29 March 2018
No matter what level of the game, there is no doubting the importance of having a goal scorer within your ranks. This is certainly apparent in the Premier League where the finest margins can decide whether a club is earning all three points or going home empty handed.
Repeat this scenario 38 times over the course of a long and punishing league campaign and the lack of firepower in the final third of the pitch can ultimately be the difference between success and failure.
That success could be measured in the form of winning the title, or it could be securing a place in Europe. That failure could be measured by missing out on silverware or even a fate much worse, that of course being relegation.
But just how important is a talisman in the Premier League? Not only that but which teams seem to have an over reliance on their forwards. It’s all very well having someone who knows where the net is, but one player cannot win football matches on their own, no matter how talented they are.
In this article we’re going to analyse who makes the biggest contributions to the 20 top flight outfits and just how much of a positive effect that has had for their respective employers as we reach the business end of the season.
Thanks to whoscored.com for providing the data – all figures correct at time of writing (27th March 2018)
If we first look at the Top 10 goal scorers in the Premier League and we can also look at these goals as a percentage of the total that their respective club have scored this season:
|3||S. Agüero||M. City||21||85||25%|
|4||R. Sterling||M. City||15||85||18%|
|7||R. Lukaku||M. Utd||14||58||24%|
Here we can see that Mohamed Salah of Liverpool leads the scoring chart, this comes thanks to his tremendous four goal haul against Watford before the international break. That quartet of strikes at Anfield sees him go clear at the top from Tottenham’s Harry Kane, who is currently out injured.
With Salah’s four goal advantage coupled with the unknown return date of Kane, it does make the Egyptian the favourite to go on and win this season’s Premier League Golden Boot. What is interesting though is the contribution that the two players make to both Liverpool and Tottenham respectively.
Earlier in the season Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola, referred to Tottenham as the ‘Harry Kane Team’ – a comment which implied that the North London outfit had an over reliance on his goals.
That is a statement that may well have had an element of truth as the 24-year-old was certainly doing more than his fair share of goal getting for Spurs. At this point of the campaign he has been responsible for 41% of the club’s top-flight goals this season.
However, he has found himself an ally in the top 10 of the Premier League goal scorers chart as South Korean international Son Heung-Min has lessened that load slightly by scoring 12 goals of his own, meaning that he has chipped in with one fifth of Tottenham’s league goals this season.
The fact that Son has found his way into the top 10 is testament to how he has kicked on, but it also does a lot to destroy the notion that Tottenham have an over-reliance on Kane. If they do carry a certain label, then why aren’t Liverpool called the ‘Mohamed Salah Team’?
If we look at his contribution to Liverpool’s goals this season, he has been responsible for 38% of them. He has however been ably assisted by teammate Roberto Firmino who has chipped in with 19% of Liverpool’s goals in this campaign.
There is no doubting that Liverpool have been incredibly impressive in attack this season and it has arguably been much more of a team effort with 73 goals scored up until this point. So, because there has been a wider spread it means that Salah contributes slightly less as a talisman.
Looking at all the top 10 goal scorers in the list above, it is Harry Kane that makes the largest contribution to his team. That does not necessarily mean that there is an over reliance on him, it can also mean that he is once again having another successful season as one of the best hitmen in the division.
The second largest percentage contribution in that top 10 list comes from the man at the bottom of the chart. Glenn Murray’s goals for Brighton this season have been instrumental in keeping them a safe distance from the drop zone.
The evergreen forward has found the net on 11 occasions this season and considering that Brighton have only scored a total of 28 times, then they are obviously putting a huge amount of reliance on the 34-year-old.
Right now, it is something that seems to be working as Chris Hughton’s men look to be just a couple more wins away from securing a second straight campaign in the Premier League. It’s not necessarily how many goals you score in a season that will define whether you beat the drop or not and the Seagulls are living proof of this.
You could argue that a club like Brighton are perhaps more reliant on someone like Glenn Murray then Tottenham are with Harry Kane. At least in the case of the latter, they do have an element of back up especially what with another player currently in the top 10 goal scorers chart.
However, if the goals of Glenn Murray were to dry up between now and the end of the campaign or the former Bournemouth forward was to get injured then the East Sussex outfit would arguably feel that impact more as they do not have a ready-made replacement.
It’s quite apparent that Manchester City are going to win the Premier League and a second piece of silverware after their Carabao Cup success in February, not only that but they have by and far above the highest goal scorers in the division.
They’ve found the net 85 times up until this point, with their top marksmen being Sergio Aguero who has 21 goals to his name. An impressive tally but with only 25% of City’s goals being scored by the Argentine it just goes to show that there is no over reliance on one player at the Etihad.
The fact that they have so many players capable of finding the net has played a huge part in their runaway success this season, you only need to look at the fact that Raheem Sterling occupies fourth place in the scoring charts at present to see this point being proven.
Having two forwards so high up means they can share the load in terms of goal scoring exploits, if this is the case then it is a huge advantage in the race for the title as it gives the man in charge the opportunity to rest and rotate his star players.
Not only that though but in terms of Manchester City they also have the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, David and Bernardo Silva. This quartet have played their part when it has mattered and with such an embarrassment of riches it is no real surprise that they have blown away almost all that has tried to stand in front of them.
If we go across Manchester, then the red half of the town would have been pinning its hopes on Romelu Lukaku to help deliver the title. The Belgian international has scored 14 times this season, a contribution which has arguably been something of a disappointment by his own standards.
