Top 10 Strikers of the Premier League season

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As we roll through our postseason awards, it’s time to focus on the meat of every attack.

What do spectators want to see? Goals! Right?

Ok, well maybe not everyone, but there’s no doubt goals are exciting, and parked buses are not. Just ask Brendan Rodgers, I bet he has some choice words on the topic.

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While goals are certainly what every manager looks for when they pick a striker, that’s not the only way they can contribute and get themselves on this list.  Assists, work rate, and passing ability can all land a striker minutes even when he’s not scoring goals.

But ultimately, the goals will be required sooner or later for a frontman.  If they dry up, often players lose their place.

Look no further than Norwich City’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel.  The Dutch striker scored on his debut for the Canaries, and put in shift after shift of hard work and energy up top.  However, that debut goal would be his only in the Premier League across 25 appearances, and he’d find himself on the bench in nine of the club’s final 15 matches.

The top of the list may be somewhat obvious, but the bottom half will be intriguing to see. Let’s take a look at the top 10 strikers from the 2013/14 Premier League season:

10. Loic Remy – Newcastle (on loan from QPR)

Newcastle struggled mightily down the stretch thanks to turmoil in the front office, and Remy was (not coincidentally) on the sidelines for much of it with injury.  But when he saw the field, the Frenchman was a force, grabbing 14 goals on the season.

The Magpies won 15 matches in total this season – Remy scored in nine of them, including their final five.  He was a spark plug for the club, and if they can’t secure him on a permanent transfer from Queens Park Rangers, Remy could be headed to other clubs like Arsenal or Atletico Madrid, to name a few that have already been thrown around.

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Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez was an electric player at St. Mary’s this season, only to have it cut short by injury.

9. Jay Rodriguez – Southampton

A mentally and physically devastating injury ended his season – and World Cup hopes – prematurely, but that should not take away from what the young England international accomplished this year.  The 24-year-old academy product hit for 15 goals and three assists while playing in all 33 of his club’s Premier League matches before his injury.

His form earned him his England debut along with teammate Adam Lallana, and the two shone on the international stage as well. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing him in Brazil this year, but Rodriguez is on the big stage to stay and his name should pop up on plenty more of these lists throughout the years if he can make a full recovery from his ACL tear.

8. Edin Dzeko – Manchester City

He remains in the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo at Manchester City, but he continues to provide goals up front. Dzeko is a striker in the true sense of the word, and doesn’t have a whole lot of other strengths, but 16 goals and a championship medal to his name this year earns him a place on the top 10 list.

The Bosnian picked up some enormous goals this season for Manchester City, including a winner over Crystal Palace in December when his team was struggling, and a brace in the penultimate match against Everton to keep them on top in the title race heading into the final weekend.

7. Wilfried Bony – Swansea

A Premier League debutant, Bony was bought from Vitesse with the intention of lightening the load of last season’s star Michu.  Bony did more than that, as he essentially took over for the Spaniard who struggled mightily with injuries all year.

While Michu scored just two goals in 17 matches, Bony shrugged off a slow start to the season to finish with 16 goals and earn Swansea’s player of the year honors.  With a healthy Michu next season, the two should be a force if they can both be utilized in the lineup properly by Garry Monk.

6. Olivier Giroud – Arsenal

While he may have had too much to do as the only capable striker in the Arsenal ranks, Giroud is still one of the best in the league at scoring goals and playing the attractive brand Arsene Wenger asks of his players. The Frenchman struck 16 times this Premier League season and set his teammates up eight for eight more.

Giroud benefited heavily from the arrival of Mesut Ozil at the end of the summer transfer window, but the striker still remains a great litmus test for how Arsenal will finish – all but two of his goals this season came in Arsenal wins.  If he can figure out how to shorten the doldrums he sometimes seems to disappear into at times, he can be one of the best three in the league and lead Arsenal to heights of old.

5. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

While his sole importance to the Championship-winning Manchester City attack isn’t that of those below on this list thanks to a deep squad, Aguero still leads Pellegrini’s squad up front.

Aguero posted 17 goals and six assists this year in a season where he only saw the pitch 23 times due to a serious battle with a hamstring and knee problems that lasted nearly five months.  Despite the lack of time, Aguero is a dangerous force when he is on the field, and he’s only a bigger threat still thanks to the additions Pellegrini made this season up front.

If he can keep that pace throughout a 38-match season (which would give him about 28 goals this season), Aguero could challenge the numbers Luis Suarez put up this year and earn himself even higher individual honors.

4. Romelu Lukaku – Everton

Lukaku’s loan spell at Everton did its job – it made many Chelsea fans furious with Jose Mourinho’s decision to let him go in the first place. While the manager blamed Lukaku for his departure to Goodison Park, it was ultimately Chelsea’s final call to send him away.

