Jonathan David

Jonathan David: Can the Iceman take home the Golden Boot?

Canada’s appearance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar put the nation on the footballing map. As they set out to compete in a very difficult group, it ended rather quickly as they failed to pick up any points and were eliminated after defeat to Belgium in their 2nd game.

Whilst there was immeasurable pride for their nation’s efforts, some Canadian fans were quick to point the finger at Jonathan David. The 23-year-old, who has been a revelation at French side LOSC Lille, was unable to replicate his goal-scoring prowess for the reds.

However, back in France, David is joint top-scorer in the Ligue 1 with 19 goals this season and could make history to become the first North American Player to finish top scorer in a ‘Top 5’ European league since Real Madrid’s Hugo Sánchez in the late ’80s. The question is, can he?

New Role

David has been a roaring success at the Stade Pierre Mauroy since he arrived in August 2020 for a fee of CAD 44 Million. He scored 13 goals in his debut season in Ligue 1, which saw him and his Lille side win the title ahead of PSG. He followed that up with a 15-goal season in 2021/22 despite Lille only managing to finish 10th in the table.

This campaign has started even better for the ‘Iceman’, 19 goals in just 28 games under new manager Paulo Fonseca sees him poised as a realistic challenger for the golden boot, and with his new role in a reshaped Lille side, he is likely to score a lot more during the rest of the season.

Lille’s resurgence under Fonseca has seen the club become a much stronger attacking outfit, with David central to that. They top the charts in total shots per game with 15.2 and sit only behind PSG in shots on target per game with 6. With an average of 59.7% possession and 54 goals scored already this season, Lille’s expected goals output for the season should be higher than the previous two if they continue at their current rate.

David has also been handed a more important role in the frontline as the club’s ‘number 9’, rather than playing off a Target Man as was the case in previous seasons when the club had Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz on their books. His partnership with former Newcastle United midfielder Rémy Cabella has been highly effective, with the Frenchman taking on most of the creative work, allowing David to focus on his progression into the penalty area on either side as he is equally capable of finishing with both his left and right foot.

He also has much more freedom on the edge of the penalty area thanks to the width that Lille offers in attack, which allows him to start on one side of the box before making a darting run across the defender to an oncoming pass and apply a first-time finish. This is one of the aspects of his game that has dramatically improved at Lille, as he continues to improve as a player and as a Striker.

Mbappe and PSG troubles

David’s biggest opponent to the top scoring title in France is, of course, Kylian Mbappe. The Frenchman is currently joint top-scorer alongside the Canadian striker at the top of the scoring charts with 19 for the season. However, Mbappe’s output has been lower than expected so far this season, opening the door to many other strikers like David to capitalize.

Mbappe has scored 27.9% of PSG’s goals so far this season, lower than his average the past 2 seasons, but has also averaged less minutes per game under Christophe Galtier.

There is more rotation by PSG this season, and after acquiring 19 year old Hugo Eketike from Stade de Reims in the summer on a loan to buy deal, Mbappe has direct competition for the centre forward role. Even when Mbappe does play the full 90 minutes, PSG are very reliant on output from all of their front three superstars, so it’s very difficult for Mbappe to monopolise the goalscoring responsibility at the Parc des Princes with the likes of Neymar Jr and a certain Lionel Messi for company.

PSG’s elimination from the Champions League at the round of 16 stage and from the Coupe de France round of 16 stage against ‘Le Classique’ rivals Olympique de Marseille was a huge blow for their season. The Qatari-owned giants have been desperate to win the Champions League since the takeover in 2011-12, but despite squad investment of over $1.4 billion, they have been unable to achieve that goal.

It’s likely that they will win another Ligue 1 title this season, but the desire seems to be somewhat drained from the squad, particularly the big names like Mbappe and Neymar Jr. This could cause a slump in Mbappe’s performances and goal output for the remainder of the season, which may limit the number of goals he can score, making it a much more open race for the golden boot.

Point to Prove

Canada’s first appearance at a World Cup since 1986, and only their 2nd ever appearance at the tournament, was a historic achievement for the nation. However, there was a lot of hype surrounding a team of generational talent unlike anything the country had ever seen before, that just underperformed compared to their expectation.

Jonathan David

While many players earned plaudits for their efforts in Qatar, David was one of the few that fans were quick to criticise for his lack of impact in front of goal. He was unable to find the goal in his 192 minutes of tournament football as Canada finished bottom of their group. This has left some doubt around the quality of the 23-year-old in the eyes of many who expected him to be one of the breakout stars of the tournament.

The striker may once again have to prove his worth and his ability to the world as he aims to push Lille toward the Champions League spots in Ligue 1. This isn’t pressure he won’t have dealt with before, having become the most expensive Canadian player in history after signing for Lille from KRC Genk in 2020, and he was quick to prove the doubters wrong in that case. We may see an even more motivated David in the second half of this Ligue 1 season, which could see him scoring on a consistent basis.

There are many factors that could decide whether or not Jonathan David becomes the Ligue 1 Golden Boot winner at the end of this season, but it really comes down to his consistency. If he can stay fit and sharp, he will play almost all of Lille’s Ligue 1 games for the remainder of the season and should push the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Florian Balogun, Alexandre Lacazette and Wissam Ben Yedder all the way for the top scorer title.

Image credits: Casey Telford, Getty Images, AFP via Getty Images, The Canadian Press