Salah, Son, Haaland: How the Premier League's top scorers are contributing more than just goals this season

[L-to-R] Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min.
[L-to-R] Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min.

The 2023-24 Premier League season, which is just nine Matchdays old, has already thrown up goals galore.

Five out of the 20 teams have already scored 20 or more goals, while three more have netted 15+ times.

Manchester City superstar Erling Haaland, who ran away with last season's Premier League Golden Boot by scoring 36 times, is in the lead once again with nine. However, he has still faced plenty of criticism after a few tepid displays and, rather uncharacteristically, numerous missed chances.

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah and Tottenham Hotspur skipper Son Heung-min are joint-second with seven goals. Newcastle United's Alexander Isak and West Ham United's Jarrod Bowen round out the top five with six goals each.

All five players have contributed a lot in the goals column, which is what they're in the team to do to a large extent. However, their value in the final third extends beyond that as well, though Haaland's recent critics may disagree.

We looked at some creativity, passing and finishing data from the first nine Matchdays of the Premier League season to find out!


Evidently, all five of these players excel at shooting because, well, they're all averaging at least 0.67 goals per 90 minutes. However, their conversion rates have all differed, as illustrated in the graph below:

Shooting analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League after MD9.
Shooting analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League after MD9.

Isak gets roughly 59% of his shots on target per 90 minutes (y-axis), which places him in the highest position on the chart. Salah (34%), Bowen (50%), Son (50%) and Haaland (53%) all trail the Newcastle United man here.

However, Son has been the best at converting his shots on target into goals per 90 (x-axis), which happens 54% of the time. The margins here are much smaller, with Isak (50%), Haaland (47%), Bowen (46%) and Salah (44%) not too far behind.

There is one wrinkle within this, though, as Son is outperforming his expected goals (xG) figure by 0.46 per 90 minutes. That is somewhat unsustainable over 38 matches - it means he would score 17 goals more than his expected tally - and is likely to come down with more games.

He is followed by Bowen, whose "Goals - xG" figure (bottom left of the image) comes up to 0.26 and is also quite high. Salah (0.05), Haaland (0.09) and Isak (0.11) are on more sustainable ground.

The case for the latter two is interesting as they also rank last among these five in the average distance from which they take their shots.

Haaland's shots on average are from 11.6 yards out, while Isak's are from 12.6. Despite this, the Manchester City man has missed nine big chances already in the Premier League this season, while Isak has missed four.

This is unlikely to last given their track record (especially Haaland), and their proximity to goal should ideally see their numbers improve with more minutes.

Salah, meanwhile, has an average shot distance of 18.0 yards and his conversion from range has been solid so far. Son (15.9) and Bowen (14.5) have also been impressive in this respect.


Given all five players largely operate in the final third, their teams expect them to also contribute to build-up and progressing the ball into dangerous areas. Their contributions with respect to progressive passes and passes into final third can be viewed below (in-image figure represents progressive pass distance):

Progressive passing analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League.
Progressive passing analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League.

Salah's bubble stands out here as it is the brightest shade of red, indicating that he plays more passes into the final third per 90 (bottom left of the image) than the other four. His figure in that regard stands at 1.63 and he is followed by Son (1.15), Isak (0.91) and Bowen (0.89).

While the Liverpool forward's figure is some distance ahead of those three, it's worth noting that all four are making sizeable contributions to their teams' final-third passing. Only Haaland (0.23) falls considerably short in this regard.

Since he joined City, he has been criticized for not doing enough on the ball to aid attacks when he's not scoring.

What is also interesting is that while Salah's bubble is the brightest red, it is not the largest in size, which indicates total progressive passes played per 90. Son is clear of his competition here with 4.21, though Salah is not far behind at 3.96.

Isak (1.83) and Bowen (1.56) are quite some distance behind here, while Haaland's figure stands at a mere 0.68.

Salah and Son are both attempting higher volumes of total progressive passes, but the former has had more impact on the final third.

He has also displayed more range as illustrated by his average progressing passing distance per 90 of 87.90 yards compared to 68.07 for Son. This could partly be due to Salah playing more crosses into the box (0.23 per 90 vs 0.00) and through balls (0.82 per 90 to 0.38) than Son.


