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October 2016
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Does having top league scorer help you win the league? Here’s the stats…

By Tony Attwood

Of course you need a good goalscorer if you want to win the league.  But do you need the best one there is?

Having looked at whether changing the manager works, buying in big name players works, and whether injury levels affect the position in the table, I thought I’d see how often the top goal scorers each season actually play for the top club that wins the league.

In the chart below the top three teams are listed, followed by the top goalscorer, and then a note as to which of the top three positions his team ended up in.  The last column self evidently is the number of goals the top man scored.  Where there are players on the same number of goals and one of them is in the top three I’ve indicated this with an asterisk.

Year 1st 2nd 3rd Top goalscorer 1/2/3 Goals
1992/3 Man U Aston V Norwich Sheringham 22
1993/4 Man U Blackburn Newcastle Andrew Cole 3rd 34
1994/5 Blackburn Man U Nottm F Shearer 1st 34
1995/6 Man U Newcastle Liverpool Shearer 31
1996/7 Man U Newcastle Arsenal Alan Shearer 2nd 25
1997/8 Arsenal Man U Liverpool Sutton, Dublin,  Owen* 3rd 18
1998/9 Man U Arsenal Chelsea Hasselbaink
Owen, Yorke*
1st 18
1999/0 Man U Arsenal Leeds Kevin Phillips 30
2000/1 Man U Arsenal Liverpool Hasselbaink 23
2001/2 Arsenal Liverpool Man U Henry 1st 24
2002/3 Man U Arsenal Newcastle van Nistelrooy 1st 25
2003/4 Arsenal Chelsea Man U Henry 1st 30
2004/5 Chelsea Arsenal Man U Henry 2nd 25
2005/6 Chelsea Man U Liverpool Henry 27
2006/7 Man U Chelsea Liverpool Drogba 2nd 20
2007/8 Man U Chelsea Arsenal Ronaldo 1st 31
2008/9 Man U Liverpool Chelsea Anelka 3rd 19
2009/10 Chelsea Man U Arsenal Drogba 1st 29
2010/1 Man U Chelsea Man C Berbatov*, Tevez 1st 20
2011/2 Man C Man U Arsenal van Persie 3rd 30
2012/3 Man U Man C Chelsea van Persie 1st 26
2013/4 Man C Liverpool Chelsea Suárez 2nd 31
2014/5 Chelsea Man C Arsenal Agüero 2nd 26
2015/6 Leicester Arsenal Tottenham Kane 3rd 25

Over this 24 year period we find the following:

  • In five years the top scorer was in a club that did not finish in the top three.
  • In five years the top scorer was in a club that came third
  • In five years the top scorer was in a club that came second
  • In nine years the top scorer was in a club that came first.

So yes having a top scorer is better than not, but it is certainly not a guarantee of winning the league in the way that some writers suggest.

For in only 37.5% of the seasons examined the top scorer also won the league – so not even the majority of the time.

It is also interesting that the concept of “top scorer” is a very variable concept – the number of goals one needs to score ranges from 18 to 34.   Thus a player who might come maybe fifth or sixth in the scoring levels one season could win the top scoring competition another.

By and large having more top scorers in the team must normally be a benefit – unless of course they so come to dominate the team that no one else gets a chance, in which case the players who play out wide or in attacking midfield feel obliged to pass the ball to the dominant player.  No one else comes through.

I wonder if this was the trouble with the Vardy transfer – he didn’t want to play out on the wing, but would sooner stick to playing in the middle.  Indeed once Leicester came back and matched Arsenal’s salary offer, as they were supposed to have done, maybe it was a positional thing that caused him apparently to reconsider.

For it is also a fact that the goalscorer often gets the glory and plaudits, not least because his output is easier to measure than completed passes, interceptions, tackles, assists etc.

But whichever way we look at these figures it is clear that none of the simplistic answers peddled by writers in newspapers and on bloggettas, actually tell us exactly how to build a winning team.  You can have the top scorer in the league, but not even come in the top three.   You can sign a player for a national record fee, and he can be very ordinary.   You can sack the manager, but that doesn’t bring you any more chance of success.

