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Talking Tactics

Tactical review: Goal fever in most prolific campaign

Adrian Clarke 27 May 2019
Man City celebrate scoring a goal

Conversion rates and shooting stats were at a record high in 2018/19 as Adrian Clarke assesses why goals are flying in

Adrian Clarke takes a look at the tactical trends of the 2018/19 Premier League.

A record-breaking season

Manchester City and Liverpool produced a thrilling title race in which they shared an incredible 195 points but that combined tally for the top two was not the only record smashed in 2018/19.

It was a campaign that also featured the most away wins for top-flight sides in history.

Visiting teams claimed 128 victories in 380 matches, a remarkable share of 33.7 per cent.

Draws were a rarity.

Never before in the Premier League era had there been as few as the 71 draws we witnessed this season. The points were shared in a mere 18.7 per cent of all matches.

This was the smallest proportion at the highest level of English football since 1931.

Goals galore

One of the most pleasing aspects of 2018/19 was the amount of goals scored.

Over the course of the campaign the ball hit the back of the net 1,072 times, breaking the previous record of 1,066 set in 2011/12.

While some may question the quality of the defending, I prefer to look at the standards set by the attacking players and in that regard we saw top-class football.

Across the last 15 seasons this was the best for accurate shooting and finishing prowess.

Inside the final third the quality was exceptionally high.

Attacking in 2018/19
  Total PL season rank
Goals 1,072 1
Conversion rate 11.13% 1
Shot accuracy 47.03% 1
Mid-table progress

One major reason behind the upturn in goals was the progress made by clubs finishing in mid-table.

These teams performed with more attacking freedom and often used two strikers. Their adventurous tactics were rewarded.

Indeed, Leicester City were the only club to finish between eighth and 14th whose goal tally fell from the previous season.

Overall there was an aggregate improvement of 35 goals shared between the other six teams in these positions.

Of those, West Ham United, Watford, Crystal Palace and AFC Bournemouth all operated with twin forwards on a number of occasions and that attacking ambition paid off in results as well as goals.

Clubs who finished between seventh and 14th place won an extra 20 matches compared with teams who occupied those spots in the previous season, collecting an additional 39 extra points.

Teams placed 8th to 14th in 2018/19
Club Goals Difference to 2017/18
Everton 54 +10
Leicester 51 -5
West Ham 52 +4
Watford 52 +8
Crystal Palace 51 +6
Newcastle 42 +3
AFC Bournemouth 56 +11
Headers on the rise

Target-man centre-forwards are also back in demand.

The likes of Glenn Murray (13 goals), Ashley Barnes (12), Aleksandar Mitrovic and Salomon Rondon (both 11) all enjoyed strong campaigns.

And with two-man strikeforces regaining popularity with managers, it altered the complexion of the way Premier League teams created chances.

During 2018/19 headed efforts rose from 1,347 to 1,514, reaching a tally that has not been bettered since 2011/12.

You have to go back to 2010/11 to find a season that produced more headed goals than the 185 of this term.

This was a campaign that reminded us of the value of having a physical presence inside the danger zone.

Also in this series

Part 1: Tactical review: Strike pairings back in fashion
Part 2: Tactical review: Full-backs taking over from wingers 
Part 3: Tactical review: Defenders the new pass masters
Part 4: Tactical review: Fouls dropping but penalties rising

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