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.
|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|
|1996/7||Man U||Newcastle||Arsenal||Alan Shearer||2nd||25|
|1997/8||Arsenal||Man U||Liverpool||Sutton, Dublin, Owen*||3rd||18|
|1999/0||Man U||Arsenal||Leeds||Kevin Phillips||—||30|
|2002/3||Man U||Arsenal||Newcastle||van Nistelrooy||1st||25|
|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|
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.
- The Ivan Gazidis interview, what happens when a successful manager leaves, and do injuries determine success?
- Ref Review: Man City – Arsenal: A tale of Jekyll and Hyde
- We are right, you are wrong; we know best, we cannot be challenged
And on the Arsenal History site…
- Arsenal in the 1930s – the first nine episodes have been published, more to come…
- The First League Season, including a review of each player who played in that season
- Arsenal in the 1970s – the complete review of every game and every transfer
- Arsenal in the summer – the transfers, the friendlies, year by year
- Arsenal anniversaries – nearly 5000 entries
The full index to all the series is on Arsenal History Society Web Site