As far as Paddy Power is concerned, the Premier League Golden Boot is a distinctly one-horse race. It probably is as far as you’re concerned too.
Erling Haaland took the award last season with a record-setting 36 goals, six more than closest rival ahead of Harry Kane (who is now wearing lederhosen, presumably). With Kane gone to Bavaria, this means the Manchester City man scored at least 17 goals more in 2022/23 than any of his competitors for being the league’s top scorer this term.
As such, it’s no wonder that Haaland is the runaway 4/11 favourite to retain his Golden Boot crown. Mohamed Salah is the only other player in the running who has bagged 20 goals in one of the big five European leagues, so is a worthy 17/2 second favourite, and it’s 16/1 bar the leading pair.
After the first two weeks of the season, Haaland is a single goal behind Bryan Mbeumo (a 50/1 Golden Boot shot) and Solly March (250/1). With City travelling to face likely whipping boys Sheffield United this weekend, there’s a strong chance their Nordic goal machine will be sat atop the scoring chart as usual by Sunday evening.
But tougher games undoubtedly lie in wait, and Haaland has a bit of a problem. Kevin De Bruyne was vital to his success last season but is expected to be out injured until the new year. Could his prolonged absence open up the Golden Boot market for the likes of Salah?
Let’s consider the evidence. The Belgian assisted Haaland for eight Premier League goals last season (and another two in Europe). Since 2009/10, there has only been one example of one player setting up another more times in an English top flight campaign: Kane provided nine assists to Heung-min Son in 2020/21. And that was behind closed doors so did it really happen?
We can break the data down further. Haaland received 96 chance creating passes in the 2022/23 Premier League, with just over a quarter of them coming from De Bruyne. Kev’s total of 25 was as many as the next two players combined, and it was the same story for through ball passes.
While the midfield maestro’s absence will be the most keenly felt, its worth noting that Riyad Mahrez was ranked second on these Haaland-feeding pass charts and he has since left the club too. Clearly Pep Guardiola can call upon plenty of other excellent players but they won’t immediately have as strong a relationship with big Erl’.
The De Bruyne injury era – as the City forums are surely calling it – is raising reasons for concern too, albeit it remains a small sample at this point. After the Belgian hobbled off at Turf Moor, Haaland did score but only had two shots in his 63 minutes of play.
He then had one effort against Sevilla in the Super Cup and four in the 1-0 win over Newcastle last weekend. This means that without De Bruyne this season, Haaland has averaged 2.7 shots with 1.1 on target and 0.3 expected goals per 90 minutes.
Last season in the Premier League, those figures were 3.8, 1.7 and 0.9 respectively. Most interestingly, none of his recent chances have been classified as ‘big’ by Opta, meaning they are not of sufficient quality that you would expect the attacker – even Haaland – to score. In 2022/23 he amassed 59 big chances in the league, a shade under two for every 90 minutes he played.
As well as being brief, the ‘without Kev’ sample has not been fair in the sense there are far easier teams to score against than Sevilla and Newcastle, as Haaland will likely prove at Bramall Lane this weekend. But until the City squad can prove they can deliver him with the quality of service that De Bruyne consistently has, the likes of Salah might just have a reasonable chance of winning the Golden Boot.
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change
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*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.