According to Squawka- the online football stats generator- 74 goals have been scored in the Barclays Premier League so far, compared to 105 seen by this time last year.
The extra 31 goals when broken down and spread thinly over the 39 games played so far become slightly less mind-blowing, corresponding to almost four fifths of an entire goal per game, though the stat becomes impressive once more when you take into account that it means roughly an additional eight goals per game-week.
Rather expectedly, the stat coincides with a significant increase in clean sheets among the current season’s results. So far, after game-week four, the clean sheet number totals 30, which is nine more than last season’s figure of 21 at the same point in the season.
So, have Premier League defender’s stepped up their efforts in comparison to last year’s opening month?
Higher levels of discipline do appear to have emerged among the back lines of the Premier League, and certain teams who have, in the past, been accused of neglecting their defensive responsibilities may well have managed to correct a few of their shortcomings.
Southampton, who have two clean sheets out of a possible four so far, seem to have tempered what could have been described as irresponsible and overly open, albeit entertaining, attacking play, which saw them concede a staggering fourteen goals in their opening four fixtures during the 2012-13 season.
Meanwhile, inconsistency at the back seemed to perpetually hinder Liverpool’s progress up the league table during the previous season.
Prone to lapses in concentration, too often did Liverpool’s defence lack the necessary urgency in resuming defensive positions when responding to counterattacking moves, after their own had fizzled out and possession was conceded.
Additionally, certain individuals struggled to adjust to playing the ball out from the back, the type of movement more suited to Brendan Rodgers' style.
You might recall the occasion Martin Skrtel came over all foggy and played Carlos Tevez in to equalise in Manchester City’s trip to Anfield during the second game of the 2012-2013 season.
So far so good, however, this season for Liverpool. Creative, flowing football in the first half followed by a cautious, if not underwhelming, contained displays in the second half have seen the Reds keep three clean sheets out of three so far, compared to none acquired this time last year.
Surprisingly Manchester City, who have seen their defence rendered questionable after sustaining an unfortunate sequence of injuries in the centre-back department, have thus far kept three clean sheets, whereas by September 17 2012, the Citizens had conceded in each game played, although, in terms of points, were in better shape.
The most popular explanation for the increase in clean sheets and decrease in goals might be to suggest that more intense and defensively oriented drills have found their way into the training schedule’s of Premier League managers reacting to the three previous seasons (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13), which all attained an average of 2.8 goals per game or above.
According to The Guardian, never before had the premier league season attained such high averages.
However, it’s also worth noting how three teams who feature highly on the clean-sheet rankings found themselves in periods of managerial transition last season, including Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham, who’ve also notched up three so far this time around compared to none at this point in the previous season.
It might be that defences fare better amid periods of certainty and stability, rather than in those in which new styles of play are introduced.
Of course, it needs to be mentioned that wasteful strikers have contributed to lesser scorelines in certain matches. Chelsea, who travelled to Everton this previous weekend, could be pointed to here, while David Moyes and Sam Allardyce have also called for more goals from their respective sides.
However, we have yet to see much like the two 5-0 drubbings inflicted on Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City on the opening day of last season, which would not be the last results entailing a five goal deficit within the coming weeks (see above). Relatively rare scorelines such as these, at a professional level, tend to signal defensive problems more than anything else.
Instead, we had to settle for Man City’s 4 – 0 against Newcastle United, and even that was against ten men.
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