Football Features

Ranking the Premier League’s best aerial threats

By Muhammad Butt

Premier League biggest aerial threats: Ranking the top 10

Published: 9:00, 15 October 2020

There are precious few things in football more viscerally satisfying than a header. Everyone loves a good header.

Now, headed clearances are nice, but headed goals? That’s a whole other level of brilliant. “Death From Above” comes as crosses are powered into the back of the net from eight to 10 feet off the ground (or just a few inches if we’re going really old-school), defenders flailing in mid-air as their bodies are smashed out of the way by the gliding figure, cast in bronze mid-flight, muscle and sinew straining as the ball is arrowed beyond the helpless goalkeeper.

The Premier League is a bastion of great attacking headers, but who are the biggest aerial threats in the English top-flight? Which players strike fear into the hearts of defenders when they see the crosses coming in? We’ve had a look and come up with our list of the most prolific headed goalscorers since the start of 2018/19, with their aerial conversion rate and xGH (expected goals from headers) serving as tie-breakers should the need arise.


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10. Harry Kane

Tottenham Hotspur

Headed goals: 6
Headed shots: 29
Headed shot conversion: 21%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 4.81
Football Index value: £5.13 (Sell)  £5.47 (Buy)

Harry Kane is pretty much good at everything, so it should come as no surprise that he’s a supreme aerial threat. He doesn’t often attack crosses, hence his low shot total, but he tends to be dangerous whenever he does. Should Spurs supply him with more balls in the air, he’d likely fly up the list.

9. Jamie Vardy

Leicester City

Headed goals: 6
Headed shots: 34
Headed shot conversion: 18%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 5.5
Football Index value: £1.00 (Sell)  £1.12 (Buy)

Few players represent sheer energy as much as Jamie Vardy and as a result, the Englishman has scored headers. He’s not one for big towering leaps, but he has momentum and clever movement and with those, he’ll always find space and is more than willing to stick his head into danger if he thinks he’ll get a goal.

8. Michail Antonio

West Ham United

Headed goals: 6
Headed shots: 32
Headed shot conversion: 19%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 5.8
Football Index value: £0.43 (Sell)  £0.58 (Buy)

West Ham are often in need of a hero and when that time comes, it’s usually Antonio who steps up rather than any of the club’s big-name signings. The Englishman has been in phenomenal form over the last year or so and his ability to dominate in the air is a large part of what has enabled him to be such an effective force up-top.

7. Roberto Firmino

Liverpool

Liverpool vs Man Utd | Premier League

Headed goals: 7
Headed shots: 25
Headed shot conversion: 28%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 4.88
Football Index value: £1.19 (Sell)  £1.58 (Buy)

Roberto Firmino needs no introduction. A staggering forward who, while touted as a “false nine” is often just an actual nine — as proven by the danger he poses in the air. The Brazilian has an impressive leap and superb technique, making him dangerous if he is ever actually in the box to attack crosses. His 25 headed shots is a list-low, but his 28% conversion rate is the highest.

6. Aleksandar Mitrovic

Fulham

Headed goals: 7
Headed shots: 56
Headed shot conversion: 13%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 7.51
Football Index value: £0.70 (Sell)  £0.98 (Buy)

Mitrovic still features on this list despite spending one of the seasons under consideration in the Championship. That should explain the terrifying aerial menace that he is and how he’d probably be atop this list if Fulham hadn’t been relegated for a season. He misses a lot of shots but he takes so many (a list-high 56) that it doesn’t matter.

5. Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool

Headed goals: 9
Headed shots: 41
Headed shot conversion: 22%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 4
Football Index value: £1.86 (Sell)  £2.06 (Buy)

Whenever Liverpool get a corner, you can sense the panic in their opposition. That is in large part because they know Virgil van Dijk is coming forward to attack it. The Dutch centre-back is a phenom in the air, racking up an incredible nine headed goals from 41 headed shots and placing firmly in the middle of a list otherwise full of strikers. That says all it needs to about how good he is.

4. Sadio Mané

Liverpool

Headed goals: 9
Headed shots: 42
Headed shot conversion: 21%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 6.69
Football Index value: £2.22 (Sell)  £2.67 (Buy)

Mané isn’t the tallest but his giant leap and incredible sense of timing nevertheless make him the go-to weapon of choice when Liverpool are crossing in those bending beauties from their right flank. Mané often outjumps bigger men and thanks to an unrivalled determination, has to be taken seriously as an aerial threat.

3. Raúl Jiménez

Wolves

Headed goals: 9
Headed shots: 55
Headed shot conversion: 16%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 7.51
Football Index value: £1.35 (Sell)  £1.65 (Buy)

Wolves‘ star striker is an all-around forward who excels in the air. Wolves send in loads of crosses and Jimenez is always around to attack them. When that happens, opponents know they’re in for a hard time. Jimenez’s conversion rate is a low 16% but he is so incessant that he has to be taken seriously as a threat.

2. Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Everton

Headed goals: 11
Headed shots: 52
Headed shot conversion: 21%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 8.28
Football Index value: £2.60 (Sell)  £2.73 (Buy)

The only young man on the list is the hottest striker in England right now. Calvert-Lewin has always been good in the air and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at his inclusion here as he has been managed by Sam Allardyce and Duncan Ferguson. Nevertheless, Calvert-Lewin’s recent explosion has made him stand out even more. He now looks like scoring almost every time a cross comes in.

1. Chris Wood

Burnley

Headed goals: 11
Headed shots: 44
Headed shot conversion: 25%
xGH (Expected headed goals): 9.58
Football Index value: £0.26 (Sell)  £0.42 (Buy)

Who else but one of Burnley‘s boys tops the list? Sean Dyche has the Clarets play a certain kind of way, and big Chris Wood epitomises that. After years of loan wanderings, Wood has finally found a home at Turf Moor and is just utterly dominant there. Standing 6’3 and with a powerful leap, there are not many centre-backs who can hang with Wood as an aerial threat.