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April 2021

Why you don’t need a top scorer to win the league


By Sammy The Snake

My last article explored the required characteristics for a team to be crowned champions (you can read it here, if you already haven’t done so). We saw that the best way to win the EPL was to collect more points than everyone else, that goals scored/conceded or goal difference certainly help but are not essential to win the league.

One of our “unkind” readers pointed out that “Arsenal can’t possibly win the league without a world class striker…”!!! That simply boils my blood. To me, even the tea lady at the Emirates is world class.

After I calmed down, I started to think about the relationship between the champions for each season and the top goal scorer. I went back to the charts, and the results are nothing short of a shock!

There’s a myth that the champions must possess the top scorer in the league. Let me take you through 21 years of EPL and see if the myth can be confirmed:

1992/92: ManU

While ManU win the inaugural EPL, Teddy Sheringham is the top scorer. In fact, ManU’s top scorer, Eric Cantona, is the joint 7th top scorer in the league (and a few of his 15 goals were scored for Leeds in the 1st half of the season!).

Myth: Busted

1993/94: ManU

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Andy Cole of Newcastle scored 34, Eric Cantona was 8th on the list.

Myth: Busted

1994/95: BB Rovers

Alan Shearer single handedly took Rovers over the line and was top scorer with 34 goals.

Myth: Confirmed

1995/96: ManU

Alan Shearer was top scorer with 31. United’s top scorer was Eric Cantona, who was joint 9th;

Myth: Busted

1996/97: ManU

Again Alan Shearer with 25, ManU’s Solskjear was joint 3rd with 18.

Myth: Busted

1997/98: Arsenal

Dion Dublin of Coventry was the top scorer. Lord Bergkamp was joint 4th with 16 goals.

Myth: Busted

1998/99: ManU

Hasselbaink of Leeds, Micheal Owen of Liverpool and Dwight Yorke of United shared the accolade with 18 goals! Oh Lord, not a good year for strikers.

Myth: Plausible


Kevin Philips scored 30 goals for Sunderland. Dwight Yorke was only 3rd.

Myth: Busted

2000/01: ManU

Hasselbaink moved to Chelsea and scored the most (23). United only had the 6th top striker in the league (Teddy Sheringham with 15).

Myth: Busted

2001/02: Arsenal

Sir Thierry Henry helped Arsenal win the league with his 24 goals.

Myth: Confirmed

 2002/03: ManU

The myth worked here as VanNistelrooy scored 25 for United, although Henry was very close with 24.

Myth: Confirmed

2003/04: Arsenal

Our beloved Thierry Henry scored 30 memorable goals.

Myth: Confirmed

2004/05: Chelsea

Henry continued his goal scoring but Arsenal did not win the league.

Myth: Busted

2005/06: Chelsea

And again, Henry with 27. That’s two years that Chelsea have won it without the top scorer! Lampard, Chelsea’s top scorer, notches 15 goals from the midfield for Chelsea.

Myth: Busted

2006/07: ManU

In the crazy world of football, it is now time for Drogba to be top scorer while ManU win the league. Ronaldo is 3rd on the list.

Myth: Busted

2007/08: ManU

This is the year of Ronaldo, scoring 31.

Myth: Confirmed

2008/09: ManU

Again, the theory does not hold true as Anelka scores the most (only 19) but ManU win the league.

Myth: Busted

2009/10: Chelsea

Drogba carries Chelsea to the championship with 29 goals scored.

Myth: Confirmed

2010/11: ManU

Mr. Berbatov of United scored 20 goals, but he was joined by Carlos Tevez. Would anyone consider Berbatov and his 20 goals world class?!

Myth: Plausible

2011/12: ManC

Robin Van Persie, my ex-hero, was the best damned goal scorer in the land. He scored 30 beautiful goals but still ManC lifted the championship on GD.

Myth: Busted

2012/13: ManU

Robin Van persie, now playing the bad guy in a cheap Bollywood flick, scored 26 for United.

Myth: Confirmed

Total: 12 Busted, 2 Plausible, 7 Confirmed

In over 50% of the seasons, the champion did not employ the top scorer in its ranks. There is no direct and consistent relationship between the champions and the top goal scorer. It is not essential for a team to have the golden boy to lift the trophy, it helps but it is not essential.

Even in the current season, Luis Suarez is running away with the number of goals scored (22 so far). At his current pace, he may even break the goal scoring record for a single season. But does that mean Liverpool have a chance of winning the EPL? Of course not!

