Talking Tactics

Season trends: Top five drive the glut of goals

By Adrian Clarke 2 Jun 2022
Kevin De Bruyne 3

Adrian Clarke looks at why the 2021/22 campaign had the second-most strikes in Premier League history

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Adrian Clarke identifies tactical trends from the 2021/22 Premier League season. 

Goals galore

There were 1,071 goals scored in an exciting 2021/22 Premier League season, just one shy of the record tally from 2018/19.

Both of those campaigns featured memorable title battles between Manchester City and Liverpool, who were separated by just one point on each occasion.

This season the rivals shared a remarkable 193 goals, playing a fearless brand of positive football and pushing one another all the way.

That is nine more than they combined to accumulate in 2018/19.

In comparison with the previous season, the division’s top three sides all made significant attacking improvements.

Liverpool, inspired by a formidable trio up front, found the net 26 more times than last term.

Man City's goal count rose by 16, while third-placed Chelsea ended the season with 18 extra strikes.

Considering neither City nor Chelsea had a prolific centre-forward, these are impressive numbers.

The 2021/22 campaign produced a record of 755 goals from open play.

This was great news for the returning fans, but what were the reasons?

At the bottom end of the table, three teams - Norwich City (84), Leeds United (79) and Watford (77) - conceded more than two goals per match on average.

Putting that into context, in 2020/21 West Bromwich Albion (76) were the only Premier League team to leak more than 70 goals.

Goals from the top five
Team Open-play goals   Open-play shots
Man City 68 (+4) 532 (+69)
Liverpool 68 (+21) 515 (+52)
Chelsea 56 (+20) 441 (+32)
Spurs 50 (-4) 378 (+67)
Arsenal 39 (-2) 442 (+99)

*2020/21 season comparison in brackets

Each team that finished in the top five produced a sizeable upturn in chances created from open play last season.

The quintet conjured up 319 extra efforts on goal between them, excluding set-pieces, compared with the previous campaign.

Liverpool and Chelsea produced an astonishing combined total of 41 additional goals from open play.

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur were a little more wasteful, each scoring fewer goals this way despite a large increase in the chances they created.

Goals and shots outside the box
Season Total goals   Total shots
2017/18 133 3,694
2018/19 144 3,644
2019/20 125 3,301
2020/21 122 3,333
2021/22 144 3,486

This season there was also an 18 per cent increase in goals from outside the penalty area.

Chelsea and Arsenal vastly improved this aspect of their play. Both netted just three times from 18+ yards in 2020/21, but those numbers increased to 13 and 10 this season respectively.

Thomas Tuchel’s Blues shared the goals around, with 10 different players scoring from distance.

Rudiger's stunner v Brentford

Emile Smith Rowe led the way for Arsenal with four strikes from outside the area.

Man City scored the most goals from long range (15), while Kevin De Bruyne and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse led the way individually with five strikes apiece.

Turning up the volume

Did the return of supporters play a part in this increase in goals?

When you analyse recent campaigns and include the two that were impacted by the pandemic, the statistics suggest that packed stadiums played a part in more goal-laden matches.

Goals scored per match
Season 2.5+ goals p/m 3.5+ goals p/m
2017/18 51% 29%
2018/19 54% 32%
2019/20 52% 28%
2020/21 50% 27%
2021/22 54% 33%

This season, 54 per cent of matches featured more than two goals, and a third had at least three.

Defensive players may have found it harder to communicate in noisy surroundings, compared to the relative quiet of behind-closed-doors matches.

And from a forward’s perspective, a louder atmosphere is likely to spur them on to attack more purposefully.

Inspired by the positive attitudes of the top two teams, this was a season that will remembered for its many entertaining matches filled with goals.

Also in this series

Part 2: Home wins rise with return of fans
Part 3: Corners a growing threat
Part 4: Favoured formation emerges
Part 5: Counter-attacks on the rise
Part 6: Fouls fall as pressing increases

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