WITH the EFL season having just passed the midway point, EFL connoisseur Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) ponders over the top goalscorer markets in each division.
Predictably, Aleksander Mitrovic is already the Championship’s top goalscorer with 18 goals.
The Serb is swiftly becoming a second-tier specialist, having bagged 18 times in his last outing at this level when, after signing in January, he fired Fulham to promotion via the play-offs in 2017-18.
That year, he was tasked with turning a good team into a great one with his physicality, aggression and ruthless goalscoring impulse.
This year, though, Mitrovic is tasked with bailing the Whites out in unconvincing team performances through his individual brilliance.
That has happened in certain games this season, when the 25-year-old scored a hat-trick in the 3-2 win over Luton, for example.
Without Mitrovic, Fulham’s hopes of reaching the top six would be in far greater doubt and the striker is Evens with Unibet to take top honours.Without Mitrovic, Fulham’s hopes of reaching the top six would be in far greater doubt and the striker is Evens with Unibet to take top honours. Click To Tweet
Perhaps more surprising than the form of Mitrovic is Ollie Watkins’ goalscoring exploits.
In Watkins’ time at Exeter, and in his first two seasons at Brentford, he was deployed as a wide forward – he had some athleticism, yes, but was normally asked to dart from the left-wing and arrive in the box late from right-wing crosses, or create for teammates if the build-up play was on his side.
We could have imagined Watkins scoring 10-12 goals in a good season, but never really being a main focal point.
And yet, after Brentford’s top scorer from 2018-19, Neal Maupay, left for Brighton, the club dallied on its signing of another striker.
Thomas Frank, it was suggested, had faith in Marcus Forss or Emiliano Marcondes stepping up to the mantle.
Instead, the solution has been Watkins, who has scored 17 goals – six of those were headers, including an aerial hat-trick in September’s 3-1 win at Barnsley.
Brentford tend to start with a 4-3-2-1 when they win the ball with Saïd Benrahma and Bryan Mbuemo wide of the 24-year-old, but that morphs into a 4-3-1-2 with Benrahma moving into pockets and Mbuemo running directly towards the right-sided striker position, which can see Watkins veer slightly to the left as play progresses.
That system works very well for the Bees and Watkins, who has been re-invented this term and is 4/1 with Bet365 to pip Mitrovic to the Top Goalscorer accolade.
If Mitrovic and Watkins are unable to fire for any reason in the second half of the season, then Patrick Bamford could be well-placed to catch them up.
His competitor for a starting berth at Leeds, Eddie Nketiah, has been recalled by Arsenal and while the club may add another striker in January, we can expect Bamford to get a run of starts.
The former Middlesbrough man averages 2.4 shots inside the penalty area per game, which is the most in the Championship.
Additionally, the 26-year-old has so far scored 10 goals from 30 shots on target, which is a conversion rate of one in three.
By contrast, Mitrovic and Watkins have scored from approximately half their shots on target – but trends would imply that Bamford’s hit rate is due to increase and that of his competitors may come down.
For those keen on a speculative punt, Bamford is 60/1 with Unibet for the golden boot.
Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony has said on Twitter that Ivan Toney is priceless – and that he would not even sell him for £10 million!
Of course, it may be slightly different if that £10 million was right in front of him but it highlights how important the former Northampton forward has been to his club.
Toney’s power, agility, leaping capacity and goalscoring instinct has been pivotal for the Posh, completing a potent from three including Mo Eisa and Marcus Maddison.
Eisa, 9/2 with BetVictor is a possible rival to Toney, 11/4 with Bet365 for League One’s top goalscorer, but any sense of competition has proved healthy; Peterborough have scored an impressive 44 team goals.
The marriage between Armand Gnanduillet and Blackpool seems to work superbly for both parties.
Speak to Stevenage, Tranmere, Chesterfield and Leyton Orient fans about the gangly striker, and few would say a serial goalscorer lies within.
Having hit 15 so far this season, though, which is already one more than he managed for the Tangerines throughout the whole of last season, Gnanduillet has now scored 40 of his 64 career goals for Blackpool.
The 27-year-old’s relationship with right-sider Liam Feeney, who has 10 assists to his name, has been key to form to date – and in the second half of the season, we can expect opposing teams to double up on Feeney to negate his influence.
From that point, Gnanduillet’s form and that of Blackpool, will depend on Simon Grayson’s ability to find alternative sources of creativity to provide for the man 14/1 with Betfair to take top honours.
Some might have been forgiven for thinking that, after signing from non-league Leamington, Colby Bishop might have needed time to adjust to League One.
Instead, he has established himself as the joint-seventh highest scorer in the division with 10 goals – and is a shining example of the gems that can be found in the non-league market through clever recruitment and expert coaching from John Coleman and Jimmy Bell.
Bishop has taken 38 shots from inside the penalty area this season in 19 appearances, so his intelligence of movement makes him more than deserving of his current output – and who knows? A goal-heavy January and BetVictor’s 50/1 on Bishop to be League One’s top goalscorer may start to look appealing.
Eoin Doyle’s incredible run of scoring in 11 consecutive matches for Swindon, including a hat-trick in October’s 4-0 win at Crawley, would lead some to argue that League Two’s top goalscorer award is already tied up.
Doyle is 1/20 WilliamHill to take the accolade – although there is uncertainty as to which team he will play for between now and May.
While the 31-year-old has been in outstanding form for Swindon, he could be recalled by parent club Bradford, for whom he was not as effective last season.
Plus, current head coach Richie Wellens has put Doyle in a team that prioritizes fluidity of movement with Jerry Yates, Kaiyne Woolery, Keshi Anderson and Michael Doughty all rotating and interchanging delightfully.
Bradford, by contrast, are structured more rigidly under Gary Bowyer and while they are excellent defensively, one could not guarantee Doyle having the same impact in that team.
The above argument would be the only reason to doubt Jerry Doyle in the race for the golden boot.
Yates has bulked up since signing for Swindon in the summer and thus has looked braver than he did at Rotherham at getting to the near-post and putting his body on the line to reach the key, goalscoring areas.
Yates has recently been deployed on the left to incorporate Doyle but if the striker were to leave the squad, we could imagine the 23-year-old starting up top – and the 33/1 outsider with Bet365 to be the league’s top goalscorer could go on a similar run of form.
Doyle is rightly the clear favourite to take top honours in League Two, but the club he represents will influence his 2020 form.