Six games into the 2017/18 Premier League season, the title chase is starting to take shape. The two Manchester clubs sit atop the table, with the predominant narrative surrounding the person duel between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. Indeed, it’s a rivalry that could come to define the season. But there’s also another individual contest being fought.
This could be the season of the strikers. At almost every top tier club, perhaps with the exception of Liverpool, there is a forward fronting their respective challenge. Look at Manchester United, with new summer signing Romelu Lukaku scoring eight goals in his first eight games for the club. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will also return to Old Trafford in January, adding another dimension to Jose Mourinho’s attack.
Then there’s Sergio Aguero at Manchester City, who seems to have found his best form again over the past few weeks and months. Even behind them, Gabriel Jesus looks set to come close to the 20-goal mark for the campaign.
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At Tottenham Hotspur, Harry Kane has found his groove, with Alvaro Morata hitting the ground running at Chelsea, scoring a hat-trick in the thumping of Stoke City at the weekend. This season’s Premier League title race will likely be defined by who makes the most of their opportunities, and so the burden of expectation falls on the strikers.
So who is currently the best striker in England’s top flight? And how do they measure up to the goal-getters found around the rest of the sport? Does the Premier League finally have the attacking talent to challenge some of Europe’s best in the Champions League? Has there been progress in that regard in recent years? Our friends at Football Whispers attempt to answer these questions.
At present, Aguero, Lukaku and Morata are tied at the top of the Premier League scoring chart with six goals each. All three have enjoyed a successful start to the season and it’s no surprise that their respective clubs – City, United and Chelsea – occupy the top three places in the table as a direct result.
All three are very different as centre-forwards, though. Aguero is perhaps the most complete of the trio, such is his quality at collecting the ball from deep, as well as getting in behind. He is averaging a goal or an assist every 75 minutes this season, highlighting how he is the perfect modern striker. It seems that Guardiola has finally figured out a way to get the best out of him in his City system.
Both Lukaku and Morata, who is at present scoring a Premier League goal every 76 minutes, have changed the way their respective teams play in a comparable way. United and Chelsea look more dynamic, more interchangeable and ultimately more dangerous in the final third this season and that is largely down to the signing of a new centre-forward in both their cases.
And yet for all that Lukaku seems to be getting the best out of the team-mates around him, he is still very much a Mourinho type of forward. Only Olivier Giroud (26) and Christian Benteke (23) have scored more headed goals in the Premier League since 2012 than the Belgian (19). He is a frontman in every sense of that
However, no player is more important to their team than Kane is to Spurs. The England international is the embodiment of Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Not since Gareth Bale have Tottenham had such a quality player, a talent capable of providing a game-defining moment no matter the stature of the game. Only Lionel Messi (34) has scored more goals Kane (25) across Europe’s top five leagues in 2017.
In fact, not since the days of Alan Shearer has the Premier League seen such a potent out and out No.9. Kane is averaging more shots per game than any other top flight player this season (6.5 per game), illustrating just how important he is to Spurs’ attacking productivity in the final third. Morata, in comparison, is averaging just 3.3 shots per game. That could be looked at as either increased ruthlessness or a failure to involve himself in as much of the play as Kane.
The Premier League is currently awash with exceptional centre forwards who will surely leave their mark on European competition this season as well. The question of who is the best, though, might come down to personal preference and what you look for in a striker. Because goals can be found in all of them.