The English Premier League (EPL) has seen a flurry of goals in the last three days, with a whopping 24 goals in five games. Tottenham-Manchester City ended 3-3 and Liverpool beat Fulham 4-3. Chelsea-Brighton ended in a 3-2 win for the Blues, while Bournemouth and Aston Villa played to a 2-2 draw. The five games alone produced 4.8 goals per game.
The 2023-2024 season of the EPL is seeing the most goals ever. There have been 3.16 goals per game in the league this season. This is the highest since the inception of the EPL. The previous high was 2.85 goals last season. On April 4, The Athletic published an article titled “Is too many goals a good thing?” that analyzed why the Premier League is producing so many goals.
According to the article, there are many reasons for the high number of goals, one of which is aggressive tactics. “From goal kicks, to pressing the opposition and trying to break the pressure with short passes, teams are playing with more risk in possession,” the Athletic explained, “and risk means more goal chances.”
As the game has become more aggressive, there has also been a significant increase in sending offs. There have been 31 red cards in 140 games this season. Last season, there were 30 in all 380 games. Sending offs upset the balance of the game as much as goals. The Athletic’s interpretation is that “managers are adapting to a more aggressive style of play, which is leading to more goals.”
Another reason is the increase in possession. Analyzing the 10 first-round EPL games this season, the first half totaled 48 minutes and the second 67 minutes. On a per-game basis, that’s 4.8 minutes in the first half and 6.7 minutes in the second half. This is a nearly 50% increase from the previous 2022-2023 season.
The power differential between clubs is also analyzed to be larger than before. One measure of power is the goal difference between the league champion and the bottom 20. “The average point differential between first and 20th place in the last three seasons is 66 points, compared to an average of 58 points over the last 10 years,” The Athletic said. The EPL commissioner’s office distributes broadcasting rights revenues half equally to all clubs and half on a sliding scale based on performance, attendance, and more. As a result, the difference in broadcasting rights income between EPL teams is relatively small compared to other leagues. However, as the EPL has become increasingly internationalized with capital from Southwest Asia and the United States, both established and emerging clubs are spending large sums of money to sign top players. This has led to a lot of goals and a small margin of victory.
Are these showers of goals good for the league? Goals are the flower of soccer. The more goals you can get to a certain line, the more entertaining and narrative the game becomes. At the same time, tight defenses, tight formations, and exciting 0-0 draws are undeniably part of the game. The Athletic suggests that “managers may go further by tightening up their defenses to adapt to attacking tactics,” so let’s just enjoy the showers of goals for now.
Meanwhile, the most prolific league in Europe’s top five this season is the German Bundesliga, with 3.41 goals per game. This is followed by the EPL (3.16), Spain’s La Liga (2.76), Italy’s Serie A (2.59), and France’s Ligue 1 (2.53).