The marked men
Can anyone outscore RVP? Sky Bet's Jamie Casey runs through the candidates
By Jamie Casey - Follow me: @skyjamiecasey
Last Updated: 12/08/13 11:03am
All across the industry, bookmakers are paying big prices on anyone who can outscore Manchester United's Robin van Persie in the Premier League this season.
With 26 strikes last term, the Dutchman finished three clear of Liverpool's Luis Suarez, who may have pushed the former Arsenal forward a little harder had he stayed out of trouble.
With Suarez carrying over a ban into the first six games of the season, not to mention the uncertainty as to where he'll be plying his trade, van Persie is out alone as the 7/2 favourite to top the charts.
It would seem the only thing standing in the way of van Persie securing a third consecutive golden boot is the prospect of a reoccurrence of an old injury flaring up, considering his persistent problems during his time at the Gunners.
Van Persie showed no such signs as such last season, though, so can anyone trouble him in the race? Here, Sky Bet runs through the most popular alternatives in the top goalscorer market.
Sergio Aguero - 7/1
With Carlos Tevez having left Manchester City for Juventus, Sergio Aguero is now widely considered to be their main goal threat this season, regardless of the arrival of Alvaro Negredo (22/1). Aguero only netted 12 league goals last term, but he did miss games through injury and rotation, and the season prior he finished up with 23. If the Argentine is picked week-in-week-out by new boss Manuel Pellegrini then he stands a solid chance of keeping up the pace with van Persie. However, depending on how Pellegrini uses him, Aguero's work-rate may prove more beneficial for the consistency of his team-mates, with Negredo and Stevan Jovetic (33/1) now on the scene plus Edin Dzeko, a popular outside choice among punters at 28/1. It may be worth noting that Aguero should solely inherit City's penalty-taking duties with Tevez out of the way.
Gareth Bale - 14/1
With his future up in the air, interest in Gareth Bale has been slack among the punters. Having finished as third top scorer last season, Sky Bet make him the third favourite again but there's a big reluctance to back a midfield player over an out-and-out striker, which is understandable. At 14/1, he is the most-backed attacking midfielder ahead of Marouane Fellaini (400/1) and Frank Lampard (100/1). However, on top of his advanced midfield position discouraging bets on the Welshman is the interest of Real Madrid. Bale is odds-on to sign for the Spanish giants, and Sky Bet will refund stakes on any player that leaves for a non-Premier League team before the season begins.
Wayne Rooney - 16/1
In 2011-12 Rooney finished second in the top goalscorers chart with 27, with only van Persie (30) edging him. They were playing for opposing sides at the time and as long as Rooney remains a Manchester United player his tally is likely to suffer by the presence of the Dutchman as a team-mate. However, should United decide to take Chelsea up on another offer for the player, then suddenly the 16/1 looks much more appealing. New surroundings would surely breathe fresh life into Rooney's form and if he was to be deployed in an advanced role for the Blues, he'd be fancied to at least finish as their top scorer. With Chelsea 8/11 to sign him before September 3rd, the 16/1 looks worth a small gamble on the basis that it's likely he'll move to Stamford Bridge.
Christian Benteke - 16/1
Before committing himself to Aston Villa, Christian Benteke was a popular choice in the betting market for the Premier League's top scorer. Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal were all reported to be weighing up a bid, and punters were quick to snap up the long odds on him topping the charts. However, since ending speculation by penning a new deal at Villa Park, interest in the Belgian has declined with many deeming him unlikely to out-score the bunch in a claret and blue shirt. However, Sky Bet will pay out at a quarter of the odds on each of the top four goalscorers for all each-way bets placed - and another fourth-place finish for Benteke is by no means out of the question.
Luis Suarez - 16/1
As he continues to try and force a move to Arsenal, Luis Suarez is picking up a lot of momentum in the top scorer betting. Initially priced at 25/1 due to his original desire to leave England plus the impact the remaining six games of his 10-game ban for biting will have, Suarez has been swiftly backed in to 16/1 to finish top scorer in the Premier League. In scoring 23 league goals last season Suarez only played 33 times compared to van Persie's 38, so it is arguable that the Uruguayan was more prolific. However, the maximum number of games Suarez can play next term is 32, and that's before potential injuries and further suspensions, so the 16/1 is probably best avoided.
Roberto Soldado - 20/1
Having only been made available to back at the start of the month following Tottenham's confirmation of the signing, Roberto Soldado has enjoyed a huge wave of support to be the Premier League's top scorer in his maiden campaign. Initially entered at 33/1, the Spaniard is now a 20/1 outsider, but still the money continues to flow on the former Valencia striker. Thus, his price is likely to shorten further, but it's worth noting that no foreign player has ever topped the goalscoring charts in his first season in the Premier League - Soldado's compatriot Fernando Torres came close in 2007-08 though.
Wilfried Bony - 50/1
Punters are clearly getting excited by the arrival of Wilfried Bony at Swansea, so much so that the Ivorian has attracted the most number of bets to be the Premier League's top scorer, ahead of all the big guns. Despite briefly leaving the club scene with Vitesse for international duty at the African Cup of Nations last season, Bony still managed to top the charts in the Eredivisie, scoring 31 goals. The Swans paid a club-record £12m for the 24-year-old and fans will be encouraged by manager Michael Laudrup's prowess in the transfer market, having unearthed one of last season's biggest gems in 18-goal Michu, also a 50/1 shout this term.
Best of the rest
Now that he's back at Chelsea, Romelu Lukaku has proved one of the most popular bets at 25/1 on the back of his 17-goal haul on loan at West Brom last term. Surprisingly, only six players have attracted more interest than Arsenal's Olivier Giroud, a 40/1 outsider. Daniel Sturridge (20/1) made a prolific start to his Liverpool career and he's had plenty of support to continue that trend. Meanwhile, Norwich new boy Ricky van Wolfswinkel is a well-backed outsider at 50/1, while Crystal Palace's Dwight Gayle is the most popular choice of the newly-promoted teams at a massive 150/1 - only in 1999-00 when Kevin Phillips topped the charts for Sunderland has a player from the second tier come up to win the golden boot in the Premier League era.