“Score more goals than your opponent” – That is what Leicester City’s Head of Sports Science and Performance Analysis Paul Balsom said recently when asked what the secret to Leicester City’s success was this season.
Whilst the game is not that simple, and the side that scores the most goals in the league does not always win it, the premise is true. Score more than your opponents and you win. That is an undisputable fact.
Looking at the league table, the Premier League top scorers are Tottenham. They are second. 2nd highest are Leicester. They are second. The individual top scorers list mirrors this. Harry Kane is the league’s top scorer. Leicester’s Jamie Vary second and Riyad Mahrez 3rd.
As a side note, Everton are 4th on the list. As we saw at the weekend, they can not defend (Is john Stones the most overrated player in the Premier League?). The key is not just scoring goals, but scoring more goals than your opponents. Something they have struggled in.
In 2011/12, Manchester United lost out on the league title on goal. Alex Ferguson went out and forced a move for Robin van Persie. The league’s top scorer. This signing went alongside Wayne Rooney who finished that season just 3 goals behind van Persie in second.
The next year, Manchester United went on to win the league title. Robin van Persie was once again the league’s top scorer, and Manchester United scored 20 goals more than second place Manchester City.
The moral of the story is simple. You need to outscore your opponents to win games. And the more often you outscore them, the more games you win. And the more games you win the greater chance you have to win the league.
This season, Arsenal have simply not scored enough.
With just 48 goals from 30 games, we are on course for our worst goals scored tally since 1995/96 under Bruce Rioch.
Boring Boring Arsenal. So much for this attacking free flowing exciting brand of football Arsene Wenger allegedly plays.
59 is the lowest goals scored during the Wenger era. That was 1998/99. We only conceded 17 goals that year, so had a goal difference of +42. So despite not scoring too many, we still outscored our opponents in the majority of games. On the flip side, Manchester United scored 21 more goals than us that season, had a goal difference of one better, and finished the season with 1 point more.
Our goal difference this season currently sits at +18. You have to once more go back to 1995/96 for the goal difference to have been that low.
With just 12 Premier League goals, Olivier Giroud is on course to be our worst top goal scorer since 2006. That year, whilst the top scorer (Robin van Persie with 12) did not set the world alight, we had 5 players score 10+ goals in the league. This season we only have 5 players who have scored more than 3 goals. Our second highest goal scorer is Alexis Sanchez with 7, 3 of which were scored in 1 game.
It makes very grim reading, and it is clear where our problems lie this season. Scoring goals.
The second side of this article is an old favourite of Arsenal fans. Injuries.
I read (or heard, I don’t know, I was fairly smashed at the weekend) that Leicester have used the least amount of players this season.
A key to their success has been keeping key players fit.
Spurs are not too fair behind them in lack of injuries this season.
Both teams have done very well keeping their players fit, whether it is luck, planning or a mixture of each. They have a lot more players who have played over 25 games in the league this season than Manchester City & Arsenal.
And it is not just the lack of injuries, it is the lack of injuries to key players.
Leicester’s spine of Schmeichel, Morgan, Kante & Vardy have missed 1 game between them. Spurs’ of Lloris, Alderweireld, Dier & Kane just the 2 games missed between them. It is remarkable and a key reason why they are first and second.
Meanwhile, over at Arsenal, Koscielny has missed 5 games, Sanchez even more. And for City, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero have missed 24 games between them.
How different would the table look if Arsenal and Manchester City had kept their key players fit?
Of course, it is all if’s and but’s.
One of the problem both Arsenal and Manchester City have is they both carry too many players with bad injury records. Kompany has played over 30 league games just 4 times in his 13 year career. Since joining, Aguero has missed 25% of games for Manchester City. David Silva has played just 15 of 30 games this season.
We do not need to go through Arsenal’s injury record. The likes of Koscileny, Wilshere, Ramsey always seem to be just as likely to get injured as they are put in a match winning performance.
And there we have it. The very simple secret to success.
Score goals, keep players fit.
It really is that simple.