By Tony Attwood
Arsenal were ninth in the goalscoring table last season, which doesn’t sound that good – although maybe what you would expect that since we finished the league season in eighth place.
But it perhaps is also slightly less ungood than you might imagine when you note that we only scored three fewer goals than Chelsea – who got the “fourth is not a trophy” slot.
However 55 goals in a league campaign is not what we expect from Arsenal. The only times we have scored fewer goals in the Premier League were in the four Premier League season BW (Before Wenger). Here are those pre-Wengerian seasons, and at the foot of the table this past season. The interesting column (goals scored – “F”) is in bold.
Of course you will notice that in the top three seasons in the list above (the first three of the Premier League, in fact) there were four more games each season than now. (In 1994/5 four teams were relegated and just two promoted from the Championship to reduce the number of games a season).
And yet we managed more goals this past season in 38 matches, than we did in those 42 match seasons with Ian Wright at the top of his game. So this goalscoring lark is not as directly related to success in the league as we might imagine. Indeed in two of those Ian Wright seasons, we also finished 10th and 12th in two of those campaigns, which is a bit demoralising.
But this does show that although having a top goal scorer in the squad is always fun, by itself it is not a guarantee of success. There is no direct relation between the number of goals we get as a club and the number of goals our top goal scorer gets. Indeed just consider the last four seasons:
|Season||P||W||D||L||Goals scored||Top scorer||Top scorer’s goals||Top man’s percentage of all goals|
The joy of having a 30 a season man in the side is that there is always the feeling that a goal can come at any time. But there is also the danger that if the 30-a-season man is injured, then a sense of panic may be introduced by the media, who ask, in their simplistic way, “where will the goals come from?”
It is the type of media headline that is loved by journalists and copy editors because it creates a simple panic-laden appeal without any need for research beyond looking at the league table.
And this approach sounds as if it ought to be true: take out your 30 a season man and “the worry is where the goals will come from”. But as can be seen above, Arsenal moved from a 29 goal top scorer to a 17 goal top scorer but only reduced the goal-scoring by one goal. In short a 30 goal a season man is not a panacea.
Now let’s try another perspective – that of the Premier League Champions last season. Manchester City scored 83 goals last season and their top goal scorer was lkay Gündogan with… 13, the same as Lacazette.
And how about this: two of the ten most prolific scorers in the Premier League last season are now in Arsenal’s squad for the new season. That’s not something you’ll read about much in the media – if at all.
We find this statistic by looking at the top ten of strikers in terms of goals per minute on the pitch and it does make interesting reading…
- Gareth Bale (Tottenham) – one goal every 99 minutes
- Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) – one goal every 113 minutes
- Diogo Jota (Liverpool) – one goal every 123 minutes
- Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – one goal every 136 minutes
- Harry Kane (Tottenham) – one goal every 136 minutes
- Edinson Cavani (Manchester United) – one goal every 136 minutes
- Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) – one goal every 146 minutes
- Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) – one goal every 148 minutes
- Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) – one goal every 156 minutes
- Joe Willock (Newcastle on loan from Arsenal) – one goal every 160 minutes
Of course we’re not the only team with two of the most prolific scorers in the top ten: Liverpool have two, Tottenham have two, Manchester United have two. And this is the trend – moving away from the one man knocking in all the goals, to a combination of players.
And here’s something else that might cheer you up if you are worried about our goal scoring.
|4||West Ham United||24||13||5||6||41||28||13||44|
That is the league table for the last two thirds of last season. The period after Arsenal got their defence sorted out. By not getting astronomical numbers of yellow cards, we were also able to play smooth attacking football at the same time.
In those 24 games we scored 43 goals – the second highest in the league for that last two thirds of the season, equal to Manchester United and Tottenham. In fact we also had a defensive record equal to Man U during that period. It is equivalent to 74 goals a season which is what Man U got through the whole season, in 2020/21. So we were operating at a top-four level, which is obviously the first target.
Looking at current situation, the team with the concerns must be Tottenham who had the issue of a single striker who got most of their goals – (the now absent Mr Kane with 34%)
Manchester City were at the other end of the scale. They had two players in double figures: Stirling on 10 and Gündoğan on 13. Yet they still knocked in 83 goals as a team.
The point is, having one player who knocks in endless goals can be dodgy if he gets injured, or the opposition or referees rumble a ploy being used (as with Vardy in the early part of last season where he was endlessly getting penalties. When that tactic was publicised, suddenly the refs were alert, and the number declined.)
We could well be travelling in the right direction.
- How tackling is changing in the PL and how it is affecting clubs’ position in the league
- Making up statistics about Arsenal is ok… until someone bothers to check.
- New fouls and yellow card data suggest refs are reacting to club ploys.
- Arsenal keeper to be replaced by 8 year old who’s never played football
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate