11, 2020

Analysing the trends of the Premier League Golden Boot race

The recent history of the Golden Boot

Does starting slow affect Golden Boot chances?

Using statistics to identify trends

Analysing the trends of the Premier League Golden Boot race

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 had been on an upward trend until recently. Since the English top flight went down to 20 teams in 1995/96, the average goals scored by the Golden Boot winner has been 25.6. However, in the five seasons up-to-and-including 2017/18, the top scorer averaged 28.6 goals.

There has since been a dip though, with three players sharing the award with 22 goals in 2018/19, and Jamie Vardy claiming this season’s prize with 23.

But despite that recent fall, it’s still now nine years since fewer than 22 goals was enough to win the Golden Boot – in 2010/11, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov shared the award with 20 goals each.

So with an eye on the market ahead of the forthcoming 2020/21 campaign, we need to consider who might be capable of scoring at least 22 times.

In the last five Premier League seasons, there have been 14 examples of a player reaching this particular goal benchmark. Only nine different players have achieved this feat though; Harry Kane has done so three times, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy twice, with Sergio Aguero, Danny Ings, Romelu Lukaku, Sadio Mané and Alexis Sanchez doing so once.

It’s undoubtedly an impressive group of forwards, but it also illustrates how difficult it is to repeatedly accumulate a goal haul of this size. Let’s see if there are any trends we can look for.

Does starting slow affect Golden Boot chances?

It isn’t always vital to hit the ground in running in order to score at least 22 goals. Six of our sample of 14 instances saw the player score more goals after the half way point, with three having an even split and five netting more than half of their goals in the opening 19 match weeks.

However, it’s interesting to note that in both seasons in which they scored at least 22 goals, Aubameyang and Vardy bagged at least 55 per cent of their goals before the half way point. In other words, if your player of choice in this market is not one of those two, it seems they may get better as the season goes on.

And that was the case for three of the last four outright Golden Boot winners (the award was a three-way split between Aubameyang, Mané and Salah in 2018/19). The top scorers in the three seasons from 2015/16 to 2017/18 – Kane twice, then Salah – collectively scored 36 goals in the first halves of the season, but 50 thereafter.

Unless the player you think will win the market happens to be Vardy, it’s not essential for your pick to go on a long streak of scoring in every game. The Leicester talisman set the Premier League record for consecutive scoring with 11 games in the Foxes’ title winning campaign of 2015/16, and followed that up this season with an eight game run which looked to have set his side up for a top four finish.

It’s also interesting that Vardy has the longest and joint-second longest goal droughts within our sample of high scoring seasons too. He went seven games without a goal in 2019/20, and six matches four years earlier.

None of the other high scoring players from the last five years had a stretch of longer than five games in which they found the net, and their longest spells without scoring were an average of four matches in length too. It seems most players amass large goal totals via a similar method, while Vardy ploughs his own furrow.

One way in which the Foxes’ frontman is similar to the other players in our study is that he doesn’t rely upon hat-tricks. There were 11 instances of a player scoring at least three goals in a game in 2019/20, but Vardy’s in the memorable 9-0 win at Southampton was the only one by the three members of the ’22 goal’ club this season.

Aside from when Kane scored four hat-tricks on his way to claiming the Golden Boot in 2016/17, the other 13 player seasons analysed here collectively netted 11 between them, and no more than two in an individual campaign.

What appears to be more important is to score regularly. Take Raheem Sterling – he scored 20 league goals this season, but only netted in 14 games. Every player who netted at least 22 times in the last five seasons scored in at least 15 games, and an average of 18.

Sterling’s Manchester City teammate Sergio Aguero scored 21 goals across 15 matches in 2018/19, and Vardy got 20 via getting on the score sheet 18 times the season before. Every rule has exceptions. But not everybody can be Harry Kane, who won the 2016/17 Golden Boot by scoring seven goals in the final two matches of the season.

As a general rule, consistency is important. Durability is a key factor too, as no player has ever been the Premier League’s top scorer without making at least 30 appearances. It seems it’s vital to be fit as the season draws to a close if a player wants to be in the mix for the top scorer award.

Using statistics to identify trends

But why does the improved scoring rate after the half way point occur? As seasons 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 in this analysis are 136 and 148 expected goals (xG) respectively (data taken from Understat). Only four of the 14 player seasons studied here had a higher xG total in the first half of the campaign, and one of those – Vardy on the way to Leicester’s title – was just 0.3 expected goals better.

However, how the players performed against their underlying statistics is less clear-cut, with half of our sample underperforming in the second half of the season. It’s interesting that two of the three players from 2019/20 (Ings and Vardy) are in the bottom four for this; did the lockdown and playing behind closed doors impact them?

Perhaps the key point to note is that four of the five players who ended the campaign with at least 25 league goals at least matched their over-performance against expected goals from the 20th game onwards.

The quartet includes three Golden Boot winners too, so it appears a player can be a bit erratic and still hit the 22 goal mark, but to record truly elite figures requires greater consistency (as you would expect).

The five 25-goal-plus men all scored at least 10 per cent more goals than their expected figures suggested they should overall, and that’s ultimately what counts, not how it breaks down across the season. Collectively that quintet scored 27 per cent above their xG rate, where the others were at 19.

The information here can be a useful guide, but nothing is set in stone. However, 11 of the 14 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 next season, chances are they aren’t going to score at least 22 goals or win the prize.

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