With the new Premier League season here, we’ve looked at a selection of players who could challenge for the Golden Boot award.
We know what you’re thinking, and yes, this could very well be an exercise in futility. Looking at some of the potential contenders to be the Premier League’s top goalscorer before submitting to the inevitable and saying: “Yes, it will probably be Erling Haaland.”
However, football can still be unpredictable, and so in the event that Haaland suffers from a difficult second season, gets injured, or is abducted by aliens as he waits to take a penalty next week, we’re going to look at more than just the goal-bothering Norwegian.
That said, it would be silly to start with anyone else, wouldn’t it?
Erling Haaland – Manchester City
The big blonde ball belter had a stunning debut season in England. Following his move from Borussia Dortmund, Haaland immediately broke the records for goals in a Premier League campaign (36) and goals in all competitions for an English club in one season (52).
He averaged a goal every 23.1 touches in the Premier League in 2022-23 and scored his 36 league goals from an overall expected goals (xG) value of 28.7. Unsurprisingly, his 1.17 goals per 90 minutes in England’s top flight was the best ratio in the league (min. 250 minutes played) as he and Man City secured the title ahead of Arsenal.
The understandable assumption will be that he runs away with the Golden Boot again – and he got off to an ominous start by scoring against Burnley just three minutes into the new campaign, before adding a second shortly after. The Premier League’s other goal-getters are already once again on notice.
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
Some believed Mohamed Salah was a one-season wonder after he scored 44 goals in his first year at Liverpool in all competitions in 2017-18. That proved not to be the case, though the Egyptian has admittedly not quite been able to reach those very high levels since. Salah still scores plenty of goals, though, and his 19 last season placed him third in the league behind Haaland and Harry Kane.
It was still a disappointing campaign for him, with Liverpool finishing fifth, but he also underperformed his xG, which was actually slightly higher than Kane’s (21.7) even though he scored 11 goals fewer.
One thing that could impact Salah’s goal output is the amount of other attacking threats Liverpool now have, with him recording 12 assists last season, and pre-season also saw him score just twice but register another seven assists. Perhaps he’s turning into more of a creator, but he just loves goals too, so expect him to be racking them up again in the new season.
Callum Wilson – Newcastle United
It was a tremendous season for Newcastle in 2022-23, and for Callum Wilson. The former Bournemouth striker hit 18 Premier League goals in just 31 games, with just 21 of those starts.
Wilson was only behind Haaland’s goals per 90 rate at 0.86, and hit his 18 goals from 17.5 xG. Eddie Howe will be hoping he can take his end-of-season form into the new campaign. Wilson scored eight Premier League goals in April, the most by a player in a single calendar month for Newcastle in the competition, beating Alan Shearer’s seven in September 1999.
The concern for Wilson’s prospects would be his injury record, but also the competition for that place up top, with teammate Alexander Isak also impressing last season. With UEFA Champions League football this season, though, there will be plenty of games to go around.
Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Last season was by far Marcus Rashford’s best for Manchester United. He became the first United player to score 30 goals in a season in all competitions since Robin van Persie in 2012-13, as well as the first to score 20 at Old Trafford since Wayne Rooney in 2009-10.
Like Wilson, Rashford marginally outperformed his xG in the Premier League, with 17 goals and 15.8 xG. It was a huge improvement from the previous season when he scored just four goals in 25 games (13 starts) and collated an xG of just 2.9.
The signing of Rasmus Højlund could potentially hamper Rashford’s output, with the young Dane being brought in to try and share out the scoring burden that was largely placed on the England international’s shoulders, but who knows? Perhaps it could help take Rashford to an even higher level.
Outside Shouts for the Premier League Golden Boot
Those are the obvious five contenders, but who else could emerge to challenge them?
Alexander Isak – Newcastle United
After arriving from Real Sociedad last summer, Alexander Isak promptly scored two in his first three games for Newcastle. A thigh injury kept him out until January, but once he was fully fit, Isak showed what he was capable of, scoring seven goals in seven games between mid-March and late April.
Those goals dried up after he moved over to the left as Eddie Howe tried to get Callum Wilson back into the team, but the Sweden international still put in some strong performances. Isak scored 10 Premier League goals in all at an average of 0.59 per 90, a better rate than Mohamed Salah (0.52).