Keep the faith Gooners, keep the faith.

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24 comments to Why you don’t need a top scorer to win the league

  • WalterBroeckx

    You saved me a lot of work Sammy as I was going to do the same if and when I could find the time 🙂

    F*ck me but this team we have now has something special about it. Solidarity wins you the title and that is what I see in this team.

  • Armin

    I believe it depend of few factors. In example, I think our 2008 generation needed it to win title, needed prolific talisman goalscorer to lift team up and push it forward if we had RvP than (in shape of his last two seasons) I believe his presence and goals would overcome shock after Dudu injury. After Eduardo got massacred players team lost composure and get lest compact, so only savior of season could be some extremely successive goal scorer.
    Diferent than this generation, which is compact, less reliable on one figure, able to share all segments of play. So if chemistry in team is good, you don’t need to have tops scorer, if it is not, you need him to be fixer of mistakes in collective play.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Thanks Sammy a further blow to the media crap we are fed that those of the negative attitude without ability to think freely are so taken in by. We have multiple goal scorers. Hopefully the start of a week of some very good news filtering out of the club and I refer to those already in post but you never know what else could happen!

  • Alex

    Good job you prove it . Question is the league has changed multiple fold in many aspects and I am not sure whether this kind of statistics are enough answer.
    In modern games like the Barcelona one they haven’t an out and out striker.Messi their to scorer works in conjunction with wingers and midfielders. Not a static striker ala Drogba.

    Arsenal style is much closer to the Barca one in many ways I guess. Then there is the conundrum of Poldy.Podolsky surely will score more if the team is builded around him.Seems to me not the type of player that work his soaks ala Giroud.I wonder how is going to fit with emergence of Gnabry and the Ox.

  • Armin,

    I cannot recall the exact number of goals that Adebayor scored for us in 07/08 league campaign but it was 20+. Eduardo was nowhere close to being our highest scorer talkless of being the league’s golden boot winner that season. We all rued his injury so much because he was our in-form striker at the time he got hacked. I think Cesc was our second highest scorer that season. So, Sammy’s point is not invalidated by our 07/08 experience.

    Since the departure of Henry, our goals have always been shared between the strikers and attacking midfielders till RvP stopped spending half of the seasons crocked. Since RvP left, we’ve returned to how it used to be.

    Personally, I prefer this as we continue to roll on irrespective of the form of any single player.

    On the topic itself, we are only hearing this nonsense repeated because Arsenal is leading the league. Chelsea’s strikers are doing much worse than ours but you never hear anyone doubt their league winning credentials because of it. If we had Man City’s attack and defensive records at the moment, the complaint would be about how our defence would stop us from winning the league. As with Chelsea, no one is doubting City’s chances because of their defence.

    I have resigned myself to the fact that until we have mathematically won the title, there will always be yardsticks, real or imaginary, about which our chances would be called into question.

  • Norm

    I like the fact that we can share our goals around the team. Poldi is probably the most clinical finisher and as an admirer of his game, I want him to start more matches now, especially as Theo is out for a stretch. He looks well up for it. The lads have done nothing wrong this season. 5 or 6 typical idiotic refs/assistants influences have made it tricky, but I believe we are doing just fine. I love my 2013/14 team.

  • jambug

    The point is when we had Judas banging them in we was a ‘one man team’. And a team so reliant on one person can never win the league.

    Now we have multiple goal scorers and are NOT reliant on one person we cant win the league because we HAVEN’T got a Judas type banging them in.

    Same old media crap.

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Boo wrote:
    I have resigned myself to the fact that until we have mathematically won the title, there will always be yardsticks, real or imaginary, about which our chances would be called into question.

    I totally agree.

  • jambug

    It’s all symptomatic of the medias pathological dislike of all things Arsenal.

    Take for example the reporting of Wengers take on the Mata transfer. He’s asked his thoughts on the transfer and simply states what he’s said many times before, that he doesn’t like the mid season transfer window and this transfer is a good example of why. It is intrinsically unfair. And many agree with him.

    Yet, as usual we get the same old ‘Whingeing Wenger, headlines.

    Anything Wenger says, whatever his opinion, it’s always blown up out of all proportion.

    I mean, even if it is a moan it’s not as if he’s the only one. Wasn’t Moureen whingeing just the other day about playing a lot of games in a short period.

    Yet then, as yesterday, the media hacks lap up everything Jose says like knicker wetting, giggling girls at a One Direction concert.

