Ranking the Top 20 Contenders for the Premier League Golden Boot
As the 2014-15 Premier League campaign draws closer, we take a look at the men who will be tasked with firing their club to glory and capable of winning the Golden Boot award for the forthcoming season.
Last year, Liverpool's Luis Suarez won the award, as he netted 31 goals in 33 games. He, of course, has since departed for Barcelona, meaning a new player will be picking up the award come season's end.
The highest scorer remaining from last term is Suarez's old team-mate, Daniel Sturridge.
In our slideshow, the players are ranked partly (and most importantly) on their ability to find the net consistently but also the nature of their own team: how good they are offensively, how many chances they create as a whole and what kind of supply line is in place for the forwards.
In addition, last season's goal tally is noted, and the players' production over the past few years is taken in line with increasing age, development and appearance numbers.
Here are our top 20 contenders, with Sturridge himself of course featuring high up.
20. Stevan Jovetic, Manchester City
Three Premier League goals in 2013-14
Manchester City's Montenegrin forward suffered injury problems throughout the first half of last season, which cost him a good run in the side and the chance to adapt quickly to the English top flight.
His creativity and playmaking talents are unquestioned, but he is also capable of contributing more in front of goal.
If he wins a spot in the team, he can really step up in a substantial way, though City's big squad means competition for places is fierce.
19. Siem de Jong, Newcastle United
Dutch attacker Siem de Jong could fill a variety of roles for Newcastle this season, so it remains to be seen just how much penalty-box presence he is instructed to have.
The former Ajax captain is certainly capable of finding the back of the net on a regular basis, with his runs from deep and composure in the box. He could indeed be a more regular goalscorer from the No. 10 role than Newcastle's first-choice No. 9.
18. Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Fifteen goals in 2013-2014
Romelu Lukaku has the potential to be higher on the list, but of course we don't yet know where he'll be playing his football next season and thus how much game time he might be likely to get.
At Chelsea, where he doesn't seem to be rated or required, he'd be a bit-part player. Back at Everton or elsewhere, he could be a starter every week.
Powerful, fast and direct, he's a great option as a lone forward or as an impact sub at times.
Update: Lukaku has signed permanently for Everton, per BBC Sport. The Toffees' summer plan for the transfer market and their tactics for next season look built around his arrival, and he will be expected to deliver significantly with his goal return in 2014-15.
17. Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Fourteen goals in 2013-2014
The Chelsea inside-forward is capable of scoring more than he did last season, if he can find his top form and then maintain consistency.
There may be a little more expectation on him this term. Since the club have added more creativity this season, he will need to do the business for his side more regularly. If not, he will face competition for his starting spot, just like everyone else.
16. Wilfried Bony, Swansea City
Sixteen goals in 2013-2014
Swansea's Wilfried Bony has the lot: acceleration, a powerful frame, the ability to score with his head and good timing of runs into the penalty box.
Arguably capable of scoring more than he did last year, he took a little while to find a regular spot in the team but ended as the club's most important forward.
If the service is there, Bony will find the net with regularity.
15. Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur
Eleven goals in 2013-2014
Adebayor's time in the Spurs first team was of course restricted to the period where Tim Sherwood was in charge, being heavily out of favour with Andre Villas-Boas beforehand.
Thereafter, though, he was the main man in attack as Roberto Soldado floundered.
Adebayor has plenty of tools to mark him out as an unstoppable forward—his problem has always been continuity at the top of his game. If he could produce the goods for a whole campaign, he wouldn't be far off the top scorer.
14. Theo Walcott, Arsenal
Five goals in 2013-2014
Walcott's season was rather abruptly ended by injury last term, after he had managed five league goals in nine starts.
Showing good aptitude at attacking the far post from his right-sided starting role, Walcott's pace has always been an asset. He has gradually added more composure and insight to his play over the past few seasons.
He still doesn't look like being handed a centre-forward's role, which he wants, but he remains a goal threat from wide.
13. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal
Ten goals in 2013-2014
Sticking with Arsenal, Aaron Ramsey proved one of the best players at moving quickly and decisively from the middle to the final third in last season's Premier League.
His ability to drift past players and powerfully finish was on display for the first half of the season before injury struck. Should the Gunners keep him fit, they've not only got one of their top players at their disposal but also a prodigious goal talent able to break from midfield.
12. Raheem Sterling, Liverpool
Nine goals in 2013-2014
Liverpool's young attacker Raheem Sterling saw a hugely steep upward curve in form and effectiveness over the second half of last season.
Whether playing from either flank or behind the forwards in a central attacking midfield role, Sterling's ability to break at pace, dribble at defenders and race beyond the forward line saw him have a huge impact.
If he nails down a starting spot from the beginning of the season, he'll comfortably breach the double-figure mark and could be one of the most important forwards in a title-chasing team.
