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June 2021

How many times has top scorer in the Prem League actually won the league title?

By Tony Attwood

Yesterday’s article How Arsenal fans are being duped over the purchase of a striker made the point that there is not always a direct relationship between having the top scorer and winning the league.

A number of correspondents queried this, although I was not able to publish all of them since some came with the usual fake email addresses or just abuse, or indeed went off topic, but still it was reasonable enough to ask for the evidence since I didn’t provide the figures about top scorers in each club and in the league.

So now we have it.  Column 3 shows the top scorer for the champions including League, FA Cup, League Cup and Europe, with the number of his goals in column 4.   Column 5 shows the top scorer in the league and the number of league goals he got.  The final column asks the simple question: are they the same person.

To clarify, in 1992/3 the top scorer for Manchester United was Hughes with 16 in all competitions.  But the top league scorer was Sheringham with 22 league goals.

Where the answer is Y then this bolsters the notion that the club winning the league has the top scorer in all competitions that season.

Season Champions Champs top  scorer All Goals Lge Top scorer Lge Goals Same?
1992–93 Manchester United Hughes 16 Teddy Sheringham 22 N
1993–94 Manchester United Cantona 24 Andy Cole 34 N
1994–95 Blackburn Rovers Shearer 34 Alan Shearer 34
1995–96 Manchester United Cantona 19 Alan Shearer 31 N
1996–97 Manchester United Solskjær 19 Alan Shearer 25 N
1997–98 Arsenal Bergkamp 22 Dion Dublin
Michael Owen
Chris Sutton
18 N
1998–99 Manchester United Yorke 29 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Michael Owen
Dwight Yorke
1999–2000 Manchester United Yorke 24 Kevin Phillips 30 N
2000–01 Manchester United Sherringham 21 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink 23 N
2001–02 Arsenal Henry 32 Thierry Henry 24
2002–03 Manchester United van Nistelrooy 44 Ruud van Nistelrooy 25
2003–04 Arsenal Henry 39 Thierry Henry 30
2004–05 Chelsea Lampard 19 Thierry Henry 25 N
2005–06 Chelsea Lampard 20 Thierry Henry 27 N
2006–07 Manchester United Rooney/ Renaldo 23 Didier Drogba 20 N
2007–08 Manchester United Ronaldo 42 Cristiano Ronaldo 31
2008–09 Manchester United Ronaldo 26 Nicolas Anelka 19 N
2009–10 Chelsea Drogba 37 Didier Drogba 29 Y
2010–11 Manchester United Berbatov 21 Dimitar Berbatov
Carlos Tevez
21 Y
2011–12 Manchester City Agüero 30 Robin van Persie 30 N
2012–13 Manchester United RVP 30 Robin van Persie 26
2013–14 Manchester City Agüero 28 Luis Suárez 31 N
2014–15 Chelsea Costa 21 Sergio Agüero 26 N
2015–16 Leicester City Vardy 24 Harry Kane 25 N
2016–17 Chelsea Costa 21 Harry Kane 29 N

On nine occasions the top scorer in all competitions was the same as the top league scorer in terms of league goals.   So 36% of the time the top scorer in league matches comes from the title winning club.

Which suggests that the fixation with goalscorers is just a fixation.  Although it raises the question, what actually is going on, since it seems nice and logical that the club that wins the title ought to have the top goalscorer.

By my calculations the answer is that league winning teams often have several players who can score goals, while clubs that focus on a single goalscorer often fall short in the league because injuries, loss of form or the attitude of defenders on focusing one player reduces his effectiveness.

In 17 seasons the top league goalscorer got 25 goals or more but much of the time he wasn’t from the club that one the league.   Indeed for the last four years the top league goalscorer did not pick up a winners’ medal.

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So quite why there is this fixation on having one 25+ goals man in the squad, I don’t quite know.

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17 comments to How many times has top scorer in the Prem League actually won the league title?

  • Nitram

    I think you answered your own question a couple of days ago.

    It’s not about having the top scorer, or even being the top scoring team.

    It’s not about having the best defenders, or even letting in the least goals.

    What it is about is the correlation of the 2. The balance between goals scored and goals conceded. Simply put, the Goal Difference.

    You did a table for last season that showed an almost direct correlation between Goal Difference and finishing position. The better the goal difference, the better the finishing position.

    It seems to me that that is the key. All pretty obvious really.

    Yes, having the top scoring individual helps, but it is NOT essential.

    Yes, scoring the most goals helps, but again it is NOT essential.

    Yes, having the best defence helps, but it is NOT essential.

    It seems getting the balance between scoring and defending is the key. Not rocket science is it.

    It would be interesting to see if the correlation between Goal Difference and finishing position, that was evident last season, was repeated back through the seasons.

    My guess is it would.

