In a Premier League weekend highlighted by Aston Villa’s thrilling 3-2 win over QPR and Wigan Athletic’s late heroics against Newcastle United, the most striking statistic was actually the lack of goals for the league’s leading marksmen as for the first time this season Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie, Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale, Chelsea’s Demba Ba and Swansea City’s Michu all failed to get their names on the scoresheet.
With so few games left in the campaign (eight for Spurs, Liverpool & Swansea, nine for the other two) the surprise lack of goals actually suited Suarez best.
Though his run of seven goals in four games ended, along with Liverpool’s slim Champions League hopes, in their 3-1 defeat at Southampton, the Uruguayan remains three clear of his nearest challenger and 4/9 favourite to become the first ever South American Golden Boot winner.
With three bottom-half teams (Aston Villa, West Ham & Reading) next on the schedule for the Reds, Brendan Rodgers’ side will surely create enough chances for Suarez to add to his current 22 goal haul.
Even without stretching that lead, his advantage over Ba and Michu on 15-a-piece, looks insurmountable and their odds are now out to 35/1 and 39/1.
That leaves two men capable of catching the Uruguayan, the same two players likely to be his main rivals for the other end of season individual awards: Van Persie and Bale.
Having been forced to watch as Spurs scraped past Inter Milan in the Europa League, Bale looked a step short upon his return and Andre Villas-Boas’ side slipped to a potentially costly home loss to Fulham.
That made it three games without a goal for Bale, after strikes in Spurs previous eight encounters, and it’s essential he’s back to his best if his side are not to see their season trail off again. 16-goal Bale is now 20/1 for the Golden Boot, with Tottenham 4/5 to finish in the top four.
While Van Persie’s Manchester United side show no signs of trailing off, having extended their lead to a seemingly unassailable 15 points with a 1-0 win over Reading, the Dutchman’s personal slide is even more alarming than Bale’s.
It’s now 585 minutes since Van Persie scored his 19th of the season against Everton; his longest drought for club or country in nearly three years.
Fortunately for Van Persie, United next face woefully out-of-form Sunderland, giving the Dutchman the perfect opportunity to shorten odds of 2/1 to retain his Golden Boot.