You could also volley the criticism that Manchester United simply have not scored enough goals, only 58 at the time of writing as Jose Mourinho’s pragmatism has seen them fail to mount anything resembling a title challenge.
Lukaku has been responsible for 24% of Manchester United’s Premier League goals this season, this shows there is not perhaps too much of an over reliance on the former Everton hitman but whether he needs to be scoring more or the club do is something you can probably argue until the season ends.
If we look at another Belgian international, Eden Hazard is Chelsea’s only representative in the top 10 scorers list. That is something of a surprise especially after the huge investment in Alvaro Morata last Summer.
Hazard has been deployed as a false nine as of late which has allowed him to test opposition defences and he has been rewarded with 11 goals. This means that he has contributed to 21% of Chelsea’s goals in this current campaign.
The fact that Chelsea have only scored 52 though is again startling, Hazard’s return is probably par with what you would expect from the former Lille player, but the defending Premier League champions have misfired in front of goal when it matters, and they are in danger of missing out on a top four spot.
Like Manchester United, Chelsea have scored something of an underwhelming amount of goals this season, had they scored more as a club then the likes of Lukaku and Hazard could well have made smaller contributions.
At the same time though, you could also argue that they themselves could have scored more therefore extrapolating their own contributions. Truth be told, that is all conjecture and we can only deal with the true stats in front of us.
One thing that is not conjecture is the fact that Jamie Vardy is joint 5th in the charts, as he is another player who has 14 goals to his name at the time of writing. The Leicester forward is undoubtedly the man to spearhead their attack.
His goals have given the East Midlands outfit the prospect of a Europa League place next season and the England international has scored 31% of Leicester’s goals this season, this would intimate that there is a heavy reliance on his goals.
We can look at the first goals chart in a different way to give us a better insight into the reliance on certain players.
If we re-order those top 10 goal scorers in the Premier League in order of percentage contribution, then it looks as follows:
As mentioned Harry Kane makes the biggest contribution to any of the teams that are represented in the top 10. He is followed by Glenn Murray, Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy. A fair statement to make is that there is certainly a reliance on these four men to deliver the goods.
As we move down the chart with the over half dozen names, you could argue that the reliance is not as great. This can be down to a combination of factors, one could be that a player is a supporting cast member (Firmino or Son) or that they are one of a star-studded cast (Aguero or Sterling)
The other variable here are the two Belgian internationals Hazard and Lukaku who are caught between two metrics, they could return more goals themselves, but their respective teammates also need to contribute more to the cause.
We can also extend this across the whole of the Premier League – this chart lists the Premier League table with each top goal scorer for that club and their percentage contribution:
If we revert our attention to the bottom of the list, the obvious and correct hypothesis would be that the teams battling to beat the drop will have the lowest amount of goals scored. If we look at West Brom then the fact their two top scorers have only scored five goals each speaks volumes.
You could point to the fact that they have two players who have chipped in with 10 goals between them as something that might boost their hopes, the problem here is that Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon are responsible for 40% of the Baggies top-flight strikes this season.
If they are doing their bit, even then though you can argue that it is nowhere near enough then the rest of the squad’s scoring input has been largely non-existent. This also a similar issue over in East London with West Ham.
Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic have chipped in with 14 goals between them – but they are responsible for 38% of all the Hammers’ goals this season. Again, these two may well be doing their bit, but whether that their return had been good enough for the money that was spent to bring them to the London Stadium is perhaps up for debate.
Ultimately though the fact that nearly two-fifths of all West Ham’s goals have come from two players alone does mean that there is something of an over reliance these two, but it also does boil down to a shortage of goals in general.
Another team that currently occupies the bottom three is Stoke, their top scorer at present is Xhedran Shaqiri. His seven goals have kept the Potters in with a chance of beating the drop but again the fact that he alone has been responsible for nearly a quarter of all Stoke’s goals this season is something of a concern for manager and fans alike.
Southampton have rolled the dice and replaced former Manager Mauricio Pellegrino for Mark Hughes, but they have done little to replace Charlie Austin. The fact that he has been a long term absentee due to injury and is still top of the Saints’ scoring charts says it all.
Austin has only scored 6 goals all season but has still contributed to one-fifth of Southampton’s top-flight tally. If ever there was the time for someone else to pick up the batten at St Mary’s and lead the club away from the relegation zone, then it is now.
If we look at the top scorer of each team and list them by percentage contribution, then it throws up some interesting results:
We already the top four percentage contributors as mentioned above, but what is interesting is the fact that Arsenal’s top goal scorer makes the lowest contribution to his team’s total output. Alexander Lacazette who was signed from Lyon has delivered just nine goals in what has not been the most auspicious start to this Premier League career.
However, it seems that the split of goals at Arsenal is much wider than anywhere else as even though he is their top marksmen there is nowhere near the over reliance on him then there is at other clubs.
This point could arguably be further reinforced as his first team place is no in doubt due to the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund, couple that with the fact that the French international has been injured and it seems as if life goes on at the Emirates without Lacazette.
If we were to say the teams at the bottom have the biggest reliance on their top scorers, then that is a hypothesis that more false than true. The reason being that if you look at league placing column above you, six of the new top ten are made up of teams that currently sit in the top half of the Premier League table.
Therefore, a fairer conclusion would be that the teams at the top of the table have a greater reliance on their marksmen as the pursuit of silverware is one that is usually delivered by the very best strikers that the Premier League has to offer.