  • Chris


    the reason, I believe, is that it fits the anti-Wenger and anti-Arsenal narrative.
    Forcing open an open door like they say in french.
    Pick up the subject and you can bash Arsenal.

    Interestingly this season Alexis scored more goals than Costa.
    Which leaves the whole discussion senseless….unless you start adding : Alexis will leave – and then you make it look like AFC are just a few points clear of relagation…
    Scaremongering…like we’ve seen with Brexit. If good news, nice news were to bring readership/viewership we’d hear all about them. What a nice change that would be !

  • Nathan

    Tony Attwood,

    As stated previously but received no reply, stats be twisted to suit the views of their own liking.

    If you go back over the last 5-10 seasons and see which team has won the league you will find every team needs a top striker +20 goals plus a season!

    Please reply to comments or show some sort of feedback via posts.

  • Polo

    Season 2006-07 Champion: Manchester United, Ronaldo 17 goals
    Season 2007-08 Champion: Manchester United, Ronaldo 31 goals
    Season 2008-09 Champion: Manchester United, Ronaldo 18 goals
    Season 2009-10 Chanpion: Chelsea, Drogba 29 goals
    Season 2010-11 Champion: Manchester United, Berbetov 20 goals
    Season 2011-12 Champion: Manchester City, Aguero 23 goals
    Season 2012-13 Champion: Manchester United, Van Persie 26 goals
    Season 2013-14 Champion: Manchester City, Yaya Toure 20 goals
    Season 2014-15 Champion: Chelsea, Costa 20 goals
    Season 2015-16 Champion: Leicester City, Vardy 24 goals
    Season 2016-17 Champion: Chelsea, Costa 20 goals.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I think having the best goalkeeper, defense-line, midfield, forwards and 3 – 4 top goal scorers strikers can considerably helps to win the League. More so wins the Premier League. We’ve seen the Barcelona’s MSN led attack and Real Madrid’s BBC led attack won the Spanish La Liga in between themselves with in a particular season’s win dependent on which of the duo team has the best defence, midfield prowess and the most attacking sharpness notably with Cristiano Ronaldo a regular 40 plus League goal scorer per season spearheading the BBC attacking trio that includes Bale & Benzema. And Messi, another regular 40 plus League goals scorer per season spear heading the MSN attackers that includes Suarez and Neymar.

    Therefore, since Arsenal already have 2 proven 20 plus League goal scorers per season in Sanchez and Giroud and the supplementary one striker in Walcott who can guarantee Arsenal at least 10 League goals per season, And with Sanchez and Giroud likely to guarantee Arsenal at least 40 League goals scored in between them next season, a third marquee striker who can score at least 20 League goals per season is most required in the Arsenal’s attacking forward machine so as to at least guarantee Arsenal 70 League goals scored next season by the attacking quartet of Sanchez 20, Giroud 20, Walcott10 and the new striker 20.

    Also, the Arsenal midfield MuST be revamped with a deep lying mid fielder who is able to score 10 League goals per season. And if the rest of the mid fielders can contribute 10 League goals, and the wing backs and the defence trio contributing 10, Arsenal will be okay to win the League next season if they score a minimum of 100 League goals I believe they only need to score to win the League next season imho.

  • Josif


    I think your hypothesis about the goal-difference stands tall while we take a look at champions between 2009-10 and 2013-14 – for five seasons in a row teams with the best GD had won the league – but it gets beaten with the simple look on the goal-difference in the last three seasons.

    Take a look at Chelsea and Spuds in the last season. Spuds had BOTH best attack (86) and the best defence in the league (26) with Harry Kane topping the score-charts with 29 goals. Yet they won shit all this season.

    It gets even better when we take 2015-16 into account. Spuds had the best goal-difference, top-scorer and the joint best defence in the league. They won shit all.

    In 2014-15 the best goal-difference award went to Man City thanks to the best attack in the league and top scorer Sergio Agüero. That was all they won as both Chelsea (EPL, League Cup) and Arsenal (CS, FA Cup) won the double each.

    That’s why I reckon the key word is context. (A few days ago I presented the facts why one can’t compare random facts from, say, 2015-16 with the same type of random facts 2016-17 and hope for a correct conclusion. Arsenal 2016-17 scoring 77 league goals comparing to Arsenal 2015-16 scoring 65 goals doesn’t mean there was a progress without taking all things into account.)

    We have seen the goal-difference criteria doesn’t offer the ultimate answer.

    I tested my own hypothesis of the goal-scoring and clean-sheet consistency. I took data for the Top 5 clubs in the last five seasons.

    2016-17 – Chelsea scored at least a goal in 35, all of Spuds, City and Liverpool in 33 each, Arsenal, 34, Manchester United 30.

    Clean sheets: Chelsea 16, Spuds 17, City 12, Liverpool 12, Arsenal 13, Manchester United 17. WHAT THE HELL?!