The solution is much more complex than this, and to my mind the people who push individual issues at the expense of many others do us all a great disservice.

Recent Posts

And on the Arsenal History site…

The full index to all the series is on Arsenal History Society Web Site 


18 comments to Does having top league scorer help you win the league? Here’s the stats…

  • Leon

    To answer your actual question in the headline: not necessarily, but preferably.

  • Leon

    ….and your own stats are evidence.

  • chucks

    Every player helps win the league – some contributing more than others. If your key word had been guarantee rather than help then …….

  • chucks

    Its obvious having the top scorer in the league”doesn’t” guarantee a club the ttitle but I think we are entitled to be furnished info on how the winning club’s top scorer fared against the leagues. Also how those supporting him did. In Leicester’s case Mahrez was not far behind.
    Winning the league is about “being declared the winner” or in any way accumulating more points in more of the matches over a season of 38 matches whether fairly or otherwise. Five or more of Vardy’s goals , I understand, came from penalties. No denying his pace and some of his technique in open play goals were impressive.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I think it’ll be wrong of Glaudio Raneiri and the Leicester City FC, Thailand owner to think of keeping Vardy, Kante and Mahrez furthermore than the last successful season they had at Leicester. Because Leicester City FC are a small club side who have had a rare once in a lifetime season title winning breakthrough last season.

    How on earth would Raneiri have imagined those 3, whose football playing stocks have ex-ordinarily risen up from no where can be forced by him to remain at a small club side like Leicester are. That is absurd.

    Despite the fact that the BPL Champions Leicester, will in the coming season be playing in the elite Europe Champions League, that entry will not change the small status club side of Leicester City FC in the long run, as they will soon likely returned quickly than expected to the middle table class club side status they all but belonged to. No disrespect to Leicester City FC.

    It’s therefore in the longer interest of these 3 Foxes I’ve mentioned above to capitalise on this once in a lifetime chance of moving to an elite club side like a regular Ucl playing club side, Arsenal, and move.

    To delay their moving to an elite club side like Arsenal may become regrettable decision they would have taken if they don’t move this summer window. Because often than not they can’t for sure tell themselves what state of playing form they’ll be in the coming season’s campaign if they remain at Leicester. Nonetheless, to move now to an elite club like Arsenal could make them to refresh themselves and even make them to play better than they did at Leicester last season I would imagine.

  • Andy Mack

    Personally I’m still hoping this is a ‘Vapour Transfer’ and we end up with someone better and with a longer future, but if Vardy declines it’ll be because he likes being the main man at Leicester.
    If he does join us then it’ll be very interesting to see how his goals AND assists average compares to Giroud (and/or anyone else’s) goals and assists average.
    If we win games then the other players won’t care if the CF is Giroud, Vardy or Akpom but if we lose, it’ll be interesting to see the body language of the rest of the team…

  • porter

    Our players are good enough but the question remains about the way they are utilised . We all know that teams park the proverbial against us , so it’s down to us to find a better way of combating that.Perhaps the Xhaka style of longer passes and the attempt to buy Vardy suggests that a change may be in the offing .Should Vardy decide not to join it is possible that Theo ,Campbell, Welbeck and The Ox might benefit from quicker service too

  • Jerry

    Good analysis Tony. I agree having the top scorer does not guarantee winning the league as shown above (37.5%). It does almost guarantee Champions League Football though (79% in either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd).

    In regards to the Vardy transfer, I am actually feel indifferent. If he joins, great I’ll support him like all the other players. If he doesn’t join, that’s fine as well, don’t think he’s a big upgrade over Giroud like the media makes it seem based on the league last season:

    Vardy scored 24 goals and had 6 assists in 3140 minutes which equals:
    1 goal per 130.8 minutes (3140/24)
    1 assist per 523.3 minutes (3140/6)
    1 goal or assist per 104.66 minutes (3140/30)
    5 goals were penalties so from open play that’s 1 goal per 165.2 minutes (3140/19)

    Giroud scored 16 goals & 6 assists in 2431 minutes which equals:
    1 goal per 151.9 minutes (2431/16)
    1 assist per 405.16 minutes (2431/6)
    1 goal or assist per 110.5 minutes (2431/22)
    1 goal from penalties so from open play that’s 1 goal per 162.06 minutes (2431/15).

