Monday 18 December 2017

6-0, 6-0, 6-0: why has the Premier League gone goal crazy this season?

Phil Shaw

The weekend's stand-out Premier League scorelines read like the result of a match between Rafa Nadal and a pot-bellied, one-armed tennis wannabe offered his tilt at stardom by 'Jim'll Fix It': 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.

Throw in an identical score from the opening day and four of the 19 games have ended 6-0, keeping it ahead of 2-1 as the most common score so far, and an incredible total given that there have been only 20 since the top flight was revamped in 1992.

Even before the second round of fixtures has been completed by tonight's visit by Liverpool to Manchester City -- coincidentally the last club to win 6-0 until this year's goal-fest, against Portsmouth two years ago next month -- the record for results of this margin in a Premier League campaign has been equalled.

That was set in 2007-08, when Derby County crashed 6-0 to both Liverpool and Aston Villa, with Chelsea and Manchester United routing City and Newcastle respectively to bring up the quartet.

Two more 6-0 wins will equal the all-time record for a top-division season in England, set in 1892-93. And there are a mere 361 more fixtures for it to happen.

But how could this occur in a league which, if the hype and punditry is to believed, is the most competitive in the world, with clubs at the bottom eminently capable of beating their superiors -- and after a summer when coaches and players have spent thousands of hours becoming "organised" and "hard to beat"? The fact that Chelsea have been responsible for two of the 6-0 victories partially explains their frequency.

The Blues demonstrated last season, their first under Carlo Ancelotti, that the days of settling for a narrow win are gone. In keeping with Roman Abramovich's brief, they try to push on and amass the goals that may prove decisive in the event of a close finish at the top of the table.

Chelsea's sprees against West Brom and Wigan have been a continuation of their form at the end of last season, when they caned Sunderland 7-2, Aston Villa 7-1, Stoke 7-0, Portsmouth 5-0 and Wigan 8-0.

Poor, porous Wigan: with a 9-1 reverse at Tottenham and that "Latics in eight-goal thriller at the Bridge" (anti-)climax to 2009-10, Roberto Martinez's side appear intent on producing scorelines worthy of the town's rugby league team.

If Blackpool's capitulation at Arsenal was almost predictable, Villa's collapse at newly promoted Newcastle was not.

While the result will be interpreted by many observers as a sign that Kevin MacDonald is too steeped in the ways of the backroom to prosper on the front line, it is less than five months since Martin O'Neill was having to explain that six-goal wipe-out at Chelsea.

The caretaker manager now has home games against Rapid Vienna and Everton in which to restore self-respect. The Holte End will, of course, be baying for a 6-0 win. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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