Sergio Aguero is currently second favourite to win the Golden Boot, but as he catches up with Harry Kane it looks increasingly likely the Man City striker will come out on top, argues Alex Keble...
"The margin is far too slim to justify the difference in odds between the two players, and since City will increasingly play without pressure while Spurs’ season becomes tense there is every chance Aguero – the man with the superior goals-to-minutes ratio who has rapidly closed the gap since Christmas – will overtake Tottenham’s talisman."
As recently as last Friday it seemed highly unlikely anyone would stand in the way of Harry Kane winning a third successive Premier League Golden Boot. The 24-year-old's unstoppable form suggested the Tottenham Hotspur number 10 was destined to continue outscoring his main rival, Mohamed Salah, whose ridiculous goalscoring run from the right wing surely coudln't continue all the way through until May.
But Sergio Aguero's four-goal haul in Manchester City's 5-1 defeat of Leicester City on Saturday has reignited the race, and now the odds-on favourite Kane doesn't look so secure at the top of the pile. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Aguero, currently third in the rankings with 21 goals, will overtake the England international.
Here's why it's well worth backing Aguero to finish the season as the Premier League's top scorer, currently priced at 7/2:
Chance creation and game time
There are two key statistics that go in the Argentine's favour: Man City create considerably more high-quality chances than Spurs (they average 2.57 xG per game compared with Tottenham's 1.95 xG) and Aguero has only played 1,788 minutes of league football so far this season, seven hours and 40 minutes fewer than Kane's 2,228. When put together these two figures suggest Aguero will outscore Kane in the final 11 matches.
Man City's superior chance creation is hardly a surprise. Kevin de Bruyne's incredible passing range and the fluidity of the league leaders' attack has provided Aguero with numerous easy chances this campaign, and their superiority over Spurs in this regard will only increase now that David Silva and Leroy Sane are back in training. We don't need to explain why City's football ensures more high-quality chances will come Aguero's way than Kane's: so why isn't the Argentine already out in front?
The answer is Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian forward, preferred by Pep Guardiola because of his superior link-up play and energetic pressing, started ahead of Aguero in six separate occasions in the first half of the campaign, which judging by Aguero's goals-to-minutes ratio cost him around six goals. The Argentinian nets every 85.14 minutes while Kane scores every 96.87.
Jesus's knee injury, suffered in December, has allowed Aguero to play far more frequently in 2018, which explains why he has scored 13 times - more than Chelsea's entire team as of Monday and five more than Kane. Jesus is expected to return in the next few weeks, but after such a long time out it will be some time before he's match sharp again. Aguero's run in the first team isn't likely to end any time soon, and neither is that goalscoring run.
Form and the run-in
If both Kane and Aguero continue at their current goals-per-minute rate, and both were to play every remaining minute of the season, they would each end with 32 league goals. However, City are likely to further pull away from Spurs as the season draws to a close.
Kane tends to slow down as the season ends, scoring three in his final six games in 2015/16 and just four goals in nine matches towards the end of 2016/17... until a remarkable flourish of seven goals in the final two matches saw him eclipse Romelu Lukaku. He is unlikely to repeat the trick this campaign.
That incredible blitz came at Leicester City and Hull City, two teams in dreadful form but whose respective seasons were already over. Leicester, having survived the drop thanks to a post-Ranieri bump, won a mere eight points from their final eight games while Hull were already relegated when they lost 7-1 to Spurs on the final day.
Of course, a similar scenario could occur again, but the tightness of the relegation battle, coupled with nervousness in north London as the race for the top four goes to the wire, means such one-sided exhibition matches are unlikely.
Conversely, Aguero will only speed up. City will have already lifted the title by the time they face Swansea City, West Ham United, Huddersfield Town, and Southampton in the final four matches. Their opponents might be fighting for their lives, but playing without pressure City will probably cruise to victory.
Kane has 23 goals and Aguero has 21. The margin is far too slim to justify the difference in odds between the two players, and since City will increasingly play without pressure while Spurs' season becomes tense there is every chance Aguero - the man with the superior goals-to-minutes ratio who has rapidly closed the gap since Christmas - will overtake Tottenham's talisman.