The danger men
Manchester City marksman Sergio Aguero netted another hat-trick on Sunday, but where does he rank in the Premier League’s current order of merit?
We've had a go at placing the contenders for the Golden Boot as another campaign gets under way...
10. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
Morata is hoping for a new lease of life under Maurizio Sarri and his excellent goal against Arsenal on Saturday was an encouraging sign. The Spaniard is being given a second chance as the Blues’ number one striker, having missed the cut for Spain’s World Cup squad in the summer.
After abandoning the cursed No.9 shirt (previously worn by Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao and, er, Khalid Boularouz), a bright start to the campaign will be crucial for his confidence.
During a rough patch at Juventus, Gigi Buffon told Morata to cry at home rather than around his team-mates. "He said the people who wished me ill would be happy to see that and the people who wished me well would be saddened by it," explained the Spaniard.
9. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)
There aren't a lot of people who've been thankful to David Moyes in the last five years, but Arnautovic should be one of them. After a slow start at West Ham, where he failed to score or assist a goal in his first 11 games, the Hammers’ club record signing was moved up front against Chelsea and duly scored the winner in a shock 1-0 victory.
He stayed there for the rest of the campaign, plundering another 10 goals – equalling his best-ever season with Stoke in 2015/16. 'Arnie' has rarely lived up to his undoubted potential in a patchy career, but at the age of 29, it looks like the tide is finally turning.
8. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Zaha is no longer the dribble-happy winger with questionable end product. It's testament to the Crystal Palace icon’s current ability and maturity that he was capable of successfully responding to Roy Hodgson's demand to move to a more central position last season.
In his new role, Zaha provided nine goals, three assists and four more (effectively) as an expert penalty-winner.
While Christian Benteke struggled, Zaha took responsibility and steered the Eagles out of trouble with impressive performances against Bournemouth, Brighton and Leicester during their final six games. He’s 25 now; not the boyish 20-year-old who arrived at Old Trafford at the worst time possible in the post-Fergie summer of 2013.
7. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Lukaku has long been criticised for excelling only against teams further down the table, but his superb overall record in the top-flight renders that harsh: 102 goals in 222 games, having only turned 25 in May.
Lukaku struck 26 times in 50 appearances for Manchester United last term; 16 in the Premier League, and another five in eight Champions League matches. It's not the striker’s fault that United under Jose Mourinho are a dull, lethargic team that created the sixth-most chances per Premier League game on average last season.
The Belgian certainly isn’t the cold-blooded finisher he’s expected to be quite yet, but should be appreciated for what he is rather than isn't at this stage of his career.
6. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Aubameyang was quietly productive for Arsenal towards the end of last season, scoring 10 goals in 13 games in the wake of his January move from Borussia Dortmund, where he'd forged a reputation as one of the most lethal strikers in circulation.
Those strikes came mostly against Premier League cannon fodder who were winding down for the summer, but it’ll be interesting to see whether the Gabonese can separate Arsenal in the big games this season, as he failed to do at Stamford Bridge on Saturday when two big chances went begging.
His track record suggests he can: 141 goals in 213 games at Dortmund, with a one-in-two Champions League record and eight in 10 Europa League matches.
5. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Vardy, now 31, remains a razor-sharp pest who’s unique in the top flight. Once appreciated for tireless running and terrifying aggression, he has consistently proven himself to be one of the division’s best finishers since Leicester’s great escape at the end of 2014/15.
Since the start of the Foxes’ miraculous title-winning season three years ago, the England international has netted 58 Premier League goals, 28 of which have come against top-six sides - seven more than the next-best player since the beginning of 2014/15, Sergio Aguero.
The question of when he will lose his pace is pertinent, but there's no indication it’ll be soon – Vardy has just signed a new deal that will keep him at the King Power until he's 35.
4. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
The reason City would still expect to be champions if Aguero endured a serious injury owes more to the 20-year-old Jesus than anyone else.
The Brazilian has settled in England as well as any foreign signing in recent memory, moves as intelligently as his celebrated team-mate, and last term had 17 goals in all competitions as a reward.
A remarkable run from October 2016 to December 2017 saw Jesus go 42 matches without a defeat for club or country. In the modern market, and considering his youth and potential, the £27m City handed Palmeiras represents tremendous value. Emmanuel Adebayor cost the same club only £2m less back in 2009.
3. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
The Premier League's most selfless player? Maybe – but that's also reductive, because he's one of its most effective. Firmino is the division’s great facilitator; the perfect foil for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané in a Liverpool front three that plundered an extraordinary 91 goals last term.
Firmino netted 27 of those himself; 15 in the league and another 11 in Europe as the Reds stormed to the Champions League final, including the crucial strike which saw off Manchester City in the quarter-finals. No wonder the Brazil international is loved at Anfield – and by no one more so than his manager Jurgen Klopp.
2. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
The most reliably lethal English finisher since a prime Alan Shearer has been the Premier League’s top scorer in two of the last three seasons, and the other – last year's 30-goal haul – was statistically his best to date.
Frighteningly, Kane’s return has got better every season since he broke into the first team at White Hart Line.
The 25-year-old is more crucial to Spurs’ ambitions than Aguero is to Manchester City’s, and thrives as being the focal point of his team – arguably more so than any of his potential rivals. He returned to Tottenham this summer as a World Cup Golden Boot winner, and only the second Englishman ever to achieve the feat.
1. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Since arriving in England in 2011, Aguero has been one of the league’s truly remarkable talents. When fit, his incredible consistency in front of goal has marked him as the best finisher in the country, and he should really have more than three Premier League titles.
His goal returns every year since his arrival have been sensational: 30, 17, 28, 32, 29, 33, 30. Last season's 21 league goals were netted at a rate of one every 93 minutes, and while he is surrounded by many exceptional players, the 30-year-old has performed similar feats when City have been far less impressive.
He is now the club’s record goalscorer with 204 in 295 matches, and among the greatest strikers in Premier League history.
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