2012 – Most Premier League goals in a calendar year

by Richard Foulder

Monday, December 31st, 2012

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 7-3 at the Emirates, 4-3 at Carrow Road, 3-3 at the Britannia, we were treated to a goal-fest on the final weekend of 2012. The goals from the final round of fixtures took the total of Premier League goals in 2012 to 1053, the most ever in a calendar year in Premier League history. So far this season there have been 567 goals in the Premier League, which works out at 2.86 goals per game. Should the goals continue to go in at the same rate during the second half of the season, the goals per game ratio will be the highest in the top division since 1965/66. These stats and scorelines do not point to a freak season, but the latest upward curve in the trend of an increase in goals in the top flight over the last few seasons. So why are more goals being scored in the Premier League now than in previous seasons? I’ll try to offer a few factors I see as contributing;


Top-class forwards, Alright defenders

If I was asked to name some top-class attacking players in the Premier League today I could lazily list Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and probably a few more decent ones. If I was asked to name top-class centre-backs in the Premier League however, I would be struggling. How many current centre-backs in their current form would be classed as one of the best ever to grace the Premier League? How many could be mentioned in the same bracket as Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Sami Hyypia, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho when they were at their peak. Vidic never seems to be fit these days and even though Ferdinand can still manage at the top-level, he is past his best. Thomas Vermaelen looked the part when he first joined Arsenal but like Vidic, his form is suffering with injuries. Liverpool’s pair of Agger and Skrtel are good players but would never be described as world-class centre-backs. Man City tried to sign Agger in the summer and when they failed they turned to Nastasić – a 19-year-old who’d had one season at Fiorentina – and traded in Stefan Savić. The richest club in the world has turned to signing young defenders on potential for two consecutive summers due to there being no established centre-backs of premium quality to buy. City’s Vincent Kompany is probably as good as there is in the Premier League at the moment and even he has had his critics this season. A lack of top-class defenders is a global phenomenon but is prevalent in our own country. When he was England manager Sven-Göran Erikssoncould choose from Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, John Terry, Ledley King, Jamie Carragher, Jonathan Woodgate and Wes Brown. It’s hard to name any current English centre-back who would definitely be preferred to any of these on current form, Gary Cahill perhaps.


Playing Conditions

There has been an undoubted improvement in the quality of the pitches, boots, balls and other equipment which is all conducive to incisive attacking play. Quite simply, the worse the playing conditions are, the harder it is to score. Referees are also more protective of attacking players and don’t allow defenders to fly into tackles the way they used to. As a result of this forwards are more at liberty and cannot simply be continually hacked down.


The Barcelona effect

Barcelona are universally revered for playing football the way it should be played. As good as Puyol and Pique have been Barcelona are not known for their defensive qualities at all, the main reason they seldom concede is that the opposition never get the ball. With Barcelona and their style influencing the football world, the art of defending will not be focused upon on the training ground. I would imagine even a kid wanting to be a defender would admire David Luiz and his forward runs rather than wanting to be able to defend in the John Terry mold.


Rule Changes

It makes commercial sense to incentivise attacking football as it is more entertaining. This being the case the rules have changed to push teams towards scoring more. The changes on the back-pass law and changes on the offside rule have made defending harder. 3 points for a win also makes teams more adventurous. The evolution of the position of the full-back has shown the shift in focus on attacking play.


The record for the fewest goals conceded in a season was set by Chelsea in 2004/05 when they only let in 15. Stoke currently have the best defence so far this season and have conceded 17. I see Chelsea’s record standing for a very long time.

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