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Premier League Goal Glut Silences The Critics

torres Premier League Goal Glut Silences The Critics After two successive weeks of top of the table clashes and fiercely contested derby matches, last weekends fixtures had looked about as attractive as a day trip to a pencil museum (there’s one in Keswick, believe it or not). A shock result at Wigan and 37 goals later and all of the sudden this Premier League season looks like it may just live up to the hype.

A few short years ago there were increasing concerns as to the tactics being employed in the Premier League. Certain bottom half clubs have always been defensive through necessity but it had got to a point where even title challengers like Chelsea and Liverpool were accused of a lack of attacking ambition, with pundits pointing disdainfully towards the increasing popularity of the lone striker role.

At the time they may just have had a point – as anybody who watched some of the pre-2008 clashes between the two will testify. Yet the last couple of seasons have seen a notable switch in the managerial mindset, as the delicate balance between attack and defence lurched back in the direction of the former.

Some statistics for you: in 2005-06 and 2006-07 the top six teams scored an average of 62 goals apiece. In 2007-08 and 2008-09 that total rose to 67. This season at the current rate, the figure will top 90. While it’s highly unlikely that the top six will continue to score at quite that rate, another significant increase does look to be on the cards.

So why the sudden change? At Liverpool this is their best goalscoring start to a league season in over 100 years. This could well be put down to manager Rafa Benitez who has adopted a more attacking approach, by fielding a flexible formation in which a minimum of four players are given a license to attack.

The tactic sees the majestic Fernando Torres spearhead an attacking quartet that also features the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard. The reward for this approach is there for all to see – in the last four league games, these five players have scored 15 goals between them.

Liverpool of course have been far from the only team to champion attacking football this season. Arsenal have been revelling in free flowing football for years and after a season of stagnation, Spurs are again finding their shooting boots.

In fact, throughout the Premier League there are teams looking forward and not back. Chelsea have switched to two up front; Ancelotti dismissing the myth that Anelka and Drogba can’t play together. Sunderland have signed Darren Bent, one of the most potent strikers in the country and have been rewarded with 14 goals in seven games. Burnley have shrugged off a horrendous fixture list to net five in three at Turf Moor and even second bottom Hull have hit six in seven.

Maybe it’s down to a weakening of the ‘big four’, resulting in a more balanced division, maybe it’s down to fine attackers and poor defenders or maybe it’s down to Premier League managers finally deciding to stop being so cautious and “have a go”. Whatever the reason it’s hugely entertaining.

Former Stoke manager Alan Durban once said that if you want entertainment, you should go to the circus.

For once it looks like the circus may have come to us.

After two successive weeks of top of the table clashes and fiercely contested derby matches, last weekend’s fixtures had looked about as attractive as a day trip to a pencil museum (there’s one in Keswick, believe it or not). A shock result at Wigan and 37 goals later and all of a sudden this Premier League season looks like it may just live up to the hype.

A few short years ago there were increasing concerns as to the tactics being employed in the Premier League. Certain bottom half clubs have always been defensive through necessity but it had got to a point where even title challengers like Chelsea and Liverpool were accused of a lack of attacking ambition, with pundits pointing disdainfully towards the increasing popularity of the lone striker role.

At the time they may just have had a point – as anybody who watched some of the pre-2008 clashes between the two will testify. Yet the last couple of seasons have seen a notable switch in the managerial mindset, as the delicate balance between attack and defence lurched back in the direction of the former.

Some Premier League statistics for you: in 2005-06 and 2006-07 the top six teams scored an average of 62 goals apiece. In 2007-08 and 2008-09 that total rose to 67. This season at the current rate, the figure will top 90. While it’s highly unlikely that the top six will continue to score at quite that rate, another significant increase does look to be on the cards.

So why the sudden change? At Liverpool this is their best goalscoring start to a league season in over 100 years. This could well be put down to manager Rafa Benitez who has adopted a more attacking approach, by fielding a flexible formation in which a minimum of four players are given a license to attack.

The tactic sees the majestic Fernando Torres spearhead an attacking quartet that also features the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard. The reward for this approach is there for all to see – in the last four league games, these five players have scored 15 goals between them.

Liverpool of course have been far from the only team to champion attacking football this season. Arsenal have been revelling in free flowing football for years and after a season of stagnation, Spurs are again finding their shooting boots.

In fact, throughout the Premier League, there are teams looking forward and not back. Chelsea have switched to two up front; Ancelotti dismissing the myth that Anelka and Drogba can’t play together. Sunderland have signed Darren Bent, one of the most potent strikers in the country and have been rewarded with 14 goals in seven games. Burnley have shrugged off a horrendous fixture list to net five in three at Turf Moor and even second bottom Hull have hit six in seven.

Maybe it’s down to a weakening of the ‘big four’ resulting in a more balanced division, maybe it’s down to fine attackers and poor defenders or maybe it’s down to Premier League managers finally deciding to stop being so cautious and “have a go”. Whatever the reason it’s hugely entertaining.

Former Stoke manager Alan Durban once said that if you want entertainment, you should go to the circus.

For once, it looks like the circus may have come to us.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Premier League Goal Glut Silences The Critics

  1. Jon says:

    One factor that might explain the increase in attacking football as a tactical choice for many managers, and particularly those in the top half of the table, might be the fact that Liverpool’s failed title challenge last season highlighted the value of wins over draws.

    There are two ways to look at a draw: either you’ve “salvaged” a point, which is better than losing and getting nothing, or you’ve “given away” two points, which is worse than winning all three. Lower half teams and those scrapping to avoid relegation tend to see things the former way – every point counts and a lot of draws and few wins can keep a team up. But Liverpool’s experience last season highlights how upper half teams must take the latter approach to draws.

    Liverpool lost only twice last season, yet still finished behind Manchester United because they drew too many fixtures. United came out clearly the worst in the “Big Four League” matches, but won because they were ruthless in collecting wins over lesser opposition. For all the discussion of Liverpool having already lost two fixtures this season, they are still better off than last if they win some of those draws. This is going to seem pedantic and obvious, but two wins and two losses from four games is six points. Four straight draws in those same fixtures is only four.

    As a result, I think more managers are willing to risk a loss going for a win than in previous years. Even the clubs fighting relegation can see the value of a win rather than playing for salvaged points – Hull last season stayed up despite a horrendous last half of the season, because of the points off of early wins.

    I don’t think any of this is new, except that Hull and Liverpool last year have made it all the more clear to managers and owners alike that attacking to win is actually a better (or at least viable) strategy compared to defending not to lose.

  2. vinnie says:

    well analysed, josh and jon!

    i saw this coming from a season or two ago. one match that really struck me was west brom relentlessly attacking liverpool at anfield even though the were the clear underdogs, until they were succumbed by robbie keane’s brace.

    i think the negative football was widely used a few years back to counter the special one’s best midfield in england. Head-to-head, no one could match chelsea’s midfield, so what they would do was parked the goalmouth with 10 players and once dispossessing the opponent, completely by-pass the midfield with long-balls. this was obvious too when liverpool’s mascherano-alonso-gerrard-kuyt-benayoun midfield was too strong for some team and they chose to defend. however, it payed of with very disciplined defending ie. stoke city

    all in all, the trend is definitely changing as like you guys mentioned, 1 lucky win might be easier to achieve than 3 hard-fought draws

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