The Hard Tackle takes a look at some of the best performing strikers from the recently concluded edition of the Premier League.
They are the goal machines – the players on whom each side relies on to end up on the right side of the result. The face of the game of football may have changed over the years, but the significance of a quality striker remains the same – to get the all-important goals for their teams.
So, it goes without saying that the strikers remain the game’s big boys with big responsibilities resting on their shoulders. The Hard Tackle takes a look at such noteworthy contributions as part of our End of the Season Awards.
Harry Kane [Tottenham Hotspur]
? @HKane loved a hat-trick in 2016/17! ?
We look into some of the numbers behind the goals – https://t.co/fR5pbrMm3S
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) June 2, 2017
He was called a one-season wonder after his first full season with Tottenham in which he scored 21 goals. He then backed it up with another stellar campaign in which he won the Golden Boot after scoring 25 goals, and many suggested that it wasn’t going to get any better for Harry Kane.
But, 2016/17 turned out to be a season in which Kane finally swatted all his doubters away for good, as he enjoyed a third consecutive 20+ goal Premier League campaign – he is only the fourth man to do so, with the Premier League legends Alan Shearer, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry for company.
The towering Englishman scored a whopping 29 goals in just 30 Premier League outings to win the Golden Boot for the second season in a row. What’s more, this was a feat that Kane was able to manage despite playing fewer minutes than each of his contemporaries in our list.
Kane’s scoring rate stood at a staggering 87 minutes per goal, which is better than every other regular starter in the Premier League. And we haven’t even touched upon the seven assists that he provided this season – yet another indicator that he is one of the most complete players in the English top flight.
His numbers make it hard to believe that he’s just 23 with his best years still ahead of him, which makes you wonder, just how much better can Kane actually get?
As he continues to go from strength to strength though, it goes without saying that the Englishman will be crucial to Tottenham’s Premier League aspirations ahead of a much-awaited temporary move to Wembley.
Romelu Lukaku [Everton]
Romelu Lukaku was the only Premier League player this season to score 5+ goals with his head, left and right foot.
6 head pic.twitter.com/iegtkMu2xY
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 22, 2017
Lukaku was another young player who was deemed to be a one-season wonder after his initial success with West Bromwich Albion, but the move to Everton has only seen him become better with every passing campaign.
Still only 24 and, like Kane, with his best years still ahead of him, the Belgian is already considered to be one of the most fearsome attacking forces in the Premier League. And it is looking likely that he will have already notched up 100 Premier League goals before his 25th birthday, bar a significant and dramatic loss in form.
The aforementioned will be quite the impressive effort on the part of Lukaku, who can potentially have Alan Shearer’s “untouchable” mark of 260 Premier League goals in sight, should he remain in England in the long-term future.
Coming back to 2016/17, and this season’s Premier League campaign was quite easily the best in Lukaku’s senior career as he found the back of the net 25 times – second only behind Harry Kane in the race to win the Golden Boot.
Lukaku also boasts of an impressive shot accuracy of 64% – only Kane and Roberto Firmino were more accurate with their shooting prowess.
Therefore, it goes without saying that Lukaku will be instrumental for Everton ahead of a return to European football next season, and the interest from Manchester United and Chelsea will surely be concerning for the Toffees.
Alexis Sanchez [Arsenal]
Alexis Sanchez was the only Premier League player to reach double figures for both goals & assists this season.
24 goals ⚽
10 assists ?️ pic.twitter.com/RQtHJFfgyI
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 31, 2017
Arsenal endured a disastrous campaign in 2016/17 as they finished outside the Top 4 for the first time under Arsene Wenger, while also being eliminated from the Round of 16 of the Champions League by Bayern Munich by an aggregate scoreline of 10-2.
But, the Chilean’s season was far from disappointing, as he racked up the numbers for the Gunners on a consistent basis over the course of the campaign, despite being deployed in an unfamiliar role for large parts of the campaign.
