It's fair to say that some strikers are so central to their side's success in front of goal that their absence would have a disastrous impact on the team. The individual that perhaps epitomises that theory the most is Luis Suarez, although last weekend Liverpool faced another man whose importance to a remarkably young Aston Villa side is growing by the week in Christian Benteke. The Belgian was certainly the star man on show as his double sandwiched a sublime assist in the shock result on round 17 of the Premier League season, as Villa's youngest team in the history of the competition went on to win 3-1 at Anfield.
There are, however, many more frontmen whose vital statistics in front of goal suggest that their respective sides would be all at sea without them. Here, we analyse the top five players in terms of proportion of a team's total shots at goal, also looking at their goal contribution in turn.
5. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) Mustering 22.2% of his side's total shots this season, Robin van Persie has quickly ensured that all of his former ties to Arsenal have been forgotten by the United fans. Quickly re-assuming his post at the top of the scoring charts in the league - alongside fellow summer signing Michu at Swansea - the Dutchman's 12 goals account for 27.9% of the Red Devils' league goal tally thus far. The fact that van Persie is so crucial to a side that is inundated with star names makes his integration into the side at Old Trafford all the more impressive. Building a partnership with Wayne Rooney to the level of understanding that the two already work on would mean that either's absence for one reason or another would be a huge blow. However, if the duo can stay fit, their partnership may well be the difference between joy and heartbreak for the United faithful come May.
4. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) Another new recruit for his respective side, Paul Lambert took a considerable gamble on a 21-year-old striker who had only really had one truly successful season in Belgium's Jupiler Pro League. Now 22 and a regular in his hugely talented national side, Christian Benteke is repaying the faith that saw Villa's new boss fork out a fee in the region of £8million - a faith that has seen Darren Bent's chances under the Scot dwindle. Benteke's importance to the side is eminently visible in the statistics. Having fired off 45 shots this season, the most recent of which came in his imperious double goalscoring display at Anfield, the Belgian has had 23.3% of Lambert's youthful side's shots despite starting just 12 times, and his 5 goals account for 33.3% of Villa's overall tally. The fact that only Berbatov, Rooney, Suarez, Tevez and van Persie have averaged more touches per game of strikers in the league (42.9) is the greatest indication of the huge role Benteke will have to play if Villa are to survive.
3. Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) In direct contrast to the former, Jermain Defoe's role at Tottenham is a far less inclusive, but equally important one. The England international has averaged fewer touches than any other striker to start more than half of his side's league games this season (25.7), with the fact that he has netted nine goals already telling you all you need to know about the Spurs man. With Defoe, it is all about chance conversion and his shoot-on-sight attitude has certainly paid off under AVB. Having attempted the third most shots in the league this season (68), it is no surprise that he dominates Tottenham's overall tally, striking 23.7% of their efforts this season. His aforementioned nine-goal haul thus far is 30% of the team's overall figure and though a personal conversion rate of 13.2% is unspectacular, Spurs fans know that if Defoe has six or seven shots a game, as he does with some regularity, one will usually find the net.
2. Demba Ba (Newcastle) Newcastle have come back down to earth with a bump this season after ending the 2011/12 campaign in fifth and qualifying for the Europa League in the process. Had it not been for the goalscoring exploits of a back-in-form Demba Ba, it is fair to say that bump may have been an almighty crash. The Senegalese striker has picked up where compatriot Papiss Cisse left off last season, though their ability to play together continues to be called into question. Ba has had 70 shots at goal already this term, representing a massive 28.8% of Newcastle's overall tally thus far and without his 11 goals, the Magpies would almost certainly be in the relegation zone. Indeed, Ba's tally accounts for over half of his side's total goals (57.9%) - the only player to record the majority of his team's goals in the entire league - and reports that he is set for a move away will concern the fans in what is already a troubled period under Alan Pardew.
1. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) It comes as no shock to see Liverpool's talismanic and controversial front man in equal measure, Luis Suarez lead the way here. The Uruguayan has mustered 96 shots at goal already this season - a full 26 more than any other player in the league - and while Liverpool create chances throughout the side, the majority inevitably fall the way of the 25-year-old. His efforts account for 29.7% of Liverpool's overall shot tally and without him in the side, they lack a focal point after the decision to let Andy Carroll leave the club on loan. The Reds will surely seek some support for Suarez come January but in the meantime, they must ensure that he stays fit and out of trouble. With 10 goals to his name thus far, Suarez's finishing has improved and his figure represents 43.5% of Rodgers' side's overall goal tally. In conclusion, if there is one side that really can't do without their star striker right now, it's Liverpool.