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Romelu Lukaku: Top player? Yes. Top goalscorer 2017/18? No

If Lukaku misses out on top scorer honours then Sergio Aguero is just one alternative
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Romelu Lukaku is all the rage in the Premier League top goalscorer market after his move to Manchester United. But plenty of stats suggest he's not going to be king of the goalscoring charts this season, says Jamie Pacheco...


"Will Mourinho risk Lukaku at home to Huddersfield or Brighton with big games in other competitions coming up?"

The transfer that makes sense


Dan Fitch is absolutely right when he says the transfer of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United makes sense in a (footballing) world that sometimes makes very little sense. In addition to all the qualities that the big Belgian will bring to Old Trafford, there's also the benefits to the other two parties involved.

Everton accept the inevitable and get to cash in big time on a player who outgrew them and Lukaku himself makes the big move where he gets to be top dog at a bigger club that shares his ambitions, including playing Champions League football. Being at Manchester United will also give him the chance to shine even more and show Belgium boss Roberto Martinez that he -and not say Christian Benteke, Divock Origi or Dries Mertens- is the man to lead the line for his country at next summer's World Cup. If that reminder was needed at all.


But is he the 2017/18 top goalscorer?


All well and good but does that mean you should be jumping on the [5.5] available on him being this season's top goalscorer? Surely if he can score 17 (at West Brom), 15, 10, 18 and 25 goals (at Everton) over his past five seasons at less successful clubs, then he can get the extra goals needed to top the charts at a far bigger one?


Only the Drog was top top dog under Mourinho


If you want to be top goalscorer in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho isn't the manager you want to be playing under. So say the stats. In the four seasons he was in charge at Chelsea during his first spell there (we'll include the last one despite him leaving halfway through), only Didier Drogba finished as the league's top scorer in 2006-7 with 20 goals.

In his second spell at Stamford Bridge (again we'll include that last unfinished season), none of his players finished top. Only Diego Costa in 2014-15 came anywhere close with 20 goals to Harry Kane's 21 and Sergio Aguero's 26.

Last season when he was already at Old Trafford his top scorer was Zlatan Ibrahimovic with 17. Yes, the Swede missed about a quarter of the season at the end through injury. But given he only finished seventh and Harry Kane ended on 29 goals, it's hard to argue Zlatan would have ended top of the pile had he been fit.

The conclusion? Mourinho's sides either don't score enough goals or they're shared around.


Manchester United players rarely win it


Since the turn of the century, only four times out of 16 has a Manchester United player ended as top goalscorer even though they rarely finished outside the Top 2 in most seasons. They were: Ruud van Nistelrooy (2002/3, 25 goals), Cristiano Ronaldo (2007/8, 31 goals), Dimitar Berbatov (2010-11, 20 goals joint top-scorer) and Robin van Persie (2012-13, 26 goals).

This one is harder to explain as United have a reputation for being an attacking side but the numbers don't lie.


Lukaku might have limited game time


The former Chelsea man's goalscoring figures have been excellent. He's one of only five players below the age of 24 to rack up 75 Premier League goals and he managed seven more by that age than...Cristiano Ronaldo. But to play devil's advocate for a second, he did have every chance. In his past five seasons he played 35, 31, 36, 37 and 37 league games during the season.

That's hardly surprising. Neither West Brom (back in 2012/13) nor Everton had bigger fish to fry than the Premier League, meaning he always played.

Having secured the Champions League football Mourinho craved so much and given how much he loves winning that Capital One Cup early doors, it's not inconceivable that even if fully fit for the whole season, Lukaku doesn't start more than 30 league games.

Unlike the two previous clubs he was at, United have ready-made replacements in the form of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and maybe even Zlatan, should he recover from his injury and sign a short-term contract. Will Mourinho risk Lukaku at home to Huddersfield or Brighton with big games in other competitions coming up?


If not Lukaku, then who?


Sergio Aguero ([8.4]) has finished in first, second and fourth over the past three seasons but things may be a little bit different this time round. That's because the presence of the excellent Gabriel Jesus (also [8.4]) means he may well share both goalscoring duties and playing time with the Brazilian this season.

Alexis Sanchez ([17.0]) may well be off to another league and the same can be said of Diego Costa ([20.0]); Alvaro Morata ([30.0]) isn't a Premier League player at all at the time of writing. As Alex Kemble points out, Morata is a bit of an enigma anyway. He may be one of Europe's most wanted men but neither the number of appearances nor the number of goals he's scored over the past four seasons suggest he's about to set fire to the Premier League.

Dull as it may sound, Harry Kane is a very justified [4.4] favourite. Ever since breaking into the Spurs side, he's finished second, first and first. He's the team's main man in a side that scores a lot of goals, takes penalties and free-kicks and has the advantage of his Manager saving his rotation for the domestic Cup competitions, not the league.

At far bigger prices, Liverpool's Sadio Mane ([40.0]) might be worth a look, especially given there's no AFCON this year. Or even Jermain Defoe. Age obviously isn't on his side but if he can get 15 goals playing at the worst side in the division last year, it's not unthinkable that he can get 6 or 7 more than that at a much better side who score plenty of goals. And who knows if that might be enough to win it?

But if you're going to give Lukaku a miss for top scorer based on the above, you might consider the far bigger 16/1 on him being PFA Player of the Year. Mourinho's sides have been known to peak in their second season under him and United winning the league with Lukaku as their spearhead in attack is by no means out of the question. If that were to happen, Lukaku would surely be there or thereabouts for the award.


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