The Golden Boot Shortlist: Which Premier League Player Will Score the Most Goals?
There is certainly not a lack of strikers of the highest quality in the Barclays Premier League this season, but only one of them can come out as the season's top goalscorer.
With many new forwards joining the Premier League over the summer transfer window, there will be even more competition than ever to win the prize that every striker covets.
What I will be addressing in this article is who the most likely winners are from all the attackers in England's top division. From a centre-forward of last year's champions Chelsea to the main hitman of perennial strugglers Sunderland, there will be a complete analysis of the players' capability to hit the back of the net, with records, form, and team quality all coming into play.
It may be controversial, it may well be what you have all predicted, but here it goes. Here's my list of the potential Golden Boot winners of the 2010/11 season.
The Champion Of Champions: Didier Drogba
After such terrific performances for Chelsea last year, Drogba is very much the favourite out of all the strikers in the league to win the Premier League season's Golden Boot.
In 2009-10 the mercurial forward from the Ivory Coast secured the prize that all dedicated goalscorers dream about by hitting 29 Premier League goals.
His determination to win the English version of Spain's famous Pichichi award was undeniable. During Chelsea's last day must-win game against Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge, he reacted angrily to Frank Lampard's decision to take the penalty that would take the eventual champions 2-0 up.
Although he was fuming at his vice-captain's choice to deny him the spot-kick, he would later score a hat-trick that contributed to a fine 8-0 victory that secured the Blues the title.
Having scored four goals in three games at the start of the current season, including a hat-trick over opening day opponents West Bromwich Albion, he has certainly already staked his claim for the Golden Boot.
The striker also regularly hits the back of the net for his country, the Ivory Coast, with his tally standing at an enviable 45 goals in 71 games.
Challengers should also be aware of Carlo Ancelotti's side's scoring pedigree; the Blues have already scored fourteen goals in their three Premier League games this season and hit a remarkable 103 goals in their 38 games last time around.
Didier Drogba is the odds-on favourite for the Golden Boot and rightly so, as he is the reigning champion and a player of the highest quality.
The Nearly Man: Wayne Rooney
Although, like most Premier League forwards, Wayne Rooney has never won the Golden Boot, he had, last season, finished runner-up with a fantastic tally of 26 goals for the Premier League's most historically successful side, Manchester United FC.
So what went wrong last time around then? Well, some will say that the England star lacked an effective strike partner with both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen failing to make the grade, and Argentinian Carlos Tevez having defected from Alex Ferguson's Reds to the cash-splashing Sky Blues of Manchester City FC.
Others, however, will say that Didier Drogba was simply too good to be beaten. After all, with them both playing 32 games last season it was not the case that one player had more time to score than the other.
With Wayne Rooney having had a tragically poor World Cup experience with England, it is now the time for him to show the rest of the world that he is on the same level as Pichichi holder Lionel Messi and old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
One thing that Alex Ferguson's favourite English striker does have over his rivals is the virtue of youth. At 24 years of age, it is impossible to believe that Rooney has reached his full potential.
With that having been said, however, the Golden Boot will not wait for any player, and I am sure that this player will not want to wait any longer for the Golden Boot.
The Hotspur Hotshot: Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe has a reputation for being a formidable goalscorer, but it remains to be seen whether he has enough firepower to stake a claim for the Golden Boot. With Spurs sealing their place amongst Europe's elite in the UEFA Champions League competition, this is the season for England's latest hat-trick hero to properly hit the headlines.
Unfortunately for Jermain Defoe, he will have to look as far back as 1993 to see that the last Tottenham Hotspur player to finish as the top Premier League goalscorer was Teddy Sheringham, with a superb tally of 22 goals.. Although Sheringham's trophy is now probably catching dust after being put away for so many years, a new and shiny prize is up for grabs and Defoe will surely want to capture it.
18 league goals was not a bad return from the ex-Portsmouth striker last season. Most Spurs fans will say that their favourite striker is capable of more, but that is yet to be seen.
The predatory instincts of Defoe are undeniable, however. In a stunning 9-1 victory over Wigan at White Hart Lane last November, Defoe hit an incredible five goals past England international goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. Add to the equation a hat-trick at Hull and a competitive treble for his nation against Bulgaria last Friday, and you have the makings of a deadly and dynamic striker.
The England striker has fans in all the right places as well, with the infamously stern Fabio Capello even stating after the 4-0 win over Bulgaria that "Defoe is always very important for [the team]. He can shoot with his left foot and his right and his performance was really, really good and his movement without the ball was fantastic"
There is but one doubt, and that is whether this deadly forward can turn his erratic form to consistent and finally show the world that he is one of the finest finishers that the game can boast.
The Spanish Sensation: Fernando Torres
Although Fernando Torres is arguably one of the best strikers in the world, he has had an indifferent last few months. The Spanish international failed to set the world alight during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, even though he was part of the winning team, and has had struggled with injury problems. Now however, he is back on fire.
Since joining Liverpool for around £20,000,000 in 2007, the striker has made a very good impression on everybody in English football. Having left his childhood club and gone to a foreign country to play his football, it was expected that he would trouble to get to grips with the pace and physicality of English football. But he didn't.
By the end of the 2007-08 season, the Liverpool forward had broken Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for most prolific striker in his debut season by scoring a fantastic 24 goals in 33 games. The Spaniard had also been named in the PFA Team of the Year and was thus sought after by the most affluent clubs in Europe, including Premier League rivals Chelsea.
Torres committed himself to the club at the end of his first season and said that it would be "many years" before he left the Reds to go on to another club.