The final section of these Premier League players' impact on the final third this season is creativity. This poses more complex questions as there are numerous ways a player can create chances for their sides.

In an effort to simplify things, we will boil it down to creative dribbling and creative actions.

The former includes progressive carries into the final third, as well as carries into the penalty area and final third, all per 90 minutes. The latter involves shot-creating and goal-creating actions (SCAs and GCAs), key passes and expected assists (xA) per 90.

Here's a look at how the 2023-24 Premier League's top five scorers have done in the carries category:

Ball carrying and progressive carrying analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League.
Ball carrying and progressive carrying analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League.

Salah, arguably one of the best dribblers in the Premier League at the moment, understandably excels in this category. The Egyptian has averaged 3.26 progressive carries per 90 (y-axis).

Bowen (2.56) and Son (2.42) follow him, while Isak, who also possesses excellent control with the ball at his feet is a close fourth (2.38). Haaland falls short here with a figure of 0.79.

The 2023-24 Premier League's top-scorer doesn't fare too well in carries into the penalty area (x-axis) either, maybe because he spends more time in the box than the others. He has averaged just 0.56 of those per 90.

Salah excels here as well with 1.98. Interestingly, Isak is right behind him on 1.83, ahead of both Son (1.40) and Bowen (1.34). This effectively means the Newcastle man drives his team forward from close to the penalty area more often than the last two.

However, the third element of this graph brings out yet another difference in the overall picture. As illustrated by the key (bottom left of the image), points in red average fewer carries into the final third per 90, while those in dark green average the most among these five.

Son's point is the darkest green on the graph as he averages 1.53 carries into the final third, beating Salah (1.16) and Isak (1.10). The Tottenham Hotspur man is attempting a higher volume of final-third carries, while also taking a majority of them into the box.

The margins between the players are close on these two categories, though, making it an interesting trend to observe as the Premier League season progresses.

The second dimension of creativity, i.e., actions, key passes and assists, also provides some interesting insights, as evident from the visualization below:

Creative actions analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League.
Creative actions analysis of the top five goalscorers in the 2023-24 Premier League.

Salah is the immediate overall standout here as well with 4.31 SCAs (y-axis) and 0.82 GCAs (x-axis) per 90. Son, however, edges him in SCAs with 4.46, though his GCAs figure stands at a much lower 0.51.

Isak (2.74 SCAs) and Bowen (2.34) follow, with Haaland posting closer numbers to those two at 1.80. With respect to GCAs, Bowen leads this trio with 0.45, while Haaland (0.23) is interestingly ahead of Isak (0.18).

The key passes per 90 element, illustrated by the size of the mark on the graph, is also in Salah's favor as he has averaged 2.33 of those per season compared to Son's 2.17. Haaland's circle is visibly bigger than those of Bowen's and Isak's as he has averaged 1.13 in comparison to 0.73 and 0.56 by those two respectively.

While the Norwegian has been criticized at times for not contributing enough in attack, his key passes per 90 figure suggests that he is showing marginal improvements. Haaland averaged only 0.94 key passes per game in the league last season.

It's worth noting that only Salah (yet again) is among the top five assist providers in the Premier League this season with four (joint-third) from this list. His expected assists (xA) per 90 figure of 0.34 understandably beats his scoring competitors. Fellow wingers Son and Bowen follow him with 0.24 and 0.09 respectively.

The two central strikers in this list make up the tail. Once again, though, Haaland's 0.05 marginally edges Isak's 0.04.

Overall, the data above proves that the Premier League's top five goalscorers are more than just that for their teams. While their respective clubs' playing styles and personnel impact a lot of these areas, this data provides a few insights on individual capabilities as well.

Mohamed Salah, who has been unstoppable since arriving in 2017, leads several metrics. However, fellow league veteran Son Heung-min is not too far away, even beating him in some areas, after a resurgence in form this season.

Erling Haaland, Jarrod Bowen and Alexander Isak are young and will only improve as this season and future years go by. That is more than evident from the trio edging their more experienced rivals in certain metrics outlined above.

Given that we're only nine weeks into the Premier League season, expect more interesting trends to pop up as the campaign progresses!

(Source for data: FBRef)

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