Official! The Premier League's 20 deadliest players of 2017/18 – ranked by shot conversion

Huw Davies
FourFourTwo

We’re in a golden age of Golden Boot winners. In 2008/09, Nicolas Anelka picked up the Premier League’s top goalscorer award with just 19 goals to his name. Pfft. This season, three players already have tallies in the 20s, with Mohamed Salah looking to pass 30 on Saturday.

The trio rack up their goals in startlingly different fashions, however. Sergio Aguero in third has taken 93 shots in the 2017/18 campaign. Salah’s had 118. Then there’s Harry Kane, on 162. So, when we reveal the 20 players with the best shots-to-goal conversion rates in the Premier League this season, you can guess who’ll be missing. 

What separates Kane is not just that he shoots more readily than Yosemite Sam, but that he loves to have a pop from distance. Roughly 35% of his shots come from outside the box, which contrasts sharply with Salah (19%) and Aguero (15%). While such a ratio is to be expected from midfielders – Kevin De Bruyne’s is 80% – it’s less common among strikers.

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Shooting from distance isn’t a crime. It keeps goalkeepers on their toes, forces defenders to leave their positions and close you down, creating gaps for a pass instead... and it looks bloody good when you score. For the purposes of this list, however, it means Kane isn’t present, because his shots-to-goal ratio is just 15% – or 14% if you remove penalties from the equation.

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We have also removed penalties from the equation, because with all due respect to the man, Luka Milivojevic should not be seventh in a ranking of deadly shooters. Without spot-kicks, eight goals from 33 shots (conversion rate: 24%) becomes two from 26 (conversion rate: 8%) for the Crystal Palace midfielder, which seems a fairer assessment. Sorry, Luka. Plus, we’re introducing a minimum of 30 shots as a pretender-eliminating cut-off point.

Who, then, does have the best conversion rate in the Premier League? Not Kane. Not Milivojevic. Let’s crack on and see, shall we?

20. Marko Arnautovic

15.6% shot conversion (7 goals)

After he swapped Stoke (erstwhile mid-table regulars now locked in a relegation battle under a dour Scotsman) for West Ham (erstwhile mid-table regulars now locked in a relegation battle under a dour Scotsman), Arnautovic’s early performances showed why most clubs don’t break their transfer record for a 28-year-old winger best described as 'mercurial'.

Then David Moyes played Arnautovic as a striker instead and the Austrian scored or assisted nine goals in his first seven games leading the line, following one in 12 before that. Sorted!

19. Steve Mounie

16.2% shot conversion (6 goals)

Another record signing, Mounie scored twice on debut as Huddersfield won their first Premier League game 3-0 at Crystal Palace. Since then, the Benin international has shared striking duties with Laurent Depoitre, who’d been the Terriers’ record signing himself for a week.

They’ve each started 16 league games, Mounie edging Depoitre in shot conversion and goals. The only time they started together, Huddersfield lost 3-0 at home. No wonder David Wagner keeps alternating between them.

18. Riyad Mahrez

16.4% shot conversion (10 goals)

It’s been a topsy-turvy few years for Mahrez – but more topsy than turvy, especially now he’s refocused following a disappointing 2016/17 and failed move to Manchester City.

Just watching Mahrez play will tell you he’s returning to the form that made him 2015/16 PFA Player of the Year, but the stats lend an assist. He’s hitting the target with 46% of shots – a higher ratio than in 2015/16, even – and his conversion rate is more than double what it was last year.

17. Abdoulaye Doucoure

16.7% shot conversion (7 goals)

One expects forwards to dominate a countdown of the Premier League’s best conversion rates, because their shots come from better positions – but it’s still a surprise to see that Doucoure is the only midfielder in the top 20 besides David Silva (oh - spoiler alert).

Watford’s leading scorer has played every minute except for the 90 he spent suspended, and 2017/18 is already the goaliest season of his career. Bigger clubs are sniffing around.

16. Eden Hazard

17.0% shot conversion (9 goals)

For a player of his ability, Hazard could be more productive. Harsh? Perhaps… but if you ignore the converted penalties contributing to a fifth of his Premier League goals, the Belgian averages a goal or assist every 172 minutes since arriving at Chelsea.

It’s questionable whether Antonio Conte false nine-ing Hazard helps him, but at least it improves his shooting positions. Again discounting penalties, Hazard’s shot conversion has risen from 13% pre-Conte to 19% last season and 17% this, which is surely linked to a similar increase in shots from inside the box: 53% of his efforts before Conte, 70% now.

=14. Leroy Sane

17.4% shot conversion (8 goals)

That Sane is one of five Manchester City players in this top 20 speaks volumes for both the quality and the style of football introduced by Pep Guardiola. Put simply, his players are more regularly in positions to take shots with a high xG value (look, we had to say xG eventually).

On top of his eight goals, Sane is second in the Premier League assists charts with 11, behind only De Bruyne. Insané.

=14. David Silva

17.4% shot conversion (8 goals)

Joint-third in those assists charts is Silva, but then he’s always been a creator par excellence. This season, though, has seen the Spaniard become a goal threat himself; only in 2014/15 did he score more often (12 times) and more efficiently (18% shot conversion).

Silva is 32 years old now. When will the inevitable decline begin? Because it doesn’t look like happening soon.

13. Romelu Lukaku

18.2% shot conversion (14 goals)

Nine of the Premier League’s top 10 scorers are outperforming their xG data. In particular, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino sharing 42 goals from a combined xG of 30 is one reason for Liverpool’s strong season.

