Talking Tactics

Season trends: Clinical finishing key to record goals total

By Adrian Clarke 27 May 2024
Mateta, Crystal Palace

Adrian Clarke explains why 2023/24 saw a record number of goals scored in a Premier League season

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical trends across the 2023/24 season.

The 2023/24 campaign rewrote the Premier League’s record books, with last season’s all-time high surpassed by a remarkable 162 extra goals, with the final total standing at 1,246.

Never had the division’s match average exceeded the 2.85 goals per game which was set a year ago, but thanks to a wonderful array of attacking, entertaining football, we witnessed an astonishing 3.28 goals per match this time around.

Improved finishing

The implementation of new rules that led to more added time undoubtedly played a part in this stunning rise, but the players themselves also deserve credit for raising standards.

Since records began in 2003/04, shot conversion rates (including blocks) have averaged 10.30 per cent.

This season saw a record high for players converting their shots into goals, with 11.88 per cent of efforts finding the back of the net.

The technical excellence of modern-day players is more outstanding than ever, and it has played a role in the influx of additional goals.

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United were the best top-flight side for shot conversion, with top-four gate crashers Aston Villa just behind them.

Crystal Palace striker Jean-Philippe Mateta was the forward who showed the greatest clinical edge.

Top teams/players for conversion rates*
Teams Rate Players** Rate
Newcastle 15.43% Jean-Philippe Mateta 34.78%
Aston Villa 14.76% Elijah Adebayo 32.26%
Chelsea 14.03% Chris Wood 29.17%
Arsenal 13.85% Alexander Isak 26.92%
Man City 13.85% Hwang Hee-chan 26.67%

*Including blocks; **Min. 10 goals

Hitting the target

Another stat that cannot be influenced by additional time is shot accuracy, and this also reached record levels.

Over two decades 45.10 per cent of Premier League shots have found the target, but courtesy of excellent forward play across 2023/24, this season’s mean was 49.96 per cent.

In 12 months’ time we could see 50 per cent breached for the very first time, as players become increasingly less wasteful.

Shooting accuracy top five seasons 
Seasons Shot accuracy
2003/04 43.30%
2008/09 41.70%
2013/14 44.40%
2018/19 47.00%
2023/24 49.90%

Unsurprisingly it was the champions, Manchester City, who were most consistent at hitting their shots on target.

They registered 57.32 per cent shot accuracy, a figure which was almost four per cent higher than the Magpies, who were second on 53.52 per cent.

 

Top 10 teams shooting accuracy
Team Shooting acc. (ex. blocks) Team Shooting acc. (ex. blocks)
MCI 57.32% CRY 52.00%
NEW 53.52% ARS 51.94%
CHE 52.96% AVL 51.34%
BHA 52.79% MUN 51.33%
TOT 52.06% WOL 50.31%

 

English forwards shine

English players scored 369 goals, the highest aggregate since 2002.

It was a fantastic campaign for many of Gareth Southgate’s talented young marksmen, with six of the top 10 goalscorers representing the host country.

Cole Palmer led the way with 22 goals, closely followed by Phil Foden, Ollie Watkins and Dominic Solanke, on 19 each.

Wide forwards Jarrod Bowen and Bukayo Saka also registered 16 goals apiece.

2023/24 Premier League top scorers
Player Goals Player Goals
Haaland 27 Solanke 19
Palmer 22 Salah 18
Isak 21 Son 17
Foden 19 Saka 16
Watkins 19 Bowen 16
Late goals almost double

Longer stoppage-time periods allowed the ball to be in play for a greater length of time, and this brought about an incredible number of dramatic late goals.

In 2022/23 only 61 goals were scored beyond the 90th minute, but this season that figure shot up to 112.

That represented a nine per cent share of all goals scored.

The closest we had previously come to this was 8.1 per cent in 2007/08, when 81 goals were scored in added time.

Title-chasing Liverpool and Arsenal led the way with the highest number of late strikes.

Most 90+ minute goals 2023/24
Clubs 90+ minute goals
Liverpool 11
Arsenal 10
Chelsea 9
Newcastle 8
Spurs 7
More passes, but also more shots

Across the previous six campaigns we saw records tumble in the distribution department, with top-flight teams keeping the ball better than ever.

Pass accuracy and the total number of passes were extraordinarily high, consistently exceeding 78 per cent and 900 per game respectively for the first time in history.

Frustratingly this did impact the number of efforts on goal in Premier League games.

Shots per game averaged only 24.90 between 2017 and 2023; a drop-off from the previous 10-year average of 27.40, as teams focused more on possession than penetration.

This time around we witnessed best-ever stats for passing and a major rise in shooting statistics.

For the first time in 10 seasons, Premier League matches averaged at least 27.60 shots per game, while we concurrently saw the second-highest tally of passes in a campaign and the best-ever accuracy rate of 82.87 per cent.

Passing and shooting statistics 2023/24
2023/24 Total Rank*
Passes/90 941 2nd
Pass accuracy 82.87% 1st
Shots/90 27.60 7th
Touches in opp. box/90 55.90 1st

*Since 2003/04

With fast transitions and counters such an important tactical strategy, there remains a lower share of passes made inside the final third than in the past, but we are seeing a record number of touches made inside the opponent’s penalty area.

This really was an exciting campaign featuring quality football, stacks of goalmouth action and a record number of goals.

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