Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku are both in the upper tier of Premier League strikers. While neither is quite kicking the door down of a Premier League XI, both are lethal on their day and have strong reputations in the game.
Despite being on the field for the equivalent of just 20 full games last season (around 2,000 minutes), each returned an impressive haul of Premier League goals, Lukaku with 17 and Dzeko with 14, and have made impressive starts to this new campaign.
But who is the better player?
Here's a look at their styles and statistics in an effort to determine which player is the superior striker.
Edin Dzeko's Game
Manchester City signed Dzeko for £27 million, having seen the Bosnian forge a prolific career in Germany.
In two years at City, the 27-year-old has remained consistent in front of goal, finishing both of the previous two seasons with 14 Premier League goals.
On the pitch he gives his side a focal point in attack and an outlet to build from. He possesses excellent technique and moves around with intelligence, although he rarely roams the channels—preferring to stay as central as possible.
This is reflected by this heat map of his 90-minute appearance against Newcastle this season. It's particularly noticeable just how focused he is on remaining in the key areas.
Despite his rounded game, Dzeko hasn't always been trusted in the major clashes for City—often emerging from the bench to add some late impetus.
This perhaps taints a few perceptions, but he's the complete package in terms of a striker. He dominates in the air, is accomplished on the ground with both feet and is a clinical finisher. There are few obvious weaknesses, and it's hard to think of many Premier League clubs, other than City, where he wouldn't be the No. 1 striker.
Romelu Lukaku's Game
Still just 20, Lukaku is still a raw prospect, with limitless potential. A similar height to Dzeko he is far quicker and more muscular than the Bosnian and more likely to overpower a defender with brute force.
The key with Lukaku is potential—of which the Belgian has plenty—at the moment; however, he's still honing his game. Last season he was an effective, explosive option at an especially defensive West Brom side, often feeding off scraps while playing on the counter.
One of the reasons he's now moved to Everton on loan is to develop his game with his side on the ball and improve his interplay with team-mates. He certainly displayed this in the Toffees' recent win against Newcastle, popping up all over the place.
This wasn't always the case last season, and leading a possession-absorbing side—as Everton now are under Roberto Martinez—will quickly improve this side of his game.
He too has a fine technique and impressive vision in the final third. With inexperience comes occasional lapses and poor choices, but Lukaku's scope to improve remains huge.
What the Stats Say
Here's a look at some of both players' statistics from last season, starting with some basic shooting numbers.
Both players had similarly impressive, yet strangely punctuated campaigns. They found almost identical chances to shoot, with Lukaku finding the net 17 times to Dzeko's 14—although two of the Belgian's strikes were penalties.
There isn't too much to differentiate. These numbers simply reflect on the impressive season of both and call into question why they started only 36 games between them.
Each was only on the pitch for roughly half of their club's action and would have surely past 20 goals had they been involved more often.
Moving on to other categories, this emphasises their styles further.
Dzeko is the more reliable in the air, at the moment, and more involved for his team. Averaging close to 50 percent in aerial duels is a strong return for strikers, who will have defenders behind them in the better position.
Lukaku is the more explosive option, more liable to take a risk but potentially able to surge past a defender.
Again, the numbers don't differ too much and reflect two formidable strikers who produced impressive seasons.
Conclusion: Dzeko, for Now
Right now, Dzeko is the superior option. He may not always be City's go-to man, but it's fair to say Lukaku wouldn't be, either.
The Bosnian is a useful, contrasting option for City, and while the statistics suggest Lukaku marginally edges several battles, there's is no category to measure a striker's polished technique or canny movement—two key areas in which Dzeko shines brighter.
The Bosnian has few weaknesses in his game and will continue to score when selected by Manchester City. He has also gathered more big-game experience and produced in more meaningful clashes so far. As things stand, he is the better player.
However, given Lukaku's immense potential, and his career's already-rapid upward trajectory, this won't be the case for long—perhaps even by the end of this season.
Once the Belgian sharpens his technique and becomes a little more aware, there's little doubt Chelsea will have an elite striker on its hands. Playing as Everton's main striker should develop his game considerably to the point that he's on equal footing with Dzeko.
To go past, he eventually needs a chance to perform for Chelsea, in key games—which he should arguably be doing this season—but Lukaku is on track to become one of Europe's very best.
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