Why 2023/24 has already beaten RECORD goals total

By Alex Keble 25 Apr 2024
Harry Maguire

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Alex Keble looks at the stats to show why 2023/24 is already the highest-scoring campaign in a 20-team Premier League season.

Goal record in sight

This might just be the single most entertaining season in Premier League history.

A first three-way title race in 10 years; battles for every European place likely to go to the final day; and a relegation fight with twists and turns to come. It’s a season that keeps on giving.

But topping all of that has been the sheer number of goals, and the pervasive sense that every Premier League Matchweek brings high-scoring drama up and down the division.

Indeed, the record has already been broken for goals in a 20-team Premier League season.

The record of 1,084 was set only last year, and on Wednesday night Harry Maguire's equaliser against Sheffield United took this season's tally to 1,085.

A further SEVEN goals followed on Wednesday night as the total increased to 1,092 with 45 matches still to play.

Total goals by season since 2014/15
Season Matches Goals Goals / match
2014/15 380 975 2.57
2015/16 380 1026 2.70
2016/17 380 1064 2.80
2017/18 380 1018 2.68
2018/19 380 1072 2.82
2019/20 380 1034 2.72
2020/21 380 1024 2.69
2021/22 380 1071 2.82
2022/23 380 1084 2.85
2023/24 335 1092 3.26

*All data that follows correct ahead of 24 April matches

At the current goalscoring rate of 3.26 per match – which smashes the three-goals-per-game barrier – there will be 1,239 goals by the end of the campaign, breaking the previous record by a whopping 155 goals.

But what has caused such a dramatic rise? Are goalscorers better than they used to be, is more additional time giving us more goals, or is there a tactical factor at play? We looked at the data to find out.

Increase in added time has produced more goals

New directives from the beginning of the season have seen referees dramatically increase the amount of added time at the end of each half.

They have stuck to their guns, and the impact has been huge.

Average stoppage time since 2014/15
Season Average stoppage time
2014/15 6min 36sec
2015/16 6min 32sec
2016/17 6min 13sec
2017/18 6min 24sec
2018/19 6min 40sec
2019/20 7min 32sec
2020/21 6min 34sec
2021/22 7min 29sec
2022/23 8min 27sec
2023/24 11min 39sec

The average match is three minutes and 13 seconds longer than in 2022/23.

By the end of the season, that means an extra 1,222 minutes of football, the equivalent of 13.58 extra matches.

It has directly led to an increase in goals. There have been 138 goals in added time this year, which is a 35 per cent increase on the old record of 102 goals set in 2016/17.

What’s more, a new high of 12.8 per cent of all goals have been scored in stoppage time.

Stoppage-time goals since 2014/15
Season Stoppage-time goals % of total goals
2014/15 65 6.7%
2015/16 85 8.3%
2016/17 102 9.6%
2017/18 75 7.4%
2018/19 94 8.8%
2019/20 84 8.1%
2020/21 75 7.3%
2021/22 94 8.8%
2022/23 84 7.7%
2023/24 138 12.8%

More time equals more goals. That’s simple enough.

But as legs tire in the second half, and as the tension rises when that board goes up, teams are actually more likely to score and concede in added time compared with regulation time.

In 2023/24, added time accounts for 11.4 per cent of the match total, and yet 12.8 per cent of goals have been scored within those periods.

At the current rate, by the end of the season, there will have been 159 added-time goals in 2023/24: 75 more than last season.

Added time doesn’t explain it all – and neither do penalties

But this alone doesn’t account for a bumper year. This season we are seeing 2.84 regulation-time goals per match compared with 2.63 last year.

To make the point even clearer, if you take away all 138 injury-time goals scored this season the goals-per-game average would come down to 2.84, which across a full season (380 matches) would see 2023/24 end on 1080 goals, just four goals short of last year’s record.

So, what other changes might account for the goal glut?

A common theory is penalties, which, with the advent of the stuttered run-up, certainly don’t feel like lotteries anymore.

The data backs this up.

Penalties/conversion rate since 2014/15
Season Penalties Pen/match Penalty goals Penalty success rate
2014/15 83 0.22 63 75.9%
2015/16 91 0.24 74 81.3%
2016/17 106 0.28 81 76.4%
2017/18 80 0.22 56 70.0%
2018/19 103 0.27 84 81.6%
2019/20 92 0.24 72 78.3%
2020/21 125 0.33 102 81.6%
2021/22 103 0.27 84 81.6%
2022/23 99 0.26 74 74.7%
2023/24 93 0.28 84 90.3%

This year’s penalty conversion rate of 90.3 per cent is the highest of all time, and yet – with penalties being awarded at a consistent rate, despite the impression VAR interventions leaves – the number of penalty goals in 2023/24 (84) isn’t especially high.

