Premier League Playback: Where have all the goals gone?

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In the first 30 games of the 2013-14 Premier League season, there’s been a total of 57 goals scored.

That’s an average of just 1.9 goals per game as plenty of strikers have been left scratching their heads in bemusement as scoring droughts to start the season are the common theme.

To put this into perspective, the highest scoring season in PL history came in the 2011-2 season when there was an average of 2.81 goals per game scored. In the grand scheme of things, we’re only three games into the season and many will point to making sweeping generalizations this early as nonsensical. I agree.

But you can’t ignore the trend. Over the past weekend, nine of the 18 (50 percent for all you number bods out there) Premier League teams in action failed to hit the back of the net. Correct me if I’m wrong… but that’s the whole point of playing the game; to stick the ball in the back of the net.

Premier League Schedule – Week 3

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham Recap and watch here
Cardiff 0-0 Everton Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 3-1 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Manchester City 2-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Newcastle 1-0 Fulham Recap and watch here
Norwich 1-0 Southampton Recap and watch here
West Brom 0-2 Swansea City Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here

You can point to many reasons for the lack of goals so far. Teams like Southampton, Norwich, Sunderland and Everton have been paired up against each other in the opening few weeks of the season and all of those teams drew plenty of games last season, (36.1 percent of all their 152 games between them) stalemates often play out when they’re involved.

That’s one solution. But what about the amount of teams who actually play 4-4-2 with two out and out strikers this season? Over the weekend only Newcastle, Manchester City, Hull City, West Ham and Southampton did that with variations of the newly hailed 4-3-3 system prevailing elsewhere.

4-3-3 may be great to get the players out on the ball on the flanks but those players are also being dragged away from the penalty box where they need to be. Just an observation; more men committed to central areas will cause more problems for the opposition.

The stats from the first three matchdays suggest less goals and more possession based play will rule supreme in the PL this season… will that be the case?

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

Some real gems this weekend. The likes of Curtis Davies from Hull City played superbly against Man City and Hugo Lloris in goal for Spurs was easily their man of the match.

But in terms of game changing moments a few stood out with Olivier Giroud putting in a bruising display of center forward prowess.

Then there was Nathan Redmond at Norwich, as the 19-year-old winger tore Southampton to shreds and scored the game-winner with a screamer.

Newcastle’s match-winner, Hatem Ben Arfa, seems to have the innate ability to excite and frustrate Magpies fans in the space of about five seconds. But the mercurial Frenchman bent in a marvelous goal late on to secure Newcastle’s first win of the season against Fulham.

David Marshall played extremely well as Cardiff picked up a great point at home to Everton, his save from Nikica Jelavic just before half time was the pick of the bunch. And rounding off the top performers in Week 3 is Daniel Sturridge who popped up to score his third goal in a row as Liverpool won 1-0 against bitter rivals Manchester United.

Premier League Star Performers

Player Reason
1. Olivier Giroud  1 goal, great hold up play and battling
2. Daniel Sturridge  1 goal, another tidy finish. Luis who?
3. Nathan Redmond  1 goal, tore Saints apart. Bright future
4. Hatem Ben Arfa  1 goal, creative genius around the box
5. David Marshall  3 fine saves to stop Everton

BIGGEST FLOP

West Bromwich Albion are fast becoming this seasons champions of disappointment, as they’ve failed to score in their opening three games and have just one point to show for their efforts.

Steve Clarke’s men miss Romelu Lukaku badly and despite Nicholas Anelka’s return from ‘compassionate leave’ the Baggies didn’t really look like scoring.

After losing Ben Foster with a broken foot and struggling to bring in any big names in the transfer window, could the Baggies suffer a massive fall from grace after finishing in a all-time PL high of eighth spot last season?

“1-0 TO THE LIVERPOOL…”

Not sure if that chant will catch on like it did in a certain part of North London throughout the 1990’s… but it’s certainly impressive to see this Liverpool team score early and defend for their lives. They have added new defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori before the deadline, who will strengthen their defensive resolve.

So, after three straight 1-0 wins to start the campaign, you know the script. Sturridge scores, Liverpool keep the ball, the Reds defend for their life, Liverpool win. Watch their win over bitter rivals United below.

BEST GOALS OF THE WEEKEND

Redmond’s screamer against the Saints really was a terrific strike. He cut in from the left flank and sidestepped James Ward-Prowse before rifling a low shot past Artur Boruc and into the bottom corner.

The England Under-21 international looks like a huge talent and the Canaries have done a great piece of business there.

Stuart O’Keefe’s late left-footed curler that went in off the underside of the bar saw Selhurst Park erupt as Palace picked up their first Premier League win of the season. The academy product even got a nice little victory jig out of Eagles manager Ian Holloway.

We’ve already talked about Ben Arfa’s curling beauty against Fulham but another goal worth mentioning is Arsenal’s winner against Tottenham. It resulted in a neat finish from Giroud on the edge of the box but the build up play to pounce on Tottenham’s lack of defensive shape was sublime. Per Mertesacker knicked the ball and played it to Aaron Ramsey who swiveled away from his marker before knocking the ball to Tomas Rosicky who played it to Theo Walcott to set up Giroud.

Four passes from the edge of their own box to the goal. Sublime.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

As Gareth Bale waved goodbye to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday evening and signed for Real Madrid, I spoke with Andre Villas-Boas after their 1-0 loss to Arsenal about the lack of creativity without Bale. Spurs have just scored twice in three games… both from the penalty spot. They created no clear cut chances against Arsenal. So, AVB, are you struggling to create? “I think that is a false question. I don’t think there is a good argument. We came to Arsenal and created lots of chances…” Judge for yourselves below.

STAT ATTACK

Following their narrow 2-0 victory over Hull City at the weekend, Manchester City have now scored in 52 consecutive home league games. The Citizens streak began that run with a 1-0 home success over Bolton way back in December 2010. It is the only active scoring streak alive above 27 games in the Premier League.

Last Monday Manchester United’s record scoring streak at home ended against Chelsea, having scored in 66 straight games from 2009-13, that was the best in PL history. Can City keep their incredible run up to topple their Manchester rivals into the record books?

Join us every Monday as we recap the best moments from the past weekend in Premier League Playback.