    So Giroud had a better rate of goals from open play as well as assists than Vardy.
    Vardy did take on more defenders though.

  • Andy Mack

    did the player get the team into the CL
    did the team getting to the CL places get the player the top score…..

    6 = 2×3…

  • Jerry

    Andy Mack,

    Interesting question, it’s kind of like what happened first, the chicken or the egg?

    There are multiple ways to build championship teams and teams in CL places. In my opinion, having the top scorer alone will not get the team the title or a CL place.

    It does help though as shown above in 19/24 seasons, the club with the highest top scorer finished in a champions league place (1st-3rd).

    Actually for the last 15 years straight, the team with the top scorer finished in a CL spot.

    In my opinion, it’s more important to have the best overall team than the top goal scorer, but you need atleast 2 good goal scorers. We had that last year, but unfortunately we lost Sanchez for 2 months due to an unsafe Norwich ground.

    What do you think?

  • Andy Mack

    Jerry, I agree. Better to have a few good scorers than rely on only one. Vardys goals alone (especially without penalties) wouldn’t have seen them near the top 4…

  • Gord

    Some more backup for Tony, Walter, Don et al.

    Ars Technica is reporting on a PNAS article. But nominally, people do not change their biases when they are shown to be wrong. Or at least in some circumstances.

    The URL as a link.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gord – June 8, 2016 at 4:18 am -A very nice and interesting link. Speaks volumes . Thanks.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    People see only in what they believe – even if they are assed wrong !

  • Gord

    You’re welcome. 🙂

  • bob

    Mr. Attwood,
    what is Giroud’s conversion rate? last season? this season? It’s not goals scored alone that wins the day – not 3 goals in our last match.
    what would Ozil’s 19-assist tying the League record have been with an upgrade over Giroud who didn’t score for 15 games when we lost the league?
    with Giroud healthy, why would Ozil be hesitant about signing the new contract we’ve been offering him for months?
    Ozil has had so many more recorded scoring chances (an official stat) than conversions.
    Ozil is making it crystal clear that we need a cutting edge.
    AW said as much when he alluded to Ozil as a useful Plan B, but a bit maddening when he recurrently goes into a drought.
    imo, you are have long been invested in protecting AW’s decision to bring in Giroud when the fact is we have not yet replaced the traitorous Van Purse Strings.
    imo, you are trying to pre-empt a groundswell demand for a top-top striker; imo you fear that fans will go nuts when our rivals do just that, so you resort to this stat. Conversion rate matters, Tony. Where’s that stat? And both Welbeck and Giroud suffer from howler’s syndrome at (and we know them) awful times. imo, you are long invested in protecting AW’s decision to bring in Giroud. How about an honest piece on conversion rates?
    I’d be fine with being wrong on this. But you have access to the stats – how about conversion rates for Giroud since he’s been here?
    (Oh, and he’s Ok by me as a Plan B – I know his virtues. Are you willing to quantify his deficits?)

  • bob

    AW said as much when he alluded to Ozil [ — this should read Giroud –] as a useful Plan B, but a bit maddening when he recurrently goes into a drought.

  • Menace

    June 8, 2016 at 5:44 pm
    ‘what would Ozil’s 19-assist tying the League record have been with an upgrade over Giroud who didn’t score for 15 games when we lost the league?’

    We lost what? We didn’t lose anything. We were robbed of honest decent officiating all f-ing season. It was not Arsenals players or Manager or fans, it was the PGMO that robbed us of a fair sporting chance. When the debacle at Chelsea occured, why was the game not replayed? The FA in their corrupt governing & decision making reversed Gabriels red card but still fined him for failing to leave the field – what a joke. It is an absolute travesty of justice condoning a cheat like Dean.