At this rate there will be 97 penalties scored this season. That’s a 23-goal increase on last year, which, when added to the extra 75 additional goals from stoppage time, accounts for 98 of the projected 155 goals by which the 2022/23 record will be broken.

In other words, there are still 57 goals to account for.

Tactical fashion has led to more attacking football

The most difficult factor to quantify, but arguably the most important, is the tactical shift that has happened in the Premier League over recent years.

The goals per game ratio has steadily increased over the last four seasons, coinciding with a move towards fast transitions; risky passing out from the back under the opposition high pressure; and direct counter-attacking football across the league.

Average goals per match since 2020/21
Season Matches Goals Goals / match
2020/21 380 1,024 2.69
2021/22 380 1,071 2.82
2022/23 380 1,084 2.85
2023/24 331 1,081 3.27

Two strong measures of this tactical trend are ‘high turnovers’ and ‘fast breaks’, and on both counts we are seeing record highs, as teams increasingly press from the front and counter-attack at speed.

High turnovers/fast breaks since 2014/15
Season High turnovers/match Total fast breaks
2014/15 11.2 512
2015/16 12.3 171
2016/17 11.9 185
2017/18 12.5 240
2018/19 13.2 389
2019/20 13.8 462
2020/21 14.3 345
2021/22 15.7 404
2022/23 16.0 451
2023/24 16.7 507

Plus teams are wedded to their style, which surely helps.

Tottenham Hotspur, for example, only know one way to play, which can lead to chaos or glory. They have won three matches and lost the same amount by a three-goal score line this season and have been involved in 15 matches with four or more goals.

Then there’s the increase in progressive, attack-minded, and high-pressing managers being employed in the bottom half of the table.

Entertainment is increasingly prioritised over the old fire-fighter approach, thanks in no small part to the Premier League’s increased pulling power, which sees exciting young coaches plucked from big clubs across Europe.

Take AFC Bournemouth, who swapped out Gary O’Neil for Andoni Iraola last summer, a major coup at the time.

Iraola's team’s matches have already hit 108 goals in the Premier League this season (37F, 71A), the exact same tally as the whole of 2022/23 (48F, 60F).

And what about Crystal Palace, who persuaded Oliver Glasner, a UEFA Champions League manager at Eintracht Frankfurt, to join them in February.

Since his arrival, there have been 28 goals in nine league matches (3.11 per game), up significantly from 70 goals in 24 fixtures this season under Roy Hodgson (2.91 per game).

Michael Olise

“Every team across this league now thinks about how they can keep possession, win games, score goals,” Gary Neville said recently on The Gary Neville Podcast.

“They're always thinking proactively, that wasn't the case 10 to 15 years ago and it shows how much the game has adapted.

“And we're so much better for it, because it's exciting. Yes, you get the odd 0-0 like you saw in the Liverpool vs Man Utd game a couple of weeks ago but more often than not, the games have chances, goals and the players are going for it.”

Players and teams keep getting better – and that means more records to come

The final factor to consider is a simpler one: players are faster, stronger, and more technically proficient all the time.

Goalscoring data suggests forwards may be better at shooting than they used to be, although the increases here could again be accounted for by tactical changes.

Shooting accuracy/conversion rate since 2014/15
Season Big chances Shooting accuracy* Shot conversion rate**
2014/15 1,200 44.75% 9.87%
2015/16 1,262 45.56% 10.49%
2016/17 1,175 46.34% 10.93%
2017/18 1,336 47.03% 10.95%
2018/19 1,525 47.03% 11.13%
2019/20 1,504 47.82% 11.00%
2020/21 1,417 48.87% 11.14%
2021/22 1,417 48.07% 10.99%
2022/23 1,575 48.52% 11.28%
2023/24 1,582 49.78% 11.94%

*excluding blocks; **including blocks

The shot conversion rate (11.94 per cent), shooting accuracy (49.78 per cent), and the total of big chances (1,582) are all at record highs this season, which mean either players are getting better at creating and finishing (thanks to elite-level coaching), or tactical fashion is producing higher-quality chances, or both.

Whatever the reason, the Premier League is likely to remain on an upward trajectory for some time.

There is a slight risk of tactical trends bouncing back the other way (Arsenal and Manchester City are increasingly using four centre-backs to control the wildness), but the managerial merry-go-round suggests otherwise.

Roberto De Zerbi is supposedly in high demand. Ruben Amorim’s name keeps coming up for top jobs, as does Paulo Fonseca’s and Arne Slot’s.

Burnley, Palace, Bournemouth, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham – that’s half of the bottom half – have already employed progressive managers.

That should eliminate any doubt about where we are heading.

The Premier League is more entertaining, dramatic, and high-scoring than ever before - and it’s only going to get better.

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