Ivan Toney has enjoyed a superb start to the new Premier League season, with the Brentford striker scoring five goals in his six matches so far. He’s also chipped in with two assists, helping Brentford to eighth position in the table.
Such form from Toney has undoubtedly given England manager Gareth Southgate a headache – whether it is wanted or unwanted is perhaps a mystery. The manager can only include a small number of strikers in what is a hugely competitive position in his talented squad.
Toney found the back of the net against Leicester and Fulham in August, while grabbing both of his assists in the stunning 4-0 win over Manchester United. But the forward truly showed the league what he is all about in the 5-2 victory over Leeds on Saturday, netting a sublime hat-trick in the seven-goal thriller.
His first came from the penalty spot, his 18th out of 18 for the Bees, which as pointed out by many within the game could be hugely important come penalty shootout time at the World Cup. This was followed by two simply stunning goals; the first being a thunderous free-kick from the edge of the box into the very top corner, and the second being a delightful chip after beating a handful of players to complete his hat-trick.
It’s fair to say that captain fantastic Harry Kane will not be removed from his starting role up top any time soon, with the Tottenham Hotspur striker in fine form once again this season. Kane currently sits on 40 England goals, one ahead of the legendary Bobby Charlton, and just three behind leader Wayne Rooney.
Kane may just set the record in Qatar, but could even become the country’s leading scorer before then if he finds form in the upcoming internationals. Southgate undoubtedly has no major plans to remove the Spurs star from the central role in his most recently used 4-3-3 formation.
The statistics behind Toney’s fine form
The goals against Leeds saw Toney net his 50th, 51st and 52nd for Brentford, with those strikes coming in 96 matches. It was his second Premier League hat-trick of 2022, with the forward becoming the only player to score two Premier League hat-tricks for the Bees.
The Brentford man joins none other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Erling Haaland as the players to have scored multiple Premier League hat-tricks in 2022. All three players have two to their name.
Moreover, Toney has scored 10 set-piece goals since the start of last season, a Premier League high. He also has the most goal contributions (six) this season of any player outside last season’s top six clubs.
He bagged 12 league goals last season, and has therefore taken his tally to 17 goals since August 2021. From Europe’s top five leagues, only Kane (22) and Roma forward Tammy Abraham (18) have more when it comes to English players.
Both Toney and Brentford were questioned over whether they were capable of dealing with the increase in standards since their promotion from the Championship. But they have responded to those questions in some fashion, with the Bees finishing 13th last time out, and Toney scoring 12 times.
The striker is now joint-level with Kane on five league goals this season, with only Haaland (10) and Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (six) on more after six matches.
Who is he competing with for England World Cup spot?
As mentioned, Spurs man Kane won’t be worried about losing his starting role, but his understudy in Qatar will still be expected to play a huge part in the tournament. Given the quick turnaround and the soaring temperatures, every player will be handed some form of responsibility.
That is no exception when it comes to the striker position, but who will accompany Kane on the flight to Qatar this winter?
Former Chelsea striker Abraham hasn’t enjoyed the start that Kane and Toney have to the new campaign, with the Roma forward netting just once in his five matches so far. It comes as less of the goalscoring burden has fallen on his shoulders after the arrival of Paulo Dybala at Stadio Olimpico.
But if last season is anything to go by, Abraham will no doubt get going very shortly. He became an instant hit in the Italian capital after scoring 17 goals in his debut Serie A season, and 27 in all competitions as Roma lifted the Europa Conference League trophy.
Also in the running for an England call-up at the 2022 World Cup is Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. Again, the attacker hasn’t set the world alight this season, but hit 11 league goals last time out.
And it is perhaps the contrary for Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. After scoring just four league goals last season, the attacker has been reborn under new manager Erik ten Hag, and already has three goals in the new campaign.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Newcastle’s Callum Wilson and Leeds’ Patrick Bamford could also all be in contention, but perhaps their injury concerns this season will sadly prevent them from being included in Southgate’s final squad. Watkins’ Villa teammate Danny Ings meanwhile has somewhat fallen down the pecking order for both club and country.
Toney also competing with talented wingers
Of course, Southgate’s attacking roster will not just be limited to forwards. If he opts for an attacking trio, wingers will be in high demand. Luckily, England have no shortage of exciting wide players.
Manchester City duo Phil Foden and Jack Grealish will more than likely occupy two spots in the squad, with Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka also expecting to be involved. Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling and West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen will also be desperate for a seat on the plane to Qatar, while Man Utd winger Jadon Sancho could also be in contention.
Unfortunately for Toney, he is therefore not only competing with other strikers, but with England’s many talented wingers. But he is certainly in with a shout come November if he can continue his goalscoring form in the months to come.