    I pray to god he doesn’t throw his Y-Fronts out to his adoring fans at his next press conference because it will cause I riot.

    Why is it the rest of the World can see right through Jose yet our gutter press treat him like the Messiah ?

    Well let me tell you, He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy !!

  • Mahdain

    Offtopic but what a glowing article on le boss.. Ze Germans know

  • jambug


    Why does it always take a foreigner to see it?

    Our media are a shameful bunch of Manc loving, Jose fawning, ignorant prats.

    As Wenger said in his press conference yesterday: “I’m still naïve enough to think you wanted to hear constructive opinion rather than just create conflict, it seems I was mistaken” (or words to that effect).

    Yes I’m afraid you are Arsene.

  • Was just at the gym and spoke to a fellow gooner he said we need daxler we need a forward. I said he’s a midfielder?! and he was gone before I could say he’s injured!!

  • Mahdain

    @jambug yep. The English media can learn a lot from their foreign counterparts. Its criminal how under-appreciated Mr Wenger is in the media circles. What he has done for this club deserves so much praise and respect but instead its ridicule and abuse that he gets even from the supposed “fans” of this club. There is only One Arsene Wenger

  • marcus

    In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
    George Orwell

  • jambug


    The media know how brilliant Wenger is and what a massive effect he’s had on English football in general and Arsenal in particular, you’d have to be blind not to, but it just doesn’t suit there agenda.

    Our media are just a bunch of hogs with there snouts in the trough of money pouring in from the Russians and Arabs and will do, and say, anything to ensure the gravy train continues unabated.

  • marcus

    The problem for Arsenal is that in all other positions there is massive competition. Our best team is

    Walcott Giroud Cazorla
    Ramsey Arteta Zelalem
    +the magnificent 5

    Meaning that players like Ozil, Wilshere, Podolski, Rosicky, Gnabry, Flamini, Diaby, Ox simply don’t make the first team.

    Giroud should have more competition for his place, no?

  • Singapore Gunner

    Or how about a study of winning the league you need a striker to be in the top 3 scoring chart? Alex Ferguson said you need 4 strikers to win the league. Arsenal had one and a half( Giroud and Bendtner)..

  • Nelson Wong

    I think there is a wrong concept about this “top scorer”.

    We want a player who has the potential to be the top scorer. These strikers have the ability to break down defenders and take very tricky shots. They can also score the decisive goals when the team need that. These are the great qualities coming with them.

    However, when they team actually feed enough goals to such a player so that he becomes a top scorer by statistics, then team is overly reliant on that one player. The tactical mobility of the team and outlet in front of the goal is limited. That makes defending far more easy.

    And then the “top scorer” needs to feature in more matches and more defenders will surround him. He is over worked and intercepted frequently meaning he will be injured.

    When the player got injured, the team can’t score. Even if the injury is minor and he is out for three games it can be fatal. Provided that it is a top team in defense and they don’t conceed any goals in the three games but they can’t win. That means 6 points lost.

    Unless it is a year some team run away with the tittle, those 6 points are FATAL.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Mahdain – Awesome link . Thanks .
    There’s none so blind as those who will not see.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Sammy – re : your findings –
    Total: 12 Busted, 2 Plausible, 7 Confirmed .

    The AAAA will soon come on here to say that you cannot come to a definite conclusion with too little data such as this , and that you’d have to go right back to the start of the football league in England to back up you theory!
    Oh , and while at it , they’ll inform us why we need to ‘spend some fucking money’ on a crocked German midfielder ( and that he is a false no: 9 ,10 or 8 !)to keep up with ManShitty ,Chelski and Liverpuddle !

  • I agree with Brickfields Gunners. In addition to that I still think there is something xenophobic about the English media bashing of Arsenal and Arsene in particular. The man is French and as as far as my memory serves me the English and French media have always had a go at each other on things happening on either side of the divide.

    Some sort of rivalry I guess – this French xxxx can’t be teaching us how to play ‘our’ game – is the attitude that comes through when you think of it. Hello ‘Tony has the Arsenal always been given this sort of treatment by the media before Arsene came?

  • jambug


    I’ve followed Arsenal since the early 70’s and can tell you that’s a categorical yes.

    There was basically 2 sticks with which they beat us.