Ollie Watkins – Aston Villa
It was an impressive 2022-23 season for Ollie Watkins, scoring 15 goals despite Aston Villa’s struggles early in the campaign under Steven Gerrard. However, like much of the team, Watkins thrived once Unai Emery came in.
He recorded an xG of 16.5, so could potentially have scored even more, and might do so in the coming season now that Villa have added Youri Tielemans and Moussa Diaby. No Villa player created as many chances as Tielemans’ 58 in the Premier League last season, while none matched Diaby’s 10 big chances created (Tielemans – 14), so Watkins should have plenty of opportunity to score even more.
Darwin Núñez – Liverpool
Some thought Darwin Núñez might rival Haaland for last season’s Golden Boot, but he, erm, didn’t. The mockery aimed at the Uruguayan on a seemingly weekly basis was a little harsh – he did score a respectable 15 goals in all competitions after all – but he only managed nine in the Premier League.
As he did at Benfica, though, Núñez will be hoping he can make a significantly bigger impact in his second season. He scored just six league goals in his debut Primeira Liga campaign in 2020-21, before amassing 26 the following year. His lack of huge goal numbers in the Premier League was also not for the lack of trying; no player who played at least 250 minutes last season could match his 4.5 shots per 90 rate.
Rasmus Højlund – Manchester United
There will be a lot of pressure on Rasmus Højlund after signing for Manchester United for a reported fee of up to £72m from Atalanta. Erik ten Hag’s side were crying out for a natural number nine in 2022-23, and now they have one in the young Dane.
He’ll need to show rapid development to lead the scoring rankings in England. Højlund scored just nine goals in Serie A last season from an xG of 9.5. He has all the raw materials to be a threat in the Premier League, though, and should benefit from playing with Bruno Fernandes, who created more chances (119) and more big chances (32) than anyone in the division last season.
Nicolas Jackson – Chelsea
The signing of Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal seems like it has gone somewhat under the radar, but Jackson could take the Premier League by storm. His ability to time his runs to race in behind defences and his calm finishing one-on-one has the potential to be a big weapon for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Jackson hit 10 goals in his final 11 league appearances last season, and from 1 April on, no player in the top five European leagues scored more non-penalty goals than him. During that period, he remarkably converted 40% of his shots and averaged a goal every 80 minutes in La Liga, while Chelsea as a whole scored just nine Premier League goals in the same number of games.
Son Heung-min – Tottenham Hotspur
The 2022-23 season was not Son Heung-min’s finest. He scored just 10 Premier League goals after jointly winning the Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah in 2021-22 (23 goals). His quality is undeniable, though, and now that Harry Kane has left, the onus will be on him even more.
Son has reached double figures for Premier League goals in every season barring his first since arriving from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015, and perhaps under a coach who favours fluid attacking in Ange Postecoglou, he can get back to the levels that saw him score a combined 40 Premier League goals across the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.
Fancy an even bigger outside shout? Well, here’s a selection of those who, under the right conditions, could sneak into the reckoning.
We can already hear Arsenal fans typing furious emails of complaint that we haven’t mentioned anyone from Emirates Stadium yet. Well, there’s a good and complimentary reason for that. Basically, Arsenal have too many goalscoring options. Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard (both 15) and Bukayo Saka (14) all scored plenty in the Premier League last season, but none stood out as the main goalscorer. They ended up spreading the goals between them, but you never know. Should any of them stop producing goals, or get injured, it could lead to one of the others stepping up. They’re all capable of scoring more goals, you feel. New arrival Kai Havertz should also get plenty of time in attack with Gabriel Jesus missing the early stages of the season after having surgery.
Evan Ferguson had a breakout season at Brighton last year, scoring six goals in the Premier League, three more than any other teenager, and could blossom even further under Roberto De Zerbi. His new teammate João Pedro is an even greater outside shout but he did score 11 for Watford in the Championship last season and could thrive in Brighton’s exciting attacking system.
Julian Álvarez had quite the 2022-23. After moving to Man City last summer he was part of a historic treble-winning side and scored 17 goals to finish the campaign as his team’s second-highest scorer in all competitions. He also won the 2022 World Cup with Argentina. Should Haaland have spells out of the Man City side, then Álvarez could step up. Speaking of which, with Kane now residing in Munich, Richarlison will feel he can showcase his pigeon celebration plenty of times should he now take over as their main striker. Of course, he’d have to vastly improve his record of one goal across 1,006 minutes in the Premier League at Spurs.
But yes, it will probably be Erling Haaland.