Arsene Wenger took the decision to play Alexis Sanchez as the centre forward of his side for the majority of the season, and the Chilean took to his new role with aplomb. In fact, Sanchez enjoyed a stellar campaign for Arsenal in 2016/17, as he scored 24 goals to finish 3rd in the race to win the Golden Boot.
But his impact was far from just the goals, as his creative side also came to the fore time and again. Sanchez created a whopping 78 chances over the course of the season, and provided 10 assists for his teammates – only five players assisted more goals.
By the end of the Premier League season, Sanchez was the only player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in the entire division – only the second Arsenal player to achieve the feat after Thierry Henry, who achieved it twice.
With reports of a summer exit doing the rounds, it goes without saying that Arsenal will be desperate to keep hold of their prized asset to improve on their results this season.
Diego Costa [Chelsea]
22 goals across all competitions, @diegocosta‘s best tally for us in a single season.
We want you to stay! ? pic.twitter.com/reRQoHR5cL
— Chelsea India (@ChelseaIndia) May 28, 2017
If Arsenal had a season to forget, Chelsea have every reason to remember 2016/17 with fond memories. Coming into this season on the back of the worst Premier League title defence – at the start of the season – many were surprised that they reclaimed the title in style only 12 months later.
And one man must be given the bulk of credit for shaking the blues away for the Blues in the early stages of the season – Diego Costa. The Spain striker was in inspired form in the first half of the season despite rumours linking him with an exit from Stamford Bridge last summer.
However, Costa put all the speculations to one side to regularly make the difference for Chelsea with several match winning goals early on. That put a spring in the steps of Antonio Conte’s men as they gradually picked up pace to mount a successful challenge for the Premier League title.
Costa’s form petered out significantly in the last few months of the campaign, but he still finished the season with a respectable tally of 20 Premier League goals.
The rumours of a summer departure have been doing the rounds yet again, but Chelsea would be keen to keep hold of their star striker ahead of a return to the Champions League next season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic [Manchester United]
20th April: Tears his ACL and PSL. ?
31st May: Back kicking a football. ?
Absolute machine! ? pic.twitter.com/eAQaV23auP
— SPORF (@Sporf) May 31, 2017
His arrival at Manchester United was greeted with a huge sense of skepticism as many pundits and armchair critics questioned whether he’d be good enough to play in the cutthroat world of the Premier League at the age of 34.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though, is not your regular 34-year-old footballer (now 35). In fact, the super Swede showed that despite arguably being in the twilight years of his career, he is still good enough to cut it with the best in the Premier League.
Ibrahimovic’s impact for Manchester United over the course of the season was enormous to say the least, as he did the bulk of the goalscoring for the Red Devils in the league as well as cup competitions (31% in the Premier League to be precise, despite missing the last month of the campaign).
In the end, he had a respectable tally of 17 goals to show for his efforts, and it is unnerving to think just how badly Manchester United’s season would have panned out if not for Ibrahimovic.
It will be interesting to see if Ibrahimovic chooses to remain at Old Trafford following his recovery from knee injury, but a fully-fit could be extremely valuable for the Red Devils, no matter how belatedly he starts his campaign in 2017/18.
Sergio Aguero [Manchester City]
2016/17 turned out to be an uncharacteristic season for Sergio Aguero, whose starts were restricted by suspension, injuries and the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. However, the Argentine continued to be one of the most clinical strikers in the Premier League, ending the campaign with 20 goals.
Jermain Defoe [Sunderland]
Another player who defied conventional wisdom surrounding ageing players, Jermain Defoe was one of the two shining lights in a disastrous campaign for Sunderland.
The 34-year-old was superb for large parts of the campaign though with his predatory instincts up to the mark, as he scored 15 goals and earned an England recall at this stage of his career.
Christian Benteke [Crystal Palace]
If Defoe’s resolute efforts were not enough to save Sunderland from relegation, his counterpart at Crystal Palace, Christian Benteke proved to be instrumental in ploughing the Eagles out of the drop zone.
He scored six goals in the last ten Premier League games to keep his side afloat in the top flight, looking like a man reborn under the tutelage of Sam Allardyce.