    Yes we had times, especially under George Graham, that we was conservative to say the least. But we wasn’t the only ones. It was a different game then. Amongst the major differences where 2 and not 3 points for a win. You could pass back to the keeper and he could pick it up and he could keep hold of it for an indefinite time. Off Side was completely different, no exceptions where made, if you was off you was off. One sub. Crappy pitches. Players where far less fit. You could kick the living daylights out of anyone who could control the ball! Honestly the game is unrecognisable from the game I watched back then. But basically pretty much everyone was capable of being boring, it was the nature of the game back then.


    like everyone else we had our lucky days but by the way it was portrayed in the media you wouldn’t of thought so.

    So yes we have always had a bad press. Don’t ask me why but it is a fact.

  • welp you make a very compelling point about top, top scorers/strikers, so i think we’d likely agree that winning the premiership often comes down to defense/depth, aka “the killer Ds”

    this year city has showed us it’s best form whilst kun aguero (for my money the one striker i’d want front and centre for my team if i was putting together a squad) was sidelined for a month or so with an ankle. wilfried fk’n bony was right up top around the ~9-13 goal total for awhile until “el pistolero” biteymcf*ckyourrace stepped up and glided right past everyone (partially thanks to some excellent defense from everyone’s favorite targets, norwich city) and in the end it certainly looks like the top top scorers aren’t going to win the prem this year.

    i think what happens with these championship teams is that they often have a plethora of scoring options who end up taking goals from each other because it’s a scoring party and the whole block is invited. let’s look at 2013-14 manchester city, who has the full array of PL/CL/FA/COC games to give us those broad “across all competitions” stats:

    1) sergio aguero: 25 goals (14 prem)
    2) alvaro negredo: 23 goals (9 prem)
    3) eden dzeko: 16 goals (6 prem)
    4) yaya toure: 14 goals (!!!!!) (11 prem)
    5) navas/nasri/silva: 5 goals (all w/4 prem)

    and let’s compare that to a similar team that we all know and love that’s right there with ’em, a team that legendarily has “striker depth issues” and thus has an inexorable need to import a scoring machine or two otherwise everyone’s gonna slag them off as having no chance to top city in the end…. of course i’m talking about chelsea! =D

    1) eden hazard: 10 goals (9 prem)
    2) samuel eto’o 6 goals (8 prem)
    3) oscar: 8 goals (6 prem)
    4) fernando torres: 7 goals (4 prem)
    5) frank lampard: 6 goals (4 prem) (then a dropoff to 4 goals and a bunch with 3/2)

    oh yeah and since this is an arsenal site, “why not us” ???

    1) olivier giroud: 13 goals (9 prem)
    1) aaron ramsey: 13 goals (8 prem)
    3) theo walcott: 6 goals (5 prem) (in limited service, no less)
    4) cazorla/podolski/wilshere/ozil (all with 3 prem, except for ozil’s 4)
    5) a bunch of guys with 1-2 goals

    when you compare that to liverpool, the team who’s obviously going to have the prem’s top scorer (racism/cannibalism/injury notwithstanding) they’ve got frick 1) suarez with 22 goals (all in the prem), and then they’ve got frack 2) sturridge with 14 goals (11 prem) and then they fall off to gerrard with 5, sterling with 4, and then the masses with 1/2 goals. so clearly liverpool is overly reliant on suarez/sturridge to be their offense, and if either of those guys has an off game it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the other guy to pick up the slack otherwise they’ve got a combined total of 12 non-S&S premiership goals in a grand total of, what 22 games?

    barring some sort of a miracle that features 3+ teams collectively falling apart on the pitch for a/n somewhat/extended period of time, they’re simply not scoring enough hang with the 3 “big boys” who are getting their main contributions spread out between a proper handful of players.

    i think there’s something to be said of the psychology of the league’s leading scorer likely being a guy on a lesser team who isn’t contending for the prem/CL-spots and thus being able to play a more “selfish” type of game that focuses first and foremost on his own scoring. when you’re able to do that for 30+ games/season go figure that the talented blokes will often end up with the consolation prize of gaudy statistics….. but given that football is arguably the most “team” oriented game out of all of the “major sports”, indeed you’re going to need to have a group that’s able to consistently pick each other up and not slag off all of the pressure-to-score on one or two guys, because over the course of 38 games that’s not going to get you the ~25-30 wins or whatever you need to win the premiership.

    so yeah, as to your larger point i see what you’re getting at… that those of us who have been crying for a “world class striker” to come through our doors with a 25-40mil pricetag isn’t going to necessarily be the elixir that cures all that ails us. while the defense has really only failed us for one noteworthy game (deulofeu’s equalizer notwithstanding) still they’re obviously playing well enough to remain in the title hunt while arsenal has done its usual job of managing to get enough contributions from the entire squad to score enough goals to have them atop the prem on january 26th.

