At this time of the season the race for Europe’s Golden Boot heats up.
Although there is just one metric that is used to identify the continent’s hottest marksman, it is one that perhaps lacks a little additional context. Of course, when it comes to crowning a winner at the end of the season the measure will be nothing other than goals, but let's take a look at who is the most efficient in the final third and perhaps hand out an alternative award instead.
Let’s take a sample of the 10 forwards who have scored the most goals across Europe at the time of writing. It is spearheaded by Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, with the Italian finding the net 25 times.
Such is Immobile’s hot streak he is scoring more than a goal a game this season and although there is no doubting the impressive nature of that statistic, there is also another that may be of interest.
That’s because Immobile has had 92 shots on goal this season (on and off target), which means he averages a goal every 3.68 efforts and it is a figure that shows that he is just as efficient as he is lethal in the opposition’s penalty area.
Two players that are looking to foil the 29-year-old’s hopes of winning the Golden Boot are the Bundesliga pair of Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, with the two currently netting 22 and 20 goals respectively.
While although they may be a shade off Immobile’s personal goal haul, the two men hoping to lead either Bayern Munich or RB Leipzig to this season’s Bundesliga title, are slightly less efficient as they need 4.39 and 4.41 shots per goal.
What is also of interest here is the amount of goals that each of the three have scored in comparison to their xG values for the season. For example, Immobile is an incredible 7.88 goals more than what xG suggests he should have scored.
In comparison, Lewandowski is just 1.15 more (the least positive gain of all the top 10) and Werner is just 2.39 xG goals better off. So not only is the Lazio talisman highly efficient, he is far outweighing the amount of goals he should be expected to score.
Unfortunately for Immobile, he cannot lay claim to be the most efficient forward in the race for the Golden Boot, an accolade that currently goes to Leicester’s Jamie Vardy. Although he has scored 17 goals by comparison, he needs just 3.11 shots per goal after attempting only 53 shots this season.
While it is Wissam Ben Yedder who is next in the efficiency stakes, with the Monaco forward scoring 16 times so far this season and with just two more attempts than Vardy, Ligue 1’s top scorer needs 3.44 shots per goal.
Then again, it wouldn’t be an article on goals without referencing the pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and with the Portuguese icon scoring six more goals than the mercurial Argentine (20 to 14), he can also lay claim to being slightly more efficient.
The 35-year-old has had 112 attempts on goal, the most of any of our top 10 forwards and that means that for each of the 20 times he has got the better of a goalkeeper, it has taken him an average of 5.6 shots to do so.
Lionel Messi needs 6.04 shots per goal - much has been made of the fact that his last 24 efforts have failed to register - and had that spell not been as barren, there is every chance he would have pipped his former nemesis in the efficiency stakes.
Even though these two phenoms have won multiple prizes over the years, they will not be winning our alternative award, as they are the two least efficient forwards out of Europe’s current top 10.
Which creates a rather pertinent question, is efficiency in front of goal what matters the most, or the volume of goals scored? Ronaldo and Messi may be slightly profligate this season but find someone who wouldn’t still want them in their starting XI.
People will always look to goals as the most important measure of all and rightly so. However, this additional context certainly shines new light on the art form.