So far the various nets around the Premier League have bulged 713 times, 24 more so than at the same stage of the 2009/10 season. Of course with goals come big scorelines, and there have been no shortages in this department, with Manchester United thrashing Arsenal 8-2, Bolton avenging their FA Cup defeat of last season with a 5-0 victory over Stoke and this weekends 5-0 defeat for Newcastle at the hands of Tottenham.
This isn’t just a freak season by any means; there are a few reasons for such high scoring, the first being the form and quality of strikers throughout the league. The standout candidate is Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, who simply cannot stop scoring at the moment with a staggering 22 in 25 league games. Demba Ba at Newcastle is in, arguably, the form of his life while Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero can feed from the wealth of creative talent in the Sky Blue’s midfield. It’s not just strikers from the Premier league’s ‘big boys’ who are firing on all cylinders, Grant Holt and Steve Morison have 17 between them for Norwich, while Steven Fletcher of Wolves is already in double figures.
Many teams are now changing their defensive philosophies too. Full-backs are becoming second wingers, encouraged to get forward at any opportunity. This allows for greater numbers in an attacking sense, but leaves gaping holes at the back for the counter attack. Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are the epitome of the modern day full-back combination, with bags of pace, plenty of technique and various defensive frailties. As well as Tottenham, Chelsea employ attack minded defenders in the shape of Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa and even teams further down the division such as Fulham allow John Arne Riise to get forward at almost any opportunity.
Injuries to various teams across the league have prevented many established sides from creating a settled back line. Manchester United have seen Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all sidelined, forcing the likes of Michael Carrick to fill in at centre-back. This of course means goals, and the defending champions have shipped 25 so far including three at home Blackburn. Arsenal have also suffered, with first choice full backs Andre Santos and Bacary Sagna both missing long periods of the campaign.
As well as injuries and changing philosophies there has also been the death of the ‘Makalele’ in midfield. Many of the top sides are no longer employing an out and out destroyer to sit in front of the back-line and mask his defenders. As a result centre-backs are often exposed and playmakers have the added space to create mayhem, which has clearly benefited the likes of David Silva, Juan Mata.
Alan Hansen may be tearing his hair out on a regular basis at the sight of so many goals, but for the fans it’s been a fun filled campaign. Long live the goal.