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Thanks to his incredible form, Lukaku’s future is in question, having made Jose Mourinho regret sending him away.

No matter who’s fault it was, the decision will no doubt net Lukaku a lot of money in the future.  At only 21 years old, the towering Belgian scooped up 15 goals and six assists, including a strong finish where he scored six times in the club’s last 11 matches fresh off a serious ankle injury.

The talisman of the Belgian national team’s attack in Christian Benteke’s absence, Lukaku has a lot on his shoulders at such a young age.  And with Diego Costa’s imminent arrival at Stamford Bridge, there will be plenty of Lukaku’s name sprinkled throughout the papers this summer.

3. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool

The Robin to Suarez’s Batman, the 24-year-old picked up 21 goals for himself while assisting another seven, meaning the SaS pair picked up 52 of Liverpool’s 101 goals this year – over half.  Add Gerrard’s 13, and the trio had a whopping 64% of Liverpool’s goals this season.

Sturridge’s statement came early on, when Suarez began the season on the bench, scoring in eight of Liverpool’s first nine games.  Injuries slowed him down at times, or forced him out of the lineup altogether, but he still finished with three goalscoring streaks of four or more matches, including one seven-match stretch where he scored nine times.

Even with Suarez’s PoY performance, the Reds wouldn’t be close to what they accomplished without Sturridge’s contributions.

2. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United

Despite his inferior goals tally to Sturridge, Rooney gets the nod in the second position because of how he was far and away the best player on the pitch for Manchester United all season.  Rooney bagged 17 goals and 12 assists while the Red Devils struggled under enormous media scrutiny all season.

Rooney doesn’t just provide goals and assists, either. He was successful in 64% of his take-ons this season, according to Squawka statistics, and created 58 chances for teammates, tops on the team and third in the Premier League among strikers.

The English international is a leader on the field, and it’s no wonder the club threw every resource they had at him to get him to sign back on for next season, despite the lack of European play.

1. Luis Suarez – Liverpool

This was a relatively obvious top choice. Having already received the PFA Player of the Year award, in addition to our very own ProSoccerTalk Player of the Year award.

Suarez matched the Premier League record for goals in a 38-match season with 31 goals, and he missed the first six matches of the season, making the feat that much more incredible.  Add to it the media and fan pressure he faced from his negative image stemming from the previous year, and the stars had to align for him to have an outstanding season – and they did.

Oh, and he also bagged 12 assists (which is an objective statistic, with transfermarkt totaling 21 assists for the Uruguayan), meaning if soccer did points like hockey or lacrosse does, Suarez would have the most in the Premier League by fourteen. Yea, this one’s an easy choice.

Defoe reveals vegan diet key to comeback

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If you want to score goals, be a vegan.

[ MORE: PL teams release tour dates

That’s pretty much the message from Jermain Defoe as the 34-year-old striker rolled back the years on Sunday and scored in England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

The Sunderland striker was recalled to the England squad for the first time since 2013 by Gareth Southgate and Defoe, like he has done all season, looked sharp and in the zone. Despite playing for struggling Sunderland who sit bottom of the Premier League table, Defoe has scored 14 goals in the league.

The only Englishman who has scored more times in the PL this season is Harry Kane.

Via the Guardian, Defoe has revealed the lengths he has gone to, off the pitch, in order to sustain his goalscoring prowess.

“Everyone wants to feel fresh in the game – there’s no better feeling – so I just make sure I’m doing the right things and trying to tick every box: cryotherapy, massage, eating the right things … I’m trying to turn vegan,” Defoe said. “That’s a funny one because, when I go to my mum’s, she’s got every kind of meat you can imagine out on the table.

“I think I’ve managed [to adopt veganism] successfully. My girlfriend suggested I gave it a go. Well, she said to me: ‘You’ve got to do it’ and she’s always showing me documentaries on it. It’s always nice to have someone around you who helps you and drives you on and wants you to do well. I don’t find anything hard to give up, as such, because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me. So, while getting in an ice bath isn’t nice, I just think: ‘You know what? I’m going to do this and be rewarded.’ It’s hard but in another way it’s easy because all I want to do is play well and score goals.”

Defoe is definitely doing the latter as he scored his 20th goal for England to join an elite list and is making the most of his opportunity back in the Three Lions’ setup.

As well as turning vegan, Defoe cut out alcohol many years ago and has also got rid of chocolate as well as limiting caffeine. All of this is obviously working. Defoe has scored 33 goals in 78 PL appearances for Sunderland since arriving in 2015 after many believed his England career was over following his move to Toronto FC for the 2014 Major League Soccer season.

How wrong they were. Southgate has said Defoe could play a part in Russia in two years time of England qualify and he’s still scoring goals in the PL. The chances of that seem pretty decent given Defoe’s incredible dedication to prolonging his career.

His body is a temple and one which keeps scoring goals.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

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The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbally abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.