By Tony Attwood
Top scorers are widely and hugely celebrated in English football, and never more so than in the case of Erling Haaland who has scored 17 league goals – an astonishing total. Behind him in the charts at the moment comes Harry Kane with ten, Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham with nine, and Ivan Toney of Brentford with eight.
So there are no Arsenal players in the top scorers’ list. But is that a bad thing?
Arsenal’s top league scorer – or actually top scorers – come in at number 12 in the table of league goals with five each: Jesus and Martinelli. And it is interesting that only two clubs (Manchester City and Arsenal) have two goalscorers in the top 12. Interesting because those two clubs are the top scorers in the league this season.
Of course, no club would turn down the chance of having Haaland in their team, but having one brilliant scorer can be a problem if he gets injured, taken ill, or loses his form.
Obviously, Manchester City with their almost unlimited resources have other players ready to jump in (although it is noticeable that across their last five games in the Premier and Champions Leagues they have only scored four goals – and two of those were from Haaland.
The alternative approach to goalscoring is to have lots of goalscorers and the benefit of this is twofold. One is that the opposition loses the option of putting two players on the top man (although in the case of Haaland that doesn’t seem to work anyway) and for the attacking team, the loss of one man does not totally reduce the team’s goalscoring capacity.
In terms of goalscoring this season the top six scoring clubs are…
And quite clearly the top four in goalscoring are also the top four in the league at the moment. Liverpool’s position in the table above is of course greatly enhanced by one atypical match – a 9-0 win over Bournemouth. And it is amazing that with that single game included they are still only fifth in the league by goalscoring and ninth in the league on points.
Where the big difference between clubs comes is in league goals and the scorers. Arsenal have four players with four or more goals this season in the Premier League – and that is with just on one-third of the season gone.
Manchester City have two such players, Tottenham have one, Newcastle have two, Manchester United have one, Chelsea have none.
And to be quite clear I’m only counting goals scored in league matches this season.
Now my argument would be that although having one player like Kane who has scored ten goals this season in the league, or indeed two such players like Haaland (17 goals) and Foden (six goals), is obviously good, the more players that can and do score goals the better.
Tottenham, for example, as we have noted, have scored 26 league goals, and ten of them have come from Kane. Take him out of the team and a lot of pressure is put on Son and Hojbjerg.
Of course, it is not impossible for a player to step up and shine when needed, but overall it must be better to have multiple players scoring, and not just to cover for injuries but also for loss of form. Obviously, it doesn’t look like Haaland or Kane are going to lose form any time soon, but even so, injuries can and do come along.
There is also the point about the decline in a player’s output and how the club can work around that. Kane at Tottenham for example, scored 30+ goals in the league each season for four seasons from 2014/15 onward. In the four subsequently completed seasons he has not managed it once. Maybe this season, having scored 10 in the first third of the season he will manage it. but that is still putting all the pressure on one player.
And there is one other point. As the defenders prepare to play Arsenal it cannot be clear to them which player is the main goalscoring threat. Who is likely to score next in a Premier League match? Do you mark Martinelli AND Jesus AND Saka (when he returns fit) and Odegaard?
Jesus and Martinelli have each got five in the league this season, so they need to be watched. But Odegaard and Saka have each got four. Even Xhaka has got three. And these goals have come, I would stress, just in league games.
Of course watching Henry, Wright, van Persie, Bergkamp etc was wonderful, but each eventually went and was hard to replace as a goalscorer (and of course in Bergkamp’s case a goal creator too).
So there is something to be said for sharing the goals around, and this season as the second highest-scoring team in the league even more so than normal.