As the Premier League title race moves into its final 10 games, now is the time to stand up and be counted.
That is especially relevant to strikers and it’s no coincidence that the two teams challenging for the title both have players at the top of the scoring charts.
In the way Manchester City and Liverpool are split by just one point in the standings, Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah are separated by one goal in the Premier League top scorers ranking.
Both the Argentine and the Egyptian are enjoying prolific seasons once again – Aguero has scored 18 league goals, while Salah has netted 17 times. But who has been the more lethal in front of goal?
The first thing to note is that Salah has played more often this season, with 28 appearances and 2,376 minutes in the Premier League as opposed to 24 appearances and 1,763 minutes for Aguero.
The main reason for the discrepancy is that Aguero missed three matches at the start of December with a groin injury and then spent another as an unused substitute following his return. Salah has stayed clear of injury.
Nonetheless, Aguero’s minutes-per-goal figure of 97.9 is significantly better than Salah’s 139.8, the Argentine finding the net with greater regularity than the Egyptian this season.
Aguero’s 18 goals have come from 87 shots on goal, meaning a shot conversion rate of 20.69 percent. By comparison, Salah’s 17 goals have come from 92 shots, meaning a slightly worse conversion of 18.48 per cent.
Mind you, the fact both of these strikers are putting away one in every five of their shots is highly impressive in such a demanding league.
Aguero has long had a reputation as the ultimate penalty box predator and the stats show that he has enjoyed significantly fewer touches in opposition penalty areas than Salah, yet has scored more goals.
The City striker has had 163 touches inside opposition penalty areas in the league this season yet has managed to get off 87 shots in total, of which 33 were on target and 18 were scored.
Salah has had 231 touches in opposition boxes and 92 shots in total, with 45 on target and 17 goals. So the Liverpool man gets more shots on target than Aguero but scores with fewer of them.
In any title race, beating the sides around you is always a key factor and this is where Aguero really comes into his own.
In this season’s matches against Liverpool’s fellow top six rivals, Salah has only found the net once – in the 5-1 win over Arsenal at the end of December.
His other league goals have come against West Ham, Brighton (2), Southampton, Huddersfield, Cardiff, Fulham, Watford, Bournemouth (4), Wolves, Newcastle and Crystal Palace (2).
By contrast, Aguero has this season scored once against Liverpool, once against Manchester United, three times against Arsenal and three times against Chelsea.
He has been delivering the goods more reliably against the big guns this season than Salah plus the pattern of his goals suggests Aguero is coming into his peak form at just the right time.
He has scored eight times in his last five league outings – including those hat-tricks against Arsenal and Chelsea. In the same period, Salah has netted just the once.
That isn’t to say Salah won’t yet produce the goals during the title run-in. But, at the moment, it’s Aguero’s title-winning experience that is coming to the fore.