The Driving Factors behind a record-breaking Premier League season
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The Driving Factors behind a record-breaking Premier League season

24/05/24 13:48

The Premier League season has concluded once