Football News

Who are the Premier League’s best finishers in 2023/24?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 10:29, 23 November 2023

The Premier League is blessed with a number of top-class forwards, but who’s the best finisher?

This season the likes of Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min are battling to win the Golden Boot, with the former currently leading the way.

Haaland is also the reigning Golden Boot holder, having blown the Premier League away in his debut campaign while setting a new record for most goals in a single season (36).

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But these players hit their goalscoring heights through more than pure finishing. Some would even argue finishing plays second fiddle to movement and timing, the ability to be in the right place at the right moment, to make yourself a magnet for goalscoring chances. It also helps to play in a team full of elite playmakers, like Spurs, Liverpool and, of course, Manchester City.

Meanwhile, the total number of goals scored or even shot conversion rates won’t necessarily reflect the quality of a player’s finishing or the difficulty of the chances they scored (hence all the Haaland tap-in merchant trolling you see on Football Twitter).

So if we want to assess a player’s finishing ability, many data analysts say it is important to look beyond goals. That is why Expected Goals on Target was formulated and, in turn, ‘Goals Added’.

And according to this metric, the best finisher in the Premier League this season is West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen, who has scored eight goals.

This is the third-best total in the competition and, in a West Ham side that is about average when it comes to creativity, is due to his 36% conversion rate – the fourth-best in the Premier League.

How does ‘Added Goals’ measure finishing ability?

Most non-penalty goals added is calculated by subtracting a player’s non-penalty expected goals from their non-penalty expected goals on target.

Non-penalty Expected Goals measures the quality of a shot based on variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as Big Chance, all excluding penalties. A Big Chance, is a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score.

Non-penalty Expected Goals on Target is an extension of non-penalty xG that specifically focuses on shots that are on target, and where the shot ends in the goalmouth, i.e. the placement. Again, this doesn’t include penalties.

Man City’s best finisher?

Haaland has 13 Premier League goals at a 29.41% conversion rate, the eighth-best of any player with 10 or more shots.

But believe it or not, Man City have a better forward when it comes to shot placement this season. Haaland actually ranks in the minus, with a non-penalty xGOT of 8.5 compared to his non-penalty xG of 9.5.

Julian Alvarez often has to play second fiddle to Haaland, being pushed out on the wing or in a deeper role more often than not. But he is outshining Haaland when it comes to shot placement. Alvarez has a non-penalty xG of 3.3, but his non-penalty xGOT increases to 4.6. This has translated to four goals, including the winner against Newcastle earlier this season.

Survival of the fittest

Another name you may not have expected to see high up on the list is Darwin Nunez, given how his Premier League career is being perceived.

Nunez hasn’t exactly lit the league up since joining Liverpool last season, but he’s obviously doing something right.

The Uruguayan has scored four goals in the Premier League this season and only Haaland and Mohamed Salah have had more shots on target than Nunez’s 16 — despite him having played almost half the minutes.

There’s an argument that Nunez is slightly under-appreciated by fans and pundits who (quite understandably) focus on the alarming nature of some of his misses. But in the Premier League this season, Nunez has shown he knows how to hit the target and particularly where on the target to hit, ranking sixth in the Premier League right now for non-penalty xGOT.

With five goals in his last four games for Uruguay, there are signs things are finally coming together.

No Kane, no problem

A couple of the main talking points in pre-season surrounded Tottenham. How would Ange Postecoglou deal with the Premier League after a few years in the Scottish Premiership? How would Spurs cope with the departure of Harry Kane? Despite a bit of a wobble in recent games, the answer to both questions has been, pretty darn well.

The Kane problem has partly been solved by the signing of James Maddison, who has taken over creative duty while also getting involved in the attack. Son Heung-min has also stepped up, scoring eight goals in the Premier League so far this season. The South Korean has hit the target with just over half of his 31 shots in the Premier League this season and boasts the division’s second-best conversion rate (36.36%).

Meanwhile Maddison has 15 shots on target from 28 attempts. It’s a fantastic partnership, which made it an even bigger blow for Tottenham when Maddison suffered an injury before the international break.

When it comes to non-penalty goals added in the Premier League this season, Son’s +2.1 difference is only bettered by Jarrod Bowen’s 2.5. Maddison also makes the top five with +1.7, thanks to his non-penalty xGOT of 4.5.

Seagulls flying high

Tottenham aren’t the only team with two players in the top 10 for non-penalty goals added. Brighton also have double representation in the form of Evan Ferguson and Kaoru Mitoma. Roberto De Zerbi has been working wonders at Brighton over the past year, turning them into European challengers. Even with the rocky patch they are currently in, Brighton work brilliantly as a team with no clear MVP.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to see multiple Seagulls on this list. Ferguson is the young spark with +1.7 non-penalty goals added, which can be explained slightly by the fact that he has a non-penalty xG of 2.7. The lower the non-penalty xG, the better the chance of bettering it with your non-penalty xGOT — though that isn’t to take anything away from Ferguson, who has five Premier League goals this season.

It’s a similar case for Mitoma, who has a non-penalty xG of 2.7 and a non-penalty xGOT of 4.0, with three goals scored.

Everton’s hero

When we ranked the 17 ever-present Premier League clubs on their dependence on their top scorer in 2023, Everton figured highly. Between the start of the year and the November international break, Everton scored 29 goals in the Premier League, eight of which came from Abdoulaye Doucoure. Without the midfielder, Everton would have placed 17th (out of 17) for goals scored, with 27.59% of their strikes by Doucoure.

The Malian scored some important goals for Everton, including the one that kept them in the Premier League, and he’s already netted four in 2023/24. It’s quite easy to see why, too. Doucoure ranks third in the Premier League this season for most non-penalty goals added, with a non-penalty xG of 4.1 and non-penalty xGOT of 5.9. Only Son and Bowen have better placement in the Premier League right now. With Everton’s points deduction dropping them back into the relegation battle, they’ll be needing Doucoure to keep it up.

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