With the dawn of the Premier League nigh, the slumbering giants have been slowly waking up, and getting back into the grind. Pre-seasons have varied from the overwhelming successes of City, Spurs, and Newcastle to the mixed fortunes of Arsenal, and Chelsea, all the way down to the quiet games for Manchester United. Reinforcements have been brought in, old contracts have been renewed, and revelations tied down to the Clubs. With an eye on all the bustling activity that has taken place this summer, as well as last season’s performances, here’s a list of the top 10 contenders for this season’s Premier League Golden Boot.
#10 Darren Bent – Aston Villa
Last season, Darren Bent had, what he would consider, a disappointing run. Scoring only 9 goals, his lowest in the past four seasons of the Premier League, Bent would have escaped the notice of many who have failed to keep an eye on his goal-scoring exploits of the previous two seasons, in which he has scored a combined 41 goals. However, having had to sit out for large chunks of last season with an injury, Bent watched helplessly from the sidelines, as his club struggled to gain any momentum, finishing a dismal 16th in the league. This season, fit again, and in seemingly good touch in pre-season games, he will be determined to make a difference, and perhaps rekindle his stake for an English national spot.
#9 Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea
Bursting on to the scene a year and a half ago, his scoring streak while on loan at Bolton catapulted him into the Chelsea first team for last season, where he mainly played on the wing. This led to more than a few moments of frustration for the English player, who prefers to play as a forward. Nevertheless, Sturridge was one of Chelsea’s brightest players last season, scoring 11 goals, mainly cutting in from the wing. Now, with Drogba gone, and no direct replacements purchased, Sturridge could well get to play more often in his preferred role, and if he does, expect goals.
#8 Fernando Torres – Chelsea
Despite all the bad form, and incessant jokes that plagued him last season, Torres hit back in style, scoring that goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, before winning the Golden boot at Euro ’12, in spite of playing for a Spain that often started without a striker. While Sturridge may be a contender, Torres is the one most likely to benefit from Drogba’s departure, and this might well see him regain his old form. If Torres does indeed pick up the scoring mantle, he could definitely be a front-runner, especially with the brilliant Mata and Hazard feeding him from the wings.
#7 Lukas Podolski – Arsenal
Never a prolific scorer, Lukas Podolski’s second-best scoring season came last year for FC Koln, who were relegated from the Bundesliga. Scoring 18 of the 39 goals the team scored last season, Podolski also had an extremely impressive Euro ’12, as part of a dominant Germany. While Podolski may be more of an assist-provider than a scorer, my guess is that he, and not Giroud, will be the one to step up to the plate if RvP leaves. This guesswork is what makes Podolski the only unsure pick in this list.
#6 Carlos Tevez – Manchester City
Words have been said, barbs fired, and figurative blood spilt. Carlos Tevez, who seems to have a problem with everyone in the world, except his cash-hungry agent (perhaps because of similar natures), has completed a sensational U-turn for a club, whose manager declared he would never play for again. Manchester City were in an extended mid-season slump, as losing players like Yaya Toure to the African Cup of Nations, in addition to Tevez’s ostracization had seen them lose the top spot to rivals United. In these dire circumstances, Tevez was reintroduced to the pitch, with the returning Yaya, inspired the club to their first League triumph in over four decades. A combined 44 goals in the two seasons before last mean that you can never count out this fractious Argentine.
#5 Papiss Cisse – Newcastle United
Scorer of last year’s goal of the season, Senegalese Cisse is one of the main reasons Newcastle are optimistic about doing well in Europe this year, as well as qualifying again for Europe. Arriving in the winter transfer window, Cisse’s blistering hot scoring form saw first-half star Demba Ba pushed to the wing, while Cisse amassed 13 goals at a staggering rate. With no major players having left the club thus far, and the likes of Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Taylor, and Ba providing support, Cisse might well outdo the expectations of the Toons.
#4 Luis Suarez – Liverpool
Starting last season brilliantly, before unapologetically sinking his teeth into Evra, Suarez is placed high on this list as a result of Brendan Rodgers taking charge at Liverpool. The controversial Uruguayan scored 11 goals last season, in spite of a 12-match ban, and was arguably Liverpool’s best player. While his striking partner Carroll suffered, Suarez dazzled defences with his footwork, the likes of which few strikers in today’s game possess. With new reinforcements arriving, especially in the creative mid-field department, and with Rodgers impressing like he did with Swansea last season, expect Suarez to improve on his tally.
#3 Robin van Persie – Manchester United
Amidst all the hype regarding his move to United, it is easy to forget why the Dutch striker is at the centre of so much attention. His form last season was simply magical, as he scored 30 goals, and almost single-handedly dragged Arsenal to a third place finish, from the miserable start they had. Equally adept with both feet, van Persie was joined in the party by Alex Song, who provided a number of assists which the Dutchman, on occasion, finished with seeming ease. At United, he will have support from Kagawa, Cleverley, Nani, Valencia, and Ashley Young which should only serve to increase his tally. However, with Rooney firmly established on set-piece, and penalty duty at United, van Persie might just not make it to the top spot this time.
#2 Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
The man who was the face of last season’s dramatically spectacular ending, Sergio Aguero had a dream first season in England, netting 23 goals. Many say it takes a player a little while to adapt to the Premier League’s style of play, and if it turns out to be true, Aguero will be nigh impossible to stop this season. Having developed a seemingly telepathic understanding with Tevez, Aguero has proven to be a menace to the best defenders in the league, and will hope to continue in the same vein. This very partnership could, however, see bad boy Balotelli sit out and sulk behind Mancini on quite a few occasions to come.
#1 Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
With two goals in his final pre-season game, and a Man-of-the-match performance, Rooney has proved that he will be raring to go, come the opening weekend. And if his recent club-form is anything to go by, there are many reasons to watch out for him, as he scored a career high 27 goals last season, just 3 short of top-scorer van Persie. Ever since Ronaldo left the club, Rooney has stepped up admirably, often carrying the club on his shoulders, and with it, increased his scoring rate quite remarkably. The return of Cleverley, the acquisition of prolific chance-maker Kagawa, and the signing of van Persie will only serve to boost Wazza’s chances of winning the boot.
Chelsea’s anticipated style of play, with more of an affiliation to the Spanish style than to the conventional set-up, puts their strikers low on the list, while Newcastle’s Demba Ba misses out on his wing-role after Cisse’s arrival at the club.
Adebayor’s future remains undecided, and it could well be that this deadlock will extend till the January window, thereby reducing his chances drastically.
Mario Balotelli might well make it into the list instead of Tevez, but that seems highly unlikely, considering the already highlighted effect that Tevez has had on the team since his return.
Javier Hernandez might find chances hard to come by, especially since van Persie’s move, but you can never count out the pacy Mexican, who is surprisingly good in the air.
Nikica Jelavic had a stunning half-season with Everton, after signing from Rangers, scoring 9 goals in half the playing minutes as Darren Bent. However, whether he can replicate that form this season remains a concern, considering his past record hasn’t been especially prolific.
Andy Carroll.. well, he’s just Andy Carroll.