Giroud to land a Golden touch
Ben Linfoot previews the Premier League Golden Boot market with Arsenal's Olivier Giroud rated the best bet.
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Arsenal’s offensive unit can earn a ‘most improved’ award this season and the striker that can benefit the most and land a 20/1 touch for the Golden Boot is Olivier Giroud.
The Gunners’ tally of 66 league goals last term was dwarfed by the 102 scored by Manchester City and the 101 scored by Liverpool, but the return of key players and the addition of Alexis Sanchez should see a huge improvement in their ‘goals for’ column.
Last season Arsenal’s title challenge was undone by two key factors. Firstly, their defence was average and that may be the case again. Thankfully that doesn’t matter one bit in this market. Secondly, they lost two key attacking players in Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey for large portions of the campaign.
With Ramsey and Walcott back in the fold, and Mesut Ozil surely set to improve after a testing first season in which he at first flourished and then floundered, Arsenal have the pace and creativity to wreak havoc against most defences in the Premier League.
Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play their part in that but the key piece in the jigsaw is the arrival of Sanchez, who looks set to take the division by storm and perhaps fill the void left by South American counterpart Luis Suarez (in a good way).
Sanchez had his best ever season in La Liga last campaign, scoring 19 times in 34 appearances for Barcelona as he finally flourished playing alongside Lionel Messi et al.
He was excellent for Barca and took that form into the World Cup where his creativity and awesome finishing skills were there for all to see as Chile knocked Spain out before losing to Brazil on penalties.
At 16/1 he might not be a bad bet himself, but although I can see him scoring plenty he’s likely to play with Giroud, not instead of him, and the improving Frenchman can benefit from this new and exciting source of assists.
Despite Arsenal’s attack being disrupted by the injuries to Walcott and Ramsey, they still had four players inside the top ten for assists last season and Giroud was virtually an ever-present, scoring 16 times from 36 appearances.
That output was an increase of five from his first year in England and a similar improvement could well see him scoop the top scorer award with last year’s standout striker Suarez now plying his trade in Spain.
There is a chance he could play less with more competition for places in attacking areas, but he is still the only out and out striker at Arsenal that has the experience to lead from the front. At 27, he’s at his peak and with a couple of seasons in England under his belt his time is now.
With the extra creativity around him he can flourish and a 20-plus goal return seems a distinct possibility. That could be enough and 20/1 is a fair price.
Those ahead of him in the market make little appeal at the odds. Robin van Persie is a bad favourite and though he could well improve on the 12 he got last year under fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal, it’s a leap of faith to believe he can rediscover the form that saw him net around 30 goals a season as he did from 2011-2013.
Sergio Aguero is a fine player but injury prone and at 11/2 it’s easy to draw a line through him as you wouldn’t bet on him playing more than he did last season, which was only 20 times.
Daniel Sturridge could go close but he benefited from the brilliance of Suarez so many times that he’s likely to see goals harder to come by and that leaves Diego Costa as the last striker chalked up at a single-figure price.
I’m a huge fan of the adopted Spaniard and Chelsea will probably win the league, but his team have goals all over the park and will win plenty of games because of their ability to keep a clean sheet.
Add in the fact it’s his first season in England and I’m inclined to dismiss him at 7/1, even though he has the ability to make that price look very big very quickly.
For one reason or another, then, I do think these market leaders are worth taking on and there is room for a couple of outsiders at fancy prices to compliment our bet on Giroud.
First up is Raheem Sterling at 66/1.
The pacy winger was sensational at times for Liverpool last season and he was the Reds’ best player in the final quarter of the campaign, his creativity and goals a key part in Brendan Rodgers’ side’s drive for the title.
Still only 19, he started 24 times last season, scoring nine goals, and tellingly all of those came after December had begun as he was eased into the team for one reason or another.
He’s developing all the time and is going to be a huge player for Liverpool this season as they adapt to life without Suarez. He can play either side of Sturridge in a front three, just behind him or even up there with him as part of a front two.
Wherever he plays, he’s a goalscoring threat and despite the signings of Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, I can see him getting more game time under his belt as he progresses into a key component of Liverpool’s side.
Improvement on his tally of nine looks highly likely and though he’s priced in the same bracket as talented midfielders like Andre Schurrle and Aaron Ramsey, I think he should really be considered as an attacker – and Liverpool’s second most potent threat at that.
Finally, I can’t resist the 100/1 about Cesc Fabregas.
He hasn’t been a prolific scorer in the Frank Lampard mould throughout his career but he did get 15 in the league in his penultimate season at Arsenal and scored 28 goals in three seasons in La Liga for Barcelona.
Despite having reservations about Costa at 7/1, I do think a triple-figure price about Fabregas is worth taking a nibble at as Chelsea will in all likelihood score between 80 and 100 goals in the league.
They will be shared around, but Fabregas has the ability to get a good portion of those and the system Jose Mourinho plays will favour the goalscoring midfielders playing off Costa. In a wide open year with no standout striker set to dominate, it’s worth having a small each-way bet on Fabregas as a season similar to his penultimate one for Arsenal could well yield a profit.