10. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
The much-maligned Spaniard is praying for a new lease of life under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea – and if Saturday's fine goal against Arsenal is anything to go by, the signs are promising. Morata is at least being given a second chance ahead of Olivier Giroud as the Blues' focal point up front, which is the only way to ensure his fragile confidence isn't completely obliterated in 2018/19.
The 25-year-old missed out on Spain's World Cup squad and then relinquished Chelsea's cursed No.9 shirt in the summer (previous wearers: Fernando Torres! Falcao! Steve Sidwell! And, er... Khalid Boulahrouz!), so a bright start to the new campaign could be vital for a player who is so reliant on healthy headspace.
At Juventus, Morata once went through a rough patch so bad that he "couldn’t even control the ball" in training, and would openly cry around his team-mates. "Gigi Buffon took me aside, alone, and said that if I wanted to cry, do it at home," Morata told The Guardian in April 2017. "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."
9. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)
There aren't many people who've been thankful to David Moyes in the last five years, but Arnautovic should be one of them. After a sluggish start to his West Ham career (11 games, zero goals, no assists, one red card), the club record signing was shunted up front for a December home game against Chelsea and duly scored the winner in a surprise 1-0 win. He stayed there for the remainder of the season, racking up 10 more goals and six assists as the Hammers limped home in 13th – matching his best-ever season with Stoke in 2015/16.
'Arnie' has rarely lived up to his immense promise in a patchy career, but aged 29, it looks like the tide is finally turning. It won't help not having the injured Manuel Lanzini around in 2018/19 – the pair looked to have struck up a dangerous double act last season – but Arnautovic is expected to enjoy another positive campaign despite West Ham's continued woes.
8. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
No more is Zaha the dribble-happy wideman with questionable end product. It's testament to the Crystal Palace talisman's current ability and maturity that he was capable of successfully answering Roy Hodgson's call to move centrally last season, responding with nine goals, three assists and four more (effectively) as an expert winner of penalties.
While Christian Benteke toiled, Zaha stepped up and steered Palace away from peril with big performances against Bournemouth, Brighton and Leicester during the final six games. He is 25 now; not the boyish 20-year-old who rocked up to Old Trafford at the worst time possible in post-Fergie summer 2013.
7. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Long-term criticism of the Belgian suggests that he succeeds only against lower-quality teams, but that seems incredibly harsh with his superb overall Premier League record in mind: 102 goals in 222 matches, having only turned 25 in May. Lukaku netted 26 times in 50 games for Manchester United last season; 16 in the Premier League, and another five in eight Champions League matches.
The player he succeeded at Old Trafford, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was once criticised for the same flaw of being a flat-track bully – and things turned out quite well for him in the end. It's not Lukaku's fault that Manchester United under Jose Mourinho are a dull, lethargic team that created the sixth-most chances per Premier League game on average last season (and scored 38 fewer goals than champions Manchester City).
The Belgian is by no means the cold-blooded striker he is expected to be just 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 prolific in the final third of 2018/19 for Arsenal, plundering 10 goals in 13 games following his January move from Borussia Dortmund, where he'd established himself as one of world football's most lethal frontmen. In mitigation, they came mostly against Premier League cannon fodder who, like Arsenal, were winding down their seasons and had little to play for.
It will be interesting to see this year whether the Gabonese can separate Arsenal in the big games, as he failed to do at Stamford Bridge on Saturday when two big opportunities went begging. His track record would suggest he can, though: 141 goals in 213 games for Dortmund, with a one-in-two Champions League record included. In the Europa League – Arsenal's level now – the 29-year-old boasts eight in 10 games.
5. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Thirty-one years old now, but still a razor sharp pest who's one of a kind in the Premier League. Vardy was once appreciated for his tireless running and terrifying aggression, but since Leicester's great escape towards the tail end of 2014/15, he has consistently proven himself to be among the finest finishers in the division.
He has scored 58 top-flight goals since the start of 2015/16, when he helped fire the Foxes to a miraculous title, and 28 of those have come against top-six sides – seven more than the next-best player since the beginning of 2014/15, Sergio Aguero, and 10 better than Harry Kane.
The question of when he will lose his pace is pertinent, but there's no sign of that happening anytime soon – Vardy has just signed a new contract that will keep him at Leicester until he's 35.
4. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
The reason Pep Guardiola’s side would still expect to become champions if Aguero suffered a season-ending injury owes more to the 20-year-old Jesus than anyone else. The Brazilian has settled into English football as impressively as any overseas recruit in recent memory, moves as intelligently as his decorated team-mate, and last season had 17 goals across the Premier League and Champions League to show for it.
For so long he was the boy from Brazil with a Midas touch: Jesus went from October 2016 to December 2017 without being on the losing side for club or country – a run stretching 42 official matches.
In the present climate, and given his age and potential, Manchester City's deal for £27m from Palmeiras represents remarkable value. Emmanuel Adebayor cost the same club only £2m less back in 2009.
3. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
The Premier League's most unselfish player? Perhaps – but that's also reductive, because he's one of its most effective. Firmino is the league's great facilitator; the perfect foil for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané in Liverpool's frightening frontline that racked up an astonishing 91 goals last season. The Brazilian jinks around opposition backlines like a poison dart frog, sucking in unsuspecting defeners and then killing them off when they're least expecting it.
Firmino got 27 of those goals himself in 2017/18; 15 in the Premier League and another 11 in Europe as Jurgen Klopp's side stormed to the Champions League final, including the crucial effort which killed off Manchester City in the quarter-finals. It's no wonder that the 26-year-old is adored at Anfield – and by no one more so than his manager.
2. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
England’s most consistently prolific finisher since a prime Alan Shearer has been the Premier League Golden Boot winner in two of the last three seasons, and the other – last year's 30-goal haul – was statistically his best campaign to date. Frighteningly, Kane has improved his returns every season since breaking through into Tottenham's first team.
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 north London this summer as a World Cup Golden Boot winner, and only the second Englishman ever to achieve the feat.
1. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
The Argentine has been among English football’s truly outstanding talents from the very point of his arrival in 2011. When fit, Aguero's incredible scoring consistency has marked him as the best finisher in the country, and he should really have more than the three Premier League titles he has helped inspire. His consistent goal returns every season since arriving have been remarkable: 30, 17, 28, 32, 29, 33, 30.
Last season's 21 league goals were scored at a rate of one every 93 minutes, and while he is surrounded by so many players of exceptional quality, the 30-year-old has previously performed similar feats when Manchester City have been far less impressive as a whole. He is now their all-time record goalscorer with 204 goals in 295 matches, and among the greatest frontmen in Premier League history.
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