The new Premier League season is almost upon us and, while the main focus is on team achievements and whether Leicester City can defend their title, the Golden Boot presents the top flight’s finest forwards with an individual honour to aim for.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane was 2015-16’s top scorer with 25 goals and is aiming to become the first Englishman since Michael Owen in 1999 to retain the crown.
Kane will face stiff competition from the likes of Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy, as well as the inimitable Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has joined Manchester United from Paris Saint-Germain for the new season.
With the help of Opta, we take a look at the form each of this season’s Golden Boot contenders will carry into the new campaign.
Aguero a reliable source of goals for Guardiola
Aguero is never far from the summit of the Premier League scoring charts. In fact, only in 2012-13 did the Argentina international, who joined Manchester City in 2011, fail to finish the season in the top four.
New manager Pep Guardiola arrives at the Etihad Stadium safe in the knowledge he is inheriting a striker who guarantees goals.
Aguero’s minutes-per-goal ratio last term (98.9) was only bettered by young team-mate Kelechi Iheanacho, who made 22 fewer starts.
And with City favourites to dethrone surprise champions Leicester this term, expect Aguero to have a major say in the success of Project Pep.
The Zlatan factor promises to mix things up
Ibrahimovic – scorer of United’s winner in the Community Shield – lands in the Premier League with a reputation as a big personality and a lethal goalscorer.
United’s latest marquee frontman racked up 38 goals for PSG in Ligue 1 last term – 13 more than Premier League leading scorer Kane.
His minutes-per-goal ratio of 67.2 will be difficult to match in England, but his 60 per cent shooting accuracy should make him a menace to opposition goalkeepers.
If he can deliver the goals to match the hype, the self-styled “God of Manchester” could reign over the Premier League.
Can England’s three lions roar again?
Although Kane top-scored as Spurs ended the 2015-16 season in third, the 23-year-old was one of the more disappointing players in England’s doomed Euro 2016 campaign, failing to score a single goal as England crashed out to Iceland in the last 16.
Leicester’s Vardy did find the net in France, scoring the equaliser in a 2-1 victory over Wales, and will hope to replicate the record-breaking form that saw him fire his club to the Premier League title last season, contributing 24 goals.
Daniel Sturridge, who scored the winner against Wales, will need to avoid the injury problems that plagued his 2015-16 campaign if he is to trouble the Golden Boot frontrunners.
The Liverpool striker scored eight goals in 14 outings during his brief periods of fitness and his shots-to-goal conversion rate of 19.1 placed him ahead of Kane, Aguero and Vardy.
Chelsea pair could hurt each other’s chances
It remains to be seen whether Antonio Conte will favour Diego Costa or new signing Michy Batshuayi to lead the line for Chelsea this term.
Costa failed to live up to the standards he set in his first season at Stamford Bridge as he scored just 12 goals in Chelsea’s dismal title defence, subsequently missing out on selection for Spain’s Euro 2016 squad.
The arrival of Batshuayi from Marseille will increase the pressure on the Brazil-born forward to perform, and the Belgium international’s shots-to-goal ratio of 16.5 will not have escaped Costa’s (22.6) attention.
With the pair likely to share the burden for Chelsea this season, the chances of individual glory are somewhat compromised.
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku finished a distant fourth to Kane, Aguero and Vardy last season, but with the club adapting to a period of new ownership and new management, he will be looking to kick on during the 2016-17 campaign.
Arsenal duo Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez will also be in the running as they look to end Arsene Wenger’s 13-year wait for a Premier League title, scoring 16 and 13 goals respectively last time around.
Anthony Martial and Kevin De Bruyne could also have a say, as could new top-flight arrivals Vincent Janssen and Nolito.