One betting market that gets plundered during the Premier League off-season is the Top Goalscorer bracket, with decent prices available on a set of players who – injuries notwithstanding – should be in amongst the goals during the season.
The nature of top goalscorer betting is interesting, because a) we can almost guarantee who will be in the mix for honours, and b) most bookmakers will pay out 1/4 odds on the top four places for each way bets. So while instinctively we’re looking for the man who will put the ball in the net the most times, we can also see if we can spot a player priced at 20/1 or higher to finish in the top four to secure a profit: Charlie Austin (2014/15), Yaya Toure (2013/14) and Clint Dempsey (2011/12) have all satisfied that criteria in recent years, and you might even argue that Jamie Vardy last year had a similarly surprising run of form in front of goal.
Incredibly, this year there are more standout contenders for the Golden Boot than there are Premier League winners, so let’s take a look at the top ten in the market and eliminate some from our enquiries. Firstly, we recognise that since the Premier League’s inception in 1992/93, every single Golden Boot winner has been an out-and-out striker (bar Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably, in 2007/08). As such, we can delete Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial from our thinking.
With strikers who are playing their first season in the English top flight after joining from abroad, we have to assume that they will struggle, initially at least, to come to terms with the pace of the game. So Michy Batshuayi and – with regret – Zlatan Ibrahimović are ruled out.
Then we have Olivier Giroud, whose best season in an Arsenal shirt yielded 16 goals. Going back five seasons, the amount required to win the Golden Boot has been 30-26-31-26-25, so we can confidently lay the burly Frenchman. A similar accusation can be aimed at Daniel Sturridge, whose halcyon campaign was 2013/14 when he returned 21 goals. His injury record has ultimately cost him the chance of being a serious top goalscorer contender.
So now we’re left with five: Diego Costa, Jamie Vardy, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero, and you could make a solid case for any of that quintet.
Kane is Able
There are a number of reasons why Harry Kane won the Golden Boot in 2015/16: he played in an adventurous Spurs side for one, he is a natural finisher, he takes penalties (always helpful) and he got a bit of luck at times. But the most obvious reason why he scored more goals than anyone else is, quite simply, because he had more shots than any other player.
It is a theory backed up by barking Sunday League managers – “if we don’t shoot we won’t score!” – and also statistical analysis, that dictates that the greater the number of shots on target that a player has, the more goals they will score.
Last season Kane fired 124 shots at goal, with 75 finding the target (60%). A conversion rate of around one goal for every three shots is about the global norm, so Kane’s end return of 25 goals should come as no surprise. Of his main competitors, Vardy fired 57% of his shots on target, Aguero 56% and Lukaku also 56%. These are small margins of course, but over the course of a 38-game campaign can make all the difference.
Kane has also managed to stay largely clear of injuries during his young career, which clearly gives him an advantage over Aguero, for example, who tends to be wrapped in cotton wool by his managers. We would expect Vardy to suffer as Leicester regress to their mean this season, while Lukaku is still finding his way in a meandering Everton side who should at least improve under the canny stewardship of Ronald Koeman.
With all that said, backing Kane to retain his Top Goalscorer status, available at 7/1, looks smart.
If you can cast your mind back as far as 12 months ago, you may remember Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson starting the Premier League campaign like a train with five goals in eight starts, before a cruciate knee ligament injury shattered his season.
After seven months out he returned to action for the Cherries towards the tail-end of the campaign, and after a few substitute appearances he finally appeared to recover his old confidence and pace by the end of the season.
If he can stay fit this time around, Wilson has the potential to bag into the late teens in terms of goals in an adventurous Bournemouth side encouraged by boss Eddie Howe to express themselves. That could be enough to snag a share of the each way places, and at 66/1 that would return a very nice profit indeed.