    If we add up those two things, we get these results:

    Chelsea 51, Spuds 50, both Arsenal and United 47, both Liverpool and City 45. My criteria holds the water for top two places but below second place water gets dirty as the criteria doesn’t explain why did both Arsenal and Man United finish below both Liverpool and City.

    In 2015-16 – Leicester scored at least a goal in 35 matches (they didn’t score in three consecutive matches), Arsenal 30, Spuds 32, City 30, United 28… Clean sheets: Leicester 15, Arsenal 18, Spuds 13, City 16, United 18.

    If we add up those two things, we get these results:

    Leicester 50, Arsenal 48, City and United both 46, Spuds 45. Again, the same thing happened as Spuds ended above both City and United.

    In 2014-15 – Chelsea scored at least a goal in 35 matches as well as Man City, Arsenal 33, Man United 30, Spuds 28. Clean sheets: Chelsea 17, Man City 14, Arsenal 13, Man United 11, Spuds 9. This time, adding up numbers gets the correct picture for Top 5: Chelsea 52, Man City 49, Arsenal 46, Man United 41, Spuds 37.

    In 2013-14 – Manchester City scored at least a goal in 34 matches, Liverpool in 35, Chelsea in 30, Arsenal in 32, Everton 29. Clean sheets: City 16, Liverpool 10, Chelsea 18, Arsenal 17, Everton 14. This time, adding up numbers is correct for three out of five teams but Arsenal and Liverpool should have swapped positions. Man City 50, Arsenal 49, Chelsea 48, Liverpool 45, Everton 43.

    In 2012-13 – Manchester United scored at least a goal in 35 matches, Manchester City in 32, Chelsea in 33, Arsenal in 31, Spuds in 34 (!). Clean sheets: United 13, City 17, Chelsea 14, Arsenal 14, Spuds 9. This is where the streak breaks down. Manchester City should have won the league after adding numbers (49) with Man United second (48), Chelsea third (47), Arsenal fourth (45) and Spuds fifth (43). It’s interesting to notice that the table was correct between third and fifth place.

    My point is, this criteria – while it shows that the last four champions had the best sum of matches in which they scored at least a goal and matches in which they kept a clean sheet, it still doesn’t entirely explain how the rest of Top 5 would look like with sole exception being the season 2014-15.

  • Gord

    If you go looking through the “soccer modeling” papers at arXiv, you will probably find that goal difference is considered a better indicator of team quality than points are.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal


    Great analysis but in the end Gords point of view that Goal difference is a better predictor of the teams performance.

  • Gord

    Tony has talked before about people throwing flares. A group of 4 people were in court in Nottingham over the throwing of 14 flares at a game between Notts County and Mansfield Town. Three of them got 3 year bans, and fines on top of that. I don’t know if that is considered a strong or lenient sentence.

  • Gord

    If Josif wants to argue points, I am sure the various people who have submitted papers to arXiv on this will read his argument if he submits a paper to arXiv.

  • Gord

    Whether points or goal difference are good indicators of quality, is another question. Look at what happened last season. A team that should have finished around 13th, won the league.

  • ron

    leicester is a good point re nitram’s argument = leicester had a tight defence – apart from home to arsenal- and a striker who scored a high percentage of the limited opportunities he had- the way arsenal play if we had RVP as he was allied to sanchez and ozil things would be different = obviously not easy to get hold of such a striker

  • Nitram

    I don’t think there are any infallible statistics to prove beyond doubt that achieving ‘x’, or achieving ‘y’, will guarantee you winning the League. There will always be anomalies.

    For example:

    The teams that has most possession will win the game. This, as we know to our cost, is not always the way, but by and large they will.

    The team that has territorial advantage will win the game. Again we know to our cost, as well as to our advantage, that this is not always the case, but by and large they will.

    Similar will apply to the team that has most shots and most crosses.

    So basically if you have the ball the most, especially in the opposition half, and as a result create most crosses, and have most shots, you will win the game. As I say, not always, but most of the time you will.

    As a quick aside, I think Leister City defied nearly every one of those stats to win the Title last season. Low position? Low shots? Low territory? Which is, I think, why some people, me included, viewed there success as a ‘freak’, and found it so odd that, a) they won so many penalties, and, b) they won so many games.

    So anomalies apart, some things are so glaringly obvious, I find it strange that people can refute it.

    Basically, if you score more goals than you concede you will win more games than you lose. And the more you score and the less you concede (Goal Difference) the more and more games you will win. It is so glaringly obvious I find it odd that people cannot see the importance of it.

    Yes, you could perhaps look at certain periods in both Arsenals and Manchester Uniteds fairly recent history, were they where so confident in there ability to score lots of goals that they did play with a certain disregard for defending, playing with the attitude that if you score 2 we will score 3, if you score 3 we will score 4, and so on. But this is rare, and I would guess, and it is a guess as I haven’t looked back at the figures, that despite this gung-ho attitude, the GD was still quite high.