11. Olivier Giroud, Arsenal
Sixteen goals in 2013-2014
Arsenal's leading frontman Olivier Giroud links play well, provides a fairly regular goal threat and has good movement to drop deep. But getting the best out of him means others might score as many or more than himself.
He's not simply a striker to lead the line and shoot; he is also there to create gaps for others to exploit.
Even so, with better movement and supply around him, Giroud could surpass his tally from last season.
10. Edin Dzeko, Manchester City
Sixteen goals in 2013-2014
City's main striker last season, by number of league starts, turned out to be Edin Dzeko.
It doesn't always appear that Dzeko has the full confidence of his managers. He can have a few good games and score goals, but then be anonymous too often to keep a regular place in the side.
At his best he's unstoppable, he shows great movement and can score with all parts of his body.
9. Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Arsenal's new signing Alexis Sanchez isn't the most clinical finisher, he isn't likely to play centre-forward every game and isn't accustomed to the league. Yet he still has the potential to outscore any of his team-mates.
The speed and direct running he brings in the final third make him a terrific weapon, while his nonstop work-rate, his off-the-ball movement and his ability to react quickly are all key traits in his role.
Get him playing in an infield-moving role, and he'll find the net with regularity.
8. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea
Another arrival from Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas certainly knows the league well and has already shown the damage he can do.
If he is given licence to break forward often from central midfield, heading a 1-2 shape alongside Oscar, his ability to run beyond midfielders and arrive late on to cut-backs and crosses will make him a Frank Lampard-esque regular goal-getter for the Blues.
7. Christian Benteke, Aston Villa
Ten goals in 2013-2014
Aston Villa forward Christian Benteke had an injury-hit season last term and initially struggled to regain form, but he still proved a potent penalty-area threat.
Villa might struggle again as a team next term, but Benteke is their lifeline with the goals he can provide.
Pace, strength, holding-up play and an ability to run at defenders at times give him some sort of supply line, and Benteke can create danger himself.
6. Yaya Toure, Manchester City
Twenty goals in 2013-2014
Manchester City's big attacking threat for much of the season was midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure, whose runs from deep, set pieces and general predatory instinct saw him net a full 20.
His free-kicks were memorable and much improved, while those familiar bombarding runs aren't going to disappear out of his game either.
City's side is often set up to allow Toure to attack, and another clutch of goals could follow.
5. Diego Costa, Chelsea
Chelsea's main starting striker is of course going to be Diego Costa.
Direct, aggressive, capable of running at the defence with the ball and certainly willing to fight for the team cause, Costa is very much a Jose Mourinho-mould striker. He will lead the line, score goals and help create chances for others.
The big question will be over whether he can maintain his impressive strike rate from La Liga in his debut season in the Premier League.
4. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
Seventeen goals in 2013-2014
Wayne Rooney looks to have a chance to cement a centre-forward's role for himself at Manchester United if Louis van Gaal continues with the two-man front line he has used in pre-season.
Clearly, the forward has immense talent with good technique, vision and scoring ability.
His problem in recent seasons has been both consistency and, seemingly, not really being a relied-upon first-choice, something he has struggled with a little. Should he stay first pick for Van Gaal, goals will inevitably follow.
3. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Seventeen goals in 2013-2014
We should make it abundantly clear at this point: Sergio Aguero would be No. 1...if he didn't have his continual fitness problems.
He does, though, and that is costing him a dozen or more games a season at the moment, quite possibly an extra half-dozen or even 10 goals.
At his peak he's a thoroughly complete forward, great on the ball and off it. He's deadly, he's got a great supply line, and he'll be competing at the top end of the range one way or another.
2. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool
Twenty-one goals in 2013-2014
Daniel Sturridge will be called upon to step up even more this season in the absence of Luis Suarez, and judging by his progression so far and his ability on the pitch, he's more than capable of doing so.
Playing centrally in attack almost every game—if Liverpool keep him fit—will likely see the English forward go somewhere close to the 25-goal mark.
He's fast, his movement is exceptional, he possesses good skill and even grabs a few headers. A little more composure on the right foot, and Sturridge is basically a goal-a-game striker.
1. Robin van Persie, Manchester United
Twelve goals in 2013-2014
Injuries and Manchester United's awful form contributed to a down season, but with Louis van Gaal as manager you can basically bet that United's current side will be set up to get the best out of the striker.
He's tremendously adept at scoring a whole range of goals, he will once again be playing in an offensive side that defenders naturally fear and back off against, and his penalty-box presence is utterly undimmed despite last term.
The Dutchman could feasibly notch not too far off Suarez-like numbers if things go well for the team, and he'll certainly be closer to the top than he was last season in the Golden Boot race.