    that said, i still think that arsenal specifically is prone to those scoring droughts where they end up pressing after failing to execute the perfect series of precision passes in tight-spaces/the-box, and if anything that’s more of a philosophy issue than a scoring-ability issue. i’ll quote the magnanimous ray hudson from a postgame-presser back when he was managing the MLS’ DC United in the mid-00s: “possession without penetration is masturbation” and indeed if that’s the case then i reckon arsenal might end up being mistaken for bigfoot if they show their hands in public spaces.

    while you obviously want to have a team that isn’t driven to fits of unproductive failure in the selfish hopes of padding their stats, at the same time you don’t wanna end up in those positions where you’re scoreless through 85′ with cardiff city and risking an ideal 3pt result because for those 85′ minutes you haven’t managed to line up all of the moving pieces required to do the veritable domino-style-cascade requisite for scoring a beautiful “team” goal. i think arsenal’s defensive/midfield depth/quality is such that you’d be able to accommodate another centre/forward who’s going to burn a handful of possessions trying to force the scoring issue all by himself, especially when you consider that you’re likely to burn up just as many possessions trying to make a succession of 2-4 precision passes to/through tight spaces and multiple defenders to set up the ideal goal (such as jack’s adventure @ norwich city earlier in the year)

    and yeah, that kind of “shoot first ask questions later” mentality helps our guy poldoski end up on the sub list more often than not because arsene figures that if you’re liable to burn possessions, you might as well do it by trying to execute an attack that has the highest % of scoring. and on the surface, i can’t sit here and slag off that philosophy/mindset…. i can, however, say that arsenal’s got a shot at winning the prem this year, and who knows how even the best-laid-plans will work out in future seasons when the squad is better/deeper on paper, especially given our perpetual romance with “the injury bug.” so with that in mind i think you’d be prudent/cromulent to do your due diligence in taking a financial risk by bringing in another option or two to provide you with goals, whether it’s in the starting XI or whether it’s off of the bench. i think many of us who put aside our morality issues with suarez to openly clamor for his arrival envisioned a situation where we still end up with no less than, say, 85% of those “team” goals that we typically get… however you’d replace one of those guys with ~5-6 goals with a guy who has, say, 18-22 goals…. and that would be enough to put us over the top when we’re getting draws with everton @ the emirates, or when we’re having an out an out war of attrition with manU where the only goal was scored via a world class header by everyone’s favorite little-boy-whisperer RvP.

    and if arsenal managed to have, say, another ~4-6 pts right now and they were sitting prettier with a ~5-8 point gap between them and the citys/chelseas of the world, well sh*t you’d just love to have as much cushioning as possible when the calender hits late-feb/march and the schedule stops being our BFF and starts being our potential nemesis returning us to reality.

    and i think arsenal would have those ~4-8pts if they were just that much better at getting a few more goals at crucial junctures, say when we were @ napoli and got down 0-1 after a nice higuain goal and thus the looming spectre of losing the game and drawing buyern/barca/RM/PSG grew larger and larger as the pressure ratcheted up with each passing minute…. and we all know how that @napoli affair ended up.

    so yeah, i think this team has the quality/depth in the back/mid-field to accommodate some players who were perhaps a bit more selfish in the opponent’s box. i think arsene’s presence is enough keep potentially selfish players in line when they’re ~20 feet out of the box and making that decision on whether or not they want to seek any help when they go for it in earnest… and quite honestly, i think having another player or two whose specialty is scoring big goals at much-needed times is what arsenal truly needs to take it to the next level and say “yeah, we’ve got the foundation of a championship team…. now let’s take the attack to the next level and go all-in because the championship window is open right now, and who knows for how long?”

    wow, i’ve just gone entirely TL;DR on my morning-blathering about my new/ish love, football/arsenal. i hope i didn’t upset the status quo by dropping some stats and philosophy, but hey what the hell this is one of the best arsenal sites on the net and i’m not going to outright be declared an autist for wielding the boundless audacity to spread my thoughts out over the course of a few paragraphs, so when in rome you always gotta remember to have a little fun cuz you never know when those damn visigoths are gonna show up and ruin the party. c’est la vie? * pounds table * SHOMER SHABBOS!

  • Edu

    so a prolific goal scorer doesn’t aid in the course of lifting the league?..pure nonsense..