Do you remember the golden boot? There was a time, before marketing departments helped make fourth place a thing, when top division goalscorer was arguably the biggest annual award given after the league title FA Cup.
But as football’s priorities have changed, with qualifying for the Champions League being one of its greatest prizes, so has our approach to the game.
Tottenham’s Heung-min Son moved up to second in the golden boot rankings last Sunday and responded with little more than a shrug.
“It’s not important because I want to play in the Champions League next season,” said the South Korean after taking his top tally to a career-best 19 with a brace against Leicester.
“To score 19 goals, 30 goals, 25 goals is not important for me because the team is more important than me. I try to do my best for the team.”
Spoken like the model modern professional. Son, who has teamed up with Harry Kane to produce the deadliest duo in Premier League history, knows football and, more broadly, scoring goals is now more than ever a collective effort.
Premier League leaders Manchester City have scored 84 goals this season and yet their top scorer in the competition, Kevin De Bruyne, is a midfielder whose 11 goals total is just enough for ninth place in the Golden Boot race.
Mohamed Salah is leading the race at 22, but that’s barely a quarter of Liverpool’s 86 overall.
Race for the Golden Boot
- Mo Salah – Liverpool, 22 goals
- Son Heung-Min – Spurs, 19 goals
- Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United, 18 goals
- Diogo Jota – Liverpool, 15 goals
- Sadio Mane – Liverpool, 14 goals
- Harry Kane – Spurs, 13 goals
There are three Liverpool players in the Premier League’s top five goalscorers; Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota.
The top three names in the assists table all play for Liverpool; Salah, Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
One of the keys to success in the modern game is multiple threats, multiple players who can provide the ammo and/or deliver the killer strike.
The league will always boast great, determined goalscorers like Kane or Sergio Aguero, but the current trend is clear. When it comes to goals, it’s time to share the love.
If Salah or Son fail to score 25 league goals by the end of the season, it will be the fourth straight season in which less than 25 goals have been enough to win the Golden Boot.
In the past 15 seasons of the Premier League, the top scorer has only had less than 25 goals three times.
Liverpool’s attacking machine consists of five strikers – Salah, Mane, Jota, Roberto Firmino and Luis Diaz – who can score between 10 and 15 goals a season.
City are yet to replace Aguero, their all-time all-time leading goalscorer, who nonetheless contributed just seven goals to last year’s title win and Champions League final.
Guardiola learned to be pragmatic with Agüero’s different approach to the game, but in many ways the Catalan’s vision for City was only truly complete since the biggest goalscorer in club history was retired.
Chelsea won the Champions League without a real striker last season and after spending £100m on Romelu Lukaku last summer to rectify that, left the Belgian largely on the bench and decided that Kai Havertz, a midfielder from Profession, a player is better bet to fulfill modern frontman’s responsibility.
Tottenham have Son and Kane, both prolific goalscorers but an old-fashioned two-man strike force playing in a very modern way with energetic pressing, defensive responsibility and counterattack threat.
Arsenal dropped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January and immediately looked like they had a far better chance of finishing in the top four.
Which brings us to Cristiano Ronaldo. In many ways, it was the Manchester United striker that started all of this role switching and the adaptation of square pins to round holes. Originally brought to Manchester United as a wacky winger with more tricks than power, he eventually became the most prolific striker in football history, the archetype of the modern-day No9.
Now 37 years old, Ronaldo has doubts about his viability in the best teams. He still possesses a sense of self-worth that the modern footballer often lacks – or even seems discouraged. Cristiano probably believes the team is best served by being subservient to him, not the other way around.
Against the backdrop of a car accident during a season at Manchester United in which doubts about his suitability for the role were just one of many subplots, Ronaldo has quietly scored 18 Premier League goals, just one short of Son and four behind Salah , although he plays fewer games than both.
His efforts won’t bring the club a trophy and are highly unlikely to lead to Champions League qualification, but it’s safe to say the Portuguese superstar is far from United’s biggest problem.
And while his own club continue to falter and collectives elsewhere continue to benefit, the Premier League’s great individualist could yet walk away with his biggest individual prize.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/07/golden-boot-contenders-son-and-kane-know-there-is-no-substitute-for-team-spirit-16596354/ Golden Boot contenders Son and Kane know that there is no substitute for team spirit