Top 10 Premier League Best Goals Of All Time: What Do They All Have In Common?

Watching the collection of the top 10 best goals scored in the Premier League, they’re a sight to see. Wonderful skills. Beautiful precision. Everything from Tony Yeboah’s screamer for Leeds United against Liverpool to Paulo Di Canio’s incredible scissor kick for West Ham United against Wimbledon, and many more.

But one thing I noticed while watching these, and also thinking about Gareth Bale’s wonderful goal earlier this month for Tottenham against Stoke City, is that all of the goals have one thing in common. Watch the video again and you’ll see that all of them feature the ball rising in an upward trajectory rather than a shot that skims across the grass. Except for two of the goals, though. The goals by Dennis Bergkamp and Matt Le Tissier were scored with the ball bobbling into the net across the grass. The reason both of those goals were included in the top 10 best was not because of the way the ball went into the net but because what the players did immediately before the goal, by flicking the ball over or around players and then knocking the ball into the goal.

My question is this: What is it about goals that are considered the best where the ball goes into the net via an upward trajectory? What’s wrong with goals that are hit low to the ground that find their way into the net?

For example, take Paul Scholes’s low driven shot for United against Fulham last week. It was a shot of beauty. Lots of precision, but it’s unlikely to appear on the best goals of the season for 2010-11. However, if Scholes had taken that shot again and leaned back when he hit it so the ball would float into the top corner of the net instead of the bottom, soccer fans worldwide would be drooling and it would assuredly be a contender for at least goal of the month, if not goal of the season.

If you’ve played soccer before, you’ll know that it’s often harder to keep the shot low to the ground by leaning over the ball when you strike it. The natural inclination is to just hit it or, to lean back, which is why so many balls float over the goal and into the back row of stadiums.

What is it about goals that are scored with the ball striking the upper part of the net that make them look so much more beautiful? And what is it about shots that are hit low and close to the ground that make them look so ordinary?

I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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13 Responses to Top 10 Premier League Best Goals Of All Time: What Do They All Have In Common?

  1. Terry says:

    That’s exactly why I never pay attention to ‘goal of the season’ or anything like that, because it’s as if all the pundits turn into little boys who get impressed because it looks good. To me, the ‘best ever goals’ should take into account the circumstances, a team has lost 5 on the trot and are in danger of going down, except for a 92nd minute equaliser thats scrambled across the line..that to me, has more emotion, and more passion behind it, than a 30 yard screamer..

  2. s cole says:

    you missed best one ever yeboahs goal against wimbledon week after liverpool goal better than all those

  3. Will says:

    Great video, Gaffer. I think the answer is power. When somebody hits a ball that’s in the air and knocks it in, it looks more powerful. Those dribbling rollers look anemic. Hard to get excited about them. Unless, as you point out, there were some amazing moves just prior.

    Distance from the goal is also a factor for “amazing goals” and with distance the ball almost has to be high in the net. And one-touch goals are rightly judged to be more amazing. Crosses into the box are more likely to be in the air and therefore one-touch goals are more likely to be in the air too. I’m thinking the high in the net thing is incidental. Walcott’s goal yesterday was low in the net, for instance, but everyone loves its power.

  4. Brian says:

    Personally I have always loved Stevie G’s goal in the FA Cup final in 05….that took so much skill to keep it low like that.

  5. Dave C says:

    I think it’s because, rightly or wrongly, people assume the further the distance of the strike, the better the goal. And to score a goal from distance, you pretty much HAVE to hit it off the ground (otherwise the friction with the ground takes too much speed off the ball).

    Personally I think the build-up to the goal (i.e. passing and movement) should count for more than simply the distance of the strike.

  6. Guitarearl says:

    People are fascinated by aerodynamics. The ball never reacts unpredictably when struck low to the ground, unless the pitch is inconsistent. But in the air, the nuances that cause a ball to knuckle, to dip, to curve, or to sail, create excitement. When an experienced and skilled player can predict, harness, and execute a strike with the proper spin, trajectory, pace, and placement to enter the goal in a place no goalkeeper can protect, it equals magic.

    I think for those reasons, people usually see an airborne goal as more dazzling. It’s not to say the balls along the pitch aren’t impressive, it’s just you tend to see a dozen of them a week; the mid-air, one-time volley is more spectacular. Remember your goal of the week from Week 1? The Wolverhampton free kick that was a mid-air volley. There was also the Giggs beauty against Newcastle Utd.

  7. People love seeing quality strikes at goal. The End.

  8. Sir Guy says:

    Guitarearl pretty much says it all for me. I think it’s the volley aspect more than where the ball winds up. If, it’s a volley then it had to be picked out of the air. Much more difficult and impressive than striking something on the ground.

    Nonetheless, Bergkamp’s goal is my favorite. I don’t know how you even begin to conceptualize that while running down the pitch, let alone actually pull it off.

  9. Footy Monkey says:

    Hard powerful shots look the most dramatic, especially when hit high through the air. It’s a difficult skill to hit a high powered daisy cutter, but the odd player such as Scholes and Gerrard, already mentioned in another comment have mastered it.

    On the other side of the coin, one of the goals that is frequently cited as the best ever was a low shot, Carlos Alberta for Brazil in the world cup:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HrjevD2vhk

  10. RVPFan says:

    A skill like Dennis Bergkamp’s have never been done before and I would wonder if it will ever be in the future. I am always fascinated by how much people love the thunderbolt’s from 30 yards or volleys from long range, even I do, but as a soccer fanatic and a player myself, you cannot tell me that Bergkamp’s majestic skill is not in at least top 2. That goal defies believe, so is this guy’s world cup goal in 98′ or his several other incredible goals for Arsenal. But that goal against Newcastle, and I watched it live at that time, mind you, gives me chills as to the amount of brain and skill required to make a goal like that. Not everyone in the world can think of doing a pool-geometry on the field of play, let alone make it happen. In our game, amounts of critics that say well what is good in football, 11 players running after the ball, I will always show them Bergkamp’s goal.

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