    In conclusion, focusing simply on scoring and disregarding defending can be very entertaining, and in the case of some exceptional sides, can lead to success, but by and large you will come up short.

    Similarly focusing on parking the bus and pretty much disregarding any pretence at being an offensive side, can lead to success, as Mourinho and our own George Graham proved, but by and large this style of play leads to rather uninspiring mid table security.

    But getting the balance right by scoring plenty of goals, but crucially not necessarily the most, and letting in relatively few, though not necessary the least, is the key.

    I really wish I had the time to do some proper research on this to see how GD figures relate to your finishing position in the table over the years to see if my supposition is correct, because that’s all it is at this point, supposition.

    Maybe one day.

  • Goonermikey

    As was mentioned in a comment on the previous article and is alluded to by Nitram above, penalties can be key. This appears (I haven’t checked) to be even more pertinent when discussing “top goalscorers”. I haven’t got time to do the research at the moment but I’d love to see the “top/proven scorer” argument adapted to take into account penalties. At the end of the day, we know that Man U regularly get penalties that other teams don’t and that Arsenal need to be the victim of a machete attack before the PIGMOB even consider giving us anything.

    On top of this, ever since I was a kid (many, many years ago when the Spuds actually won the league!!) I’ve always wondered why so many people are obsessed with the player that scored the most goals, who actually wins an award. In general, it goes to the forward who has been lucky enough not to get injured and, if he takes penalties, how many his team get…………and he’s in a half decent team. I would propose that the golden boot goes to the player who has the best goals (in open play) to minutes played ratio (based, of course, on a minimum number of minutes played.

    Do I want a player who can score 30 league goals in a season? Of course I do but it’s not that simple.

  • Matt

    There is one statistic that is always correct in winning the league, score the most points. To score the most points during the season involves having the best team and players for that year.

    Arsenal have not won the league for 14 seasons and that means we have not had the best team or scored the most points during that time.

    There are people on this blog that will blame anything and everyone for us not winning the league. The reality is the main reason would be the employees of the club have not been capable of winning the league for 14 years.

    If we accept that as the starting point and try to improve upon that we would have a chance to move forward in the years to come.

  • Nathan

    Thank you @polo

    So like I said 9 of the last 11 seasons the team that won the league had a goalscorer scoring 20+ goals in the league, this is why if you want to win the league you need to have a proper striker leading the line! Refering to this post made by Tony Attwood
    I am by no means saying you need leagues top goalscorer but need quality upfront and giroud is too inconsistent, going on runs of 8+ league games without a goal…

  • Souper

    Lot’s of interesting points in the comments, I’d just like to pick up on one thing r.e. Leicester. @Nitram points out that “a) they won so many penalties, and, b) they won so many games.” First of all I should say that Leicester ended the previous season on a very strong run, and even before that run when they were losing games, they were playing well. Much as I’m not a fan of Nigel Pearson, he obviously did something right while he was there. During the title-winning season they got off to a flying start, and my view was that for whatever reason (underdogs?), at the start they were getting a lot of help from referees. Vardy was ‘winning’ a lot of penalties (a)and the defence were holding opposing players in every game (b). It took a long time for this to be picked up on, but when it finally was in the last 10 games or so, they had the resilience to turn to the Mourinho model of ‘Don’t concede, then win if you can’. Even as I watched it unfold I couldn’t begrudge them though, and was cheering them to the end as most people were.

    I will add that Vardy reminded me very much of Hazard in terms of the ‘skill’ of winning a free kick/penalty. Under Mourinho, when they were under the cosh, Chelsea would have a 10 man defence, who would get it to Hazard as soon as they could turn it over. He would then bomb down the left (usually), and ‘win’ a free kick half way into the opposition half, thus allowing the rest of the team to venture out of their own half. This pattern used to make my blood boil though, especially when I’d see stats lauding him for being the most fouled player!

    I agree with Nitram that the use of stats in a predictive manner in such a complex (many factors) model is very difficult and prone to anomalies, but I hope people continue to do so, even if I find most attempts over-simplistic. If I have one criticism of this site, it is the tendency to revel in the use of stats to disprove the ‘gut feeling’ (as opposed to the consensus), which all of us have, and which drives statisticians to attempt their analysis in the first place. I would prefer to have the ‘gut feeling’ analysed and refined (i.e. articulated in a more precise manner), rather than dismissed because it is easier to use a small data set for a rebuttal. It’s still my favourite Arsenal site though 🙂 If you genuinely don’t share that ‘gut feeling’, then fair enough, but I feel that sometimes the whiff of ‘consensus’ can close down an openness to the gut feeling. Don’t ask me for stats on how often that happens though 🙂