Chelsea and Tottenham ride a wave of goals to the top of the Premier League
The leading quartet have scored the most, with Liverpool boasting four players who have found the net on six or more occasions
The make-up of a title-winning side has many elements but one of them is certainly a varied goal threat – especially from midfield – and that factor has been evident among this season’s challengers in the English Premier League.
The top four teams all have at least two players who have scored six or more goals, while the two Manchester clubs – who are struggling to keep pace in fifth and sixth – each have only one scorer in that category.
Both of them are strikers (Sergio Aguero for City and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for United) but they are not getting much help from their teammates in midfield.
For the record, Liverpool lead the way with four players who have scored six or more goals (including midfielder Adam Lallana), Tottenham and Arsenal both have three and Chelsea have two.
Chelsea’s pair are Diego Costa (equal top among the strikers) and Eden Hazard (second among the midfielders), which makes them the joint-highest scoring combination alongside Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Those statistics add perspective to the league standings, and so do the overall goalscoring figures. Again, the current top four teams have scored the highest number of goals (Liverpool 49, Arsenal 48, Chelsea 45 and Tottenham 43).
Chelsea and Tottenham can get away with slightly less free-scoring attacks because they have the best two defences (also one of the crucial elements of a title-winning team) but the two Manchester clubs are suffering from lower scoring rates (41 goals for City and just 32 for United).
City, like United, have considered themselves “unlucky” in several matches this season and there is a case to be made for that viewpoint, even in City’s 4-0 loss at Everton last weekend.
As City boss Pep Guardiola pointed out, Everton scored almost every time they mounted a decent attack (“when they arrive they score,” he said) whereas City had 71 per cent of the possession and more than twice the number of shots but could not find the net.
Guardiola’s team also created plenty of chances in their defeats by the top two (2-0 away to Tottenham and 3-1 at home to Chelsea) but in the end it was the superior finishing of their opponents that decided those matches.
There is a clear link between shots, goals and points and perhaps that has not always shown up in City’s results – and, to a lesser extent, United’s – but both Guardiola and United manager Jose Mourinho need to find a wider source of goals before they can challenge for top spot.
Yes, City have created plenty of chances but De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have not done enough to support their main striker (Aguero) with goals – unlike Hazard at Chelsea, Alli at Tottenham and Lallana at Liverpool.
The 4-0 defeat at Everton was enough for many pundits to rule City out of the title race – “a 10-point gap to Chelsea is too much to make up” was the widespread view – but at the same time Tottenham were proclaimed as the main challengers to the leaders.
The two sides of that argument don’t really add up because if City beat Tottenham at home on Sunday morning (Hong Kong time) the two teams will be level on points and Chelsea (who host third-bottom Hull) would probably end the weekend 10 points ahead of both teams.
So are the pundits really saying the match is a must-win for Tottenham if they are to have a chance of catching Chelsea, or are they being too quick to write off City?
In truth, it will be difficult for any team to overhaul Chelsea but the title is far from a done deal.
Tottenham are on a run of six straight wins and, even with a setback at City tonight, they have a brand of football that could bring a similar sequence further down the line.
The same goes for Liverpool, and it remains to be seen how Costa’s issues affect Chelsea.
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Tottenham rate the handicap pick, given their greater reliability at both ends of the pitch, and there could be more joy for outsiders with Leicester (at Southampton), Crystal Palace (home to Everton), West Ham (at Middlesbrough) and Stoke (home to Manchester United).
The favourites in those matches are not the most reliable scorers and, as has been made plain again this season, that factor is not one to discount lightly.
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