The five reasons there are more Premier League goals than ever this season

Tottenham Hotspur's Dejan Kulusevski (second left) scores their side's third goal

James Ducker

Another weekend, another Premier League goal fest. Dejan Kulusevski’s dramatic 90th minute equaliser in Tottenham’s 3-3 draw against champions Manchester City was the 24th goal scored in five matches on Sunday alone and 442nd in the competition this season.

The Premier League is witnessing an average of 3.16 goals per game after 14 rounds so far, comfortably the highest return in the history of the competition and way above the best average of 2.85 that was set last season. Astonishingly, there have been 101 more goals scored this term than at this stage a decade ago. Entertainment, it is fair to say, has not been in short supply.

Telegraph Sport looks at some of the key factors behind the dramatic surge in goals in what could prove a record-breaking campaign.

Fewer back fives

Three seasons ago, almost 30 per cent of starting XIs featured a back three or back five but that figure stands at just 19.6 per cent this term. More managers outside the traditional top six are adopting aggressive, attacking set ups, not least the likes of Roberto De Zerbi at Brighton and Aston Villa’s Unai Emery.

Teams are starting with a 3-5-2 formation in fewer than four per cent of games this season compared to 8.6 per cent in 2019/20. 4-2-3-1 is, overwhelmingly, the most popular formation and has been used as the starting system in almost 37 per cent of matches, up from 17.6 per cent in 2018/19.

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Bolder tactical approaches

It was not uncommon for the smaller clubs to “park the bus” in the past but there has been less of a fear factor among a growing number of coaches who are prepared to be brave and bold. Attacking football is on the rise, reflected in the dramatic increase in players finding their way into the opposition penalty area.

Teams are averaging 54.3 touches per game in the opposition box, up from 49.5 last season and 40.7 in 2008/09, when there were almost 14 touches fewer per match in the penalty area. In that regard, it is little wonder teams are scoring in greater volumes.

Eight of the 20 Premier League sides have scored at least three goals in a quarter of their matches this season and seventy per cent of the teams who were in the top flight last season are scoring at a faster rate this time around. Both teams are scoring in 60 per cent of matches - compared to 50 per cent last season and just 43 per cent in 2019/20.

Longer games means more late goals

There has been a five per cent jump this season compared to last in goals scored in second half stoppage time, with goals after 90 minutes now accounting for a record 9.5 per cent of all those plundered. The previous highest was 6.7 per cent in 2021/22. It has certainly ensured plenty of late drama but appears a direct consequence of the new directive over timekeeping.

Matches are lasting longer than ever before with additional time now averaging a staggering 11 mins and 49 seconds, up from the previous high of 8 minutes and 27 seconds last season. In 2007/08, the figure stood at just 5 minutes and 43 seconds so it is no surprise players are finding the net late on more often.

A rise in red cards

Conor Gallagher’s red card in Chelsea’s 3-2 win over Brighton on Sunday was the 31st in the Premier League this season - already more than the entirety of the previous campaign. Liverpool have been the worst offenders, with four red cards, although Alexis Mac Allister’s red against Bournemouth was overturned on appeal.

This season’s average of one red card every 4.5 games means the top flight is currently on course for 84, which would eclipse the previous record of 75 in 2005/06, and those more frequent numerical imbalances tend to encourage more goals.

More errors leading to goals

Teams are committing more errors leading to goals this season than the previous three campaigns, with the average number of errors up to 0.34 per game this term compared to just 0.25 in 2020/21. Increasingly attacking set-ups may be leaving defences more exposed but there has also been discussion within the game about whether fatigue caused by an ever more demanding schedule and longer matches is also having an impact.

The number of errors per game on average is still well down on 2012/13, though, when it hit a high of 0.47.