Goal-scoring wizards of the BPL
As I sift through the statistical memories of the past weekend in the Barclays Premier League, I am struck by the dominant contributions some players are making to their teams’ seasons. Take Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez , Theo Walcott, Juan Mata and Steven Fletcher, amongst others, away from their respective clubs and they would be way off their current pace.
Van Persie, for instance, has now scored or assisted 23 goals for United and that represents half their total. In nodding the ball past Hugo Lloris, he not only scored a second headed goal of the campaign (he has never managed more than one before), but he also confirmed United’s status as the league’s leaders scoring from wide areas. They now have 20 goals from crosses, 13 of them with headers. Opposition scouting reporters take note.
Another Sunday scorer, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, showed real class in beating Petr Cech to make it nine Premier League goals for the season and 15 in all competitions (his personal best). He has also been involved in five of Arsenal’s last six goals (scored three, assisted two) and surely that has to represent a return on investment for the Gunners. He hasn’t just turned on the form at contract negotiation time either: since Jan 15, 2012, Theo has scored 15 Premier League goals in 34 games. Before that, his record was 20 in 133.
Still, Arsenal lost on the day and they did so because Chelsea’s two main men once again turned it on. Juan Mata now has eight league goals and has scored and assisted eight times (thus being involved in 16 goals). Only Van Persie and Luis Suarez (who I’ll come to in a moment) have been involved in more. Chelsea have also won more penalties (eight) than any other team and in Frank Lampard, who converted his fourth of the season to make it eight goals in total, they have a player who will most likely set an all-time goal-scoring record for the Blues before he leaves.
Liverpool already have two major contributors this season: way out in front is Suarez who took his personal tally to 16 league goals (20 in all competitions) and has now scored or assisted 19 goals. Steven Gerrard ended his weekend by being honoured by the Football Writers Association at a gala dinner on Sunday. He had done his bit the day before, notching a fifth goal of the season in the 5-0 mauling of Norwich. Gerrard has four goals and five assists in his last seven league games.
Now, Liverpool boast a third key contributor based on the start Daniel Sturridge has made to his Anfield career. He scored on his first league start to make it three goals from three games in all competitions. Gerrard reckons a top four finish might yet be on for the Merseysiders but, remember, they have yet to beat a team that is above them in the table.
For all the attention-grabbing stats I have listed above, my team of the moment has to be Sunderland. Martin O’Neill’s men were 18th in the league as recently as December 9 when they lost 3-1 to Chelsea at home. Yet they then beat Reading 3-0 in a mid-week game to kick-start a run that has seen them win five games in eight after they had won only four in the previous 29. They are now in 11th place in the league. On Saturday they even won and scored a penalty – their first in a record-breaking 34 games. Steven Fletcher has contributed 10 of their 27 goals and his brace ended a run of four matches without scoring. He is now level with Rickie Lambert, Edin Dzeko and Jermain Defoe on 10 for the season.
Now for two hitherto unsung players who have really caught my eye. At St James’ Park, Reading’s Adam Le Fondre scored with his first touch of the ball then did so again six minutes later to earn his club a third win in four games and deepen the gloom around Newcastle. It took the striker to eight goals for the season and prompted his manager Brian McDermott to deliver the quote of the weekend when he said, “we paid 300 000 for Adam le Fondre and you wouldn’t buy his right sock for that now.”
Swansea’s goal-getters Michu and Jonathan de Guzman have been grabbing the headlines of late but fullback Ben Davies has also been one of their stories of the season. The 19-year-old homegrown talent scored his first goal in senior football and became the club’s youngest Premier League scorer in the 3-1 win over Stoke. When Davies was thrust into the first team by Neil Taylor’s injury, he was on 200 pounds a week and has admitted he tried to hide his battered old Ford Fiesta in a training ground car park full of gleaming sports cars and luxury rides.
Lastly, congratulations to Angelo Henriquez of Reading who joined QPR’s Loic Remy in scoring on his Premier League debut. Credit too to Andre Villas Boas whose Spurs team demonstrated their growing belief in themselves and their coach by scoring a rare late goal and having an astonishing 25 attempts on goal to Manchester United’s five over the 90-odd minutes at White Hart Lane.