2007/08 was as good as it has got for the loyal attacker, however, as he has been blighted by injuries and has therefore been unable to cement himself in the Liverpool team.
The departure of fellow countryman Xabi Alonso, followed by the resignation of faithful boss Rafa Benitez at the end of the 2009/10 season, again raised questions about the future of the dynamic striker. Fortunately for the Merseyside men, the arrival of new manager Roy Hodgson has meant that Fernando Torres has been able to commit himself once again to his club.
With the striker now back in form, scoring two goals last week for the Spanish national side, and injury free, there is now the opportunity for Fernando Torres to finally seal his place in the history books of English football and the folklore of Liverpool FC by winning the prestigious Golden Boot.
The New Import: Marouane Chamakh
Marouane Chamakh has not had much time to have a huge impact on the Premier League just yet, but there is no doubt that he is a top notch signing for Arsenal FC by their legendary boss Arsene Wenger.
The Moroccan international striker, who was born and raised in France, was signed by Wenger on a free after impressing for his former club, Ligue 1 side FC Girondins de Bordeaux.
The big centre-forward scored 76 goals in 302 appearances for his old side, which is by no means a brilliant record. For Morocco it is the same story, with the player hitting only 14 goals in 53 games.
The statistics suggest that Chamakh is not the most prolific goalscorer playing in the Premier League, but with him having joined a team that will slice open opposition defences and create many chances in each game that they play, there is a definite chance of the striker having a strong impact in the league.
From what we have seen of Chamakh in England so far, we can say that he is a strong attacker in the form of a traditional number nine. He also seems like a handful for opposition defences and goalkeepers alike; just ask Pepe Reina, who in the first game of the new Premier League season got properly outdone by the strikers physical capabilities.
Chamakh certainly looks like an outside shot of finishing this Premier League season as the top goalscorer but, with him having started his goalscoring account so early, it is possible that he could put in a very strong stake for claiming the Golden Boot.
The Journeyman: Carlos Tevez
Carlos Tevez has certainly been around a bit. The Manchester City captain is only 26 years of age, but can count Boca Juniors, Corinthians, West Ham United, and Manchester United as his former clubs. Now he is settled at the Sky Blues of Roberto Mancini, it is the time for him to show that he can out-score his Premier League rivals.
An Argentinian international, the pint-sized striker has scored 11 goals in 54 games for his country. In the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, he hit eight goals in six appearances to help his nation to victory and secure himself a Gold medal.
It is not just goalscoring that makes this attacker a key player in both his club and national sides, but his hard-working nature. Described by footballing legend Diego Maradona as an "Argentine prophet for the 21st century", Carlos Tevez likes nothing more than to win a football game and, if he can, score a winning goal.
In his not-so-long career, Tevez has seen it all. Suffering from fan abuse at Corinthians in Brazil, he left sunny South America to save West Ham United from relegation in the 2006/07 season. After scoring seven crucial goals to keep the Hammers in the top flight of English football, Tevez left the club a hero and signed for Alex Ferguson's Manchester United.
Two Premier League titles, one UEFA Champion's League victory, and an Incontinental Cup win followed. Contract negotiations between himself and the club collapsed however, and he ended up leaving the Reds in the summer of 2009.
Signing for Manchester City from United provoked outrage amongst supporters of the Reds and feelings of joy in the supporters of the Sky Blues. Scoring 23 goals in 33 games was enough to make Alex Ferguson spit out his finest red wine as the attacker proved what a fine talent he really is.
Now, with his current club challenging for Premier League glory, Tevez's goals are needed more than ever. I do not doubt that his ability to produce them.
The Out-and-Out Goalscorer: Darren Bent
This striker cares for nothing more than scoring goals. In fact, his critics will say that apart from his finishing abilities he is not a special talent. Try telling that to Sunderland boss Steve Bruce.
Starting his career at Ipswich Town, Darren Bent scored 47 goals in 122 appearances before joining Premier League side Charlton Athletic for £2,500,000. It was in Alan Curbishley's side at Charlton where Darren Bent made his name as he hit the back of the net 31 times in 68 games for a side that was doing a superb job by finishing in mid-table.
The 2006/07 was disappointing for Darren Bent as his goals weren't enough for Charlton to stay up in the top flight. The England international proved himself good enough to keep playing at the highest level, however, and in the summer of 2007, he sealed a club record £16,500,000 move to Tottenham Hotspur FC on the other side of London.
Something went very wrong at Spurs for their record signing, as he was played irregularly and failed to live up to his fine reputation as a prolific striker. Scoring only 18 goals in 60 league games was enough evidence for Harry Redknapp to think his wife was capable of scoring some of the chances that Bent spurned, and so he moved him on at the end of the 2008/09 season to Steve Bruce at Sunderland, recouping at least £10,000,000 of the money that they spent on him.
Having now scored 24 goals in all 38 league games for Sunderland last season, the attacker has reinstated himself as one of the top goalscorers in the Premier League at this point in time.
Darren Bent is very much an outsider for the Golden Boot due to his side being more concerned with survival than with title glory, but don't count him out.
To The Future: A Season Of Goals
There are many more players I could have included on this list, including Newcastle's Andy Carroll and Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa, and that is a testament to the abundance of quality strikers in the Barclays Premier League.
Whoever scores the winning goal in the race for the Golden Boot, this season will be full of red-hot goalscorers hitting the back of the net for both club and country.
Maybe the winner of the Golden Boot will be one of the players on the shortlist, or maybe it will be another striker who was excluded.
One thing is for certain though, the game is very much on.
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