Analysis: EPL goes goal crazy because of longer games, attack-minded coaches and more red cards

Here’s something to fuel the Premier League’s rampant PR machine.

When it comes to goals, English soccer fans have rarely had it so good.

Before the latest round of midweek fixtures, the average number of goals per game this season was 3.16 — easily the highest in the league since the competition’s inaugural campaign in 1992 and, according to stats company Opta, the most in England’s top division since the mid-1960s.

Across Tuesday and Wednesday, there were 24 goals in eight games. That basically sustains the seasonal average ahead of the round’s final two matches on Thursday in a league that just sold its domestic TV rights for 6.7 billion pounds ($8.4 billion) for the next four-year cycle — around double the value attained in Germany, Spain and Italy.

With overseas broadcasters splashing out just as much money to see the best of English soccer, fans appear to be getting their money’s worth.

But why are the goals flying in in record numbers this season?


The Premier League has committed itself to delivering a more accurate calculation of additional time so games are going on for longer, with second-half stoppage time sometimes extending to 10 minutes or more like at the World Cup in Qatar.

That means there is more time to score goals — such as when Tottenham netted in the eighth and 10th minutes of stoppage time to beat Sheffield United 2-1 or when Declan Rice and Gabriel Jesus scored for Arsenal in the sixth and 11th minutes of added-on time in a 3-1 win over Manchester United.

Another directive has been a clampdown on time-wasting in an effort to provide more value for money for fans. Again, that equates to more opportunities for goals to be scored, with the ball in play for more than 3 1/2 minutes longer in league matches this season, according to Opta.


The difference between Burnley’s class of 2023-24 and its team when the club was last in the league sums up the change in coaching philosophy that has swept through the league.

Two years ago, Burnley was led by a pragmatic, defense-first manager in Sean Dyche. Clean sheets were his currency.

This season, Vincent Kompany is in charge and the team is attack-minded, possession-hungry and plays out from the back — even if that backfires occasionally, like when conceding a sloppy winner to Wolverhampton on Tuesday.

Look at Tottenham, too. Its previous two managers were Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, who prioritized defending more than attacking. Now, Spurs have Ange Postecoglou, an attack-at-all-costs coach who plays a high defensive line even when down to nine men.

Throw in Andoni Iraola and Rob Edwards, attacking coaches who are new to the league at lowly teams Bournemouth and Luton, and there’s a clear emphasis in boardrooms across the country on hiring front-foot managers.


There have been 31 red cards — one more than the entirety of last season — amid that crackdown on time-wasting and other things like dissent toward match officials, as well as almost weekly controversies involving interventions by the VAR.

Teams are making the most of the open spaces against often attack-minded opponents down to 10 men, or against opponents with weaker stand-ins for suspended players.


The preference for ball-playing goalkeepers, like Andre Onana at Manchester United, and progressive center backs means teams are set up to attack more than defend and raises the potential for mistakes, such as when playing from the back. Onana, for example, has impressed with his passing and ball retention but his shot-stopping ability is under scrutiny. It’s the same story at Arsenal, whose new goalkeeper, David Raya, has brought a new dimension to the team’s build-up play but his errors let in two goals against Luton on Tuesday.


The three teams who gained promotion last season — Sheffield United, Burnley, Luton — are big favorites to go back down. Indeed, they would already be cut adrift as the bottom three if it wasn’t for Everton getting handed a 10-point deduction for financial mismanagement and dropping into the relegation zone, leaving Luton one place above it for the time being. Sheffield United has already lost 8-0 to Newcastle and 5-0 to Burnley, which has shipped five and four goals to Tottenham and Chelsea, respectively. Luton started the season with a 4-1 loss at Brighton and has just conceded seven goals in its last two games. The promoted teams will continue to be targeted.


Steve Douglas is at


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