English forwards scored only 142 goals in the Premier League this season – representing a three-year low and a 20-per-cent drop from last term. So what is behind the decline?
That meagre return is a far cry from the all-time season-high of 451 scored in 1993/94 – even accounting for when the league comprised of 22 teams and clubs played 42-game campaigns.
Goals scored by English forwards have been on the wane since the league was founded in 1992 – reaching an all-time low of 136 in 2012/13, before a slight bounce ebbed back to this season’s trough.
Andy Cole scored 34 goals in the 1993/94 Premier League season before Alan Shearer matched that return the following season
- 100 Club: Andy Cole
- 100 Club: Alan Shearer
Tap on the ‘minutes played’ tab on the interactive graphic below and the primary cause of the decline becomes clear: diminishing game time, which hit an all-time low in 2018/19.
There had been a resurgence in minutes over the past two seasons, with England internationals Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Jamie Vardy, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham (while at Chelsea), Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson and Danny Ings enjoying sustained or periods of form.
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That spike in game time also translated into goals, and notable scorers, too: Kane became the first English player to win a Golden Boot in 16 years in 2015/16 – after English forwards had won the award for eight successive seasons from 1992.
Kane’s influence on the recent revival for goal returns from English forwards is embellished further in the interactive graphic below, which reveals the top-scoring English forward in every season over the past 30 years.
Alan Shearer dominates the early years, while Wayne Rooney is prominent between 2006 and 2012 – but Kane has finished above every compatriot in six of the past eight seasons – with Vardy edging the Spurs striker in the other two campaigns.
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Those returns have also meant Spurs’ English contingent, which has increasingly comprised of Kane alone on recent seasons, have scored more than their counterparts at opposing teams in five of the past eight seasons.
But 2021/22 saw numerous stars hit rocky patches, notably Rashford and Sancho, while Vardy, Calvert-Lewin and Patrick Bamford all spent considerable periods of time on the sidelines with injury issues.
Harry Kane had only scored one league goal by early December but netted another 16 before the end of the season
To compound matters, Kane hit a barren run in front of goal after his summer transfer to Manchester City failed to materialise, having scored only one Premier League goal by December – but the 28-year-old has hit form and scored 16 goals since Antonio Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo at the helm in November.
Jarrod Bowen is on the verge of an England call-up
That flurry of form ensured Kane topped English forwards with 17 Premier League goals, ahead of Vardy (15) and Sterling (13), while there could be more to come from promising duo Jarrod Bowen and Ivan Toney – who both registered 12 league goals.
Those numbers translated into totals for respective teams reveals Aston Villa have the fiercest English firing line with 18 goals between them, followed by Tottenham (17) and Leicester (15).
Meanwhile, Everton have handed the most minutes to English forwards and Manchester United also rank third in this metric – but both clubs have yielded below-par returns from that game time.
Fit-again stars and emerging talents
England manager Gareth Southgate will announce his squad for the Nations League on Tuesday and will be keeping an eye on the broad goal decline ahead of the World Cup in Qatar this winter, but will also be fully aware that his favoured frontline – the likes of Kane, Sterling and Jack Grealish – remain largely in form.
It should be noted, Grealish is listed as a midfielder with the league’s official data provider and is therefore excluded from the figures above – which relates to an older debate about whether the 26-year-old could be utilised from a deeper position at international level.
However, the in-form English contingent at Grealish’s former club, Villa, coupled with Kane’s revival, Calvert-Lewin’s return to fitness, the window of opportunity for Rashford and Sancho to find form next term and the burgeoning options of Bowen and Toney offer ample firepower for the Nations League and World Cup.
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