The exception? Romelu Lukaku. But given that he has scored 14 goals and ‘should’ have scored 14.02, we’ll let him off. At least his shot conversion’s pretty good.

12. Callum Wilson

18.4% shot conversion (7 goals)

 

The 26-year-old can go quiet for long periods – he’s on a six-game run of zero goals and assists for the second time this season – and then he’ll suddenly strike and decide a result.

Arsenal at home: Wilson equalises with his only shot and Bournemouth win 2-1. Chelsea away, two weeks later: Wilson opens the scoring with his only shot on target and Bournemouth win 3-0. His other five goals comprise a hat-trick against Huddersfield and a pair of late equalisers. When he does score, it makes a difference.

11. Son Heung-min

18.5% shot conversion (12 goals)

Son’s contribution to Tottenham’s season deserves more recognition. On top of his movement and counter-attacking ability, a dozen goals from 22 league starts is a very healthy return, and a high shot conversion shows how he gets into excellent attacking positions for a winger.

Kane’s injury ahead of fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City means that Spurs need their Korean star to shoulder the goal burden of a man he called “the best player in the world”. No pressure, Sonny.

10. Sergio Aguero

18.9% shot conversion (17 goals)

Tenth seems rather low for one of the Premier League’s most clinical strikers, but in fact his conversion rate is back on the up. With penalties excluded, Aguero’s shot conversion was down to just 12% last season, although spectators didn’t need us nerds to tell them that he was in uncharacteristically wasteful form.

In 2017/18, the old Aguero is back. Good thing, too, because Gabriel Jesus wants his place in Manchester City’s starting XI.

9. Roberto Firmino

19.1% shot conversion (13 goals)

The fact that Firmino has made as many appearances as Salah yet scored half as many goals says more about the Egyptian. Firmino is the man linking it all in attack and he’s often the man diverting defenders for Salah, too.

Firmino’s high shot conversion is partly attributable to his reluctance to pull the trigger from just anywhere. More than a third of his penalty-box shots have come from less than six yards; only Kane has had more attempts from that distance.

=7. Anthony Martial

19.5% shot conversion (8 goals)

Remember when Martial, like Rashford, was a striker rather than a winger? Clearly Martial does. At 1.6, he averages fewer shots per game than Granit Xhaka, but the Frenchman still finds the net with some regularity.

Eight goals from 41 shots isn’t bad; one of Martial’s Manchester United team-mates would surely tell you that...

=7. Jesse Lingard

19.5% shot conversion (8 goals)

Lingard, you’ll be shocked to learn, has eight goals from 41 shots in the Premier League this season, all scored in the past four months. They’ve rarely been meaningless strikes, ranging from a headed winner past Chelsea to a pair of braces against Arsenal and Burnley, and he was a substitute in two of those matches.

Lingard’s isn’t the best conversion rate of any Englishman, however. In fact, we’re about to enter a run of them...

6. Glenn Murray

20.0% shot conversion (7 goals)

Get him on the plane! Eleven goals for Brighton prompted rumours of a shock World Cup call-up for the 34-year-old.

Converted penalties have, of course, contributed to that tally. If FFT hadn’t discounted all spot-kicks like the mean sods we are, Murray would be at the very top of the conversion tree, having found the net with 27.5% of his shots, and half of his shots on target. Nonetheless, his penalty-less rate of five shots per goal is extremely handy for any promoted team.

5. Raheem Sterling

21.5% shot conversion (14 goals)

While he has improved in almost all areas, Sterling’s shooting has come an especially long way. Once cutting a nervous figure in front of goal, the 23-year-old now punishes teams… usually.

Just getting into the position to miss from three yards helps to explain why Sterling has 20 goals in all competitions. However, his improved finishing has been the main contributor. Before this season, his shot conversion across five years with Liverpool and Manchester City was just 11%. In 2017/18, he’s twice as clinical.

4. Jamie Vardy

21.7% shot conversion (10 goals)

Four of the Leicester man’s 14 league goals in 2017/18 have come from the penalty spot, but he’s also outscoring his xG tally. That’s just what Gareth Southgate wants to hear (probably), because Vardy could be very important to England’s chances at the World Cup.

Even if he's defined by his counter-attacking qualities, there’s no use in a Plan B with Emile Heskey’s shooting boots. And Southgate has nobody available with a better conversion rate...

3. Wayne Rooney

21.9% shot conversion (7 goals)

Oh, hello. Doing anything this summer, Wayne?

Old Man Rooney is a surprise entrant in this top 20, a bit like that time Ron Vlaar recorded the fifth-highest speed at the 2014 World Cup, although Rooney has had the fewest non-penalty shots of any player here. Still, you can’t argue with facts. And he did score from his own half.

2. Gabriel Jesus

22.2% shot conversion (8 goals)

It takes something special to put Aguero’s place at Manchester City under threat, but the Argentine has been deposed in several games by Jesus, who’s working miracles that would make his namesake say: “Well, it’s not water into wine, but I guess you could call it impressive.”

Injury has limited the 20-year-old Brazilian to 13 starts and eight substitute appearances, hence his low shot count of just 36 attempts. He’s making them count.

1. Mohamed Salah

23.5% shot conversion (27 goals)

Well, who else was it going to be? Scoring 28 Premier League goals (that's including one penalty) before the end of March is just silly, frankly, and Salah faces Crystal Palace again on March 31.

Salah has 3.9 shots per game, behind only Kane, which reminds us of something about buying tickets for a raffle, but he is smashing xG predictions all the same. He’s still accused by some of wasting good chances. An xG of 21.14 for his 28 goals suggests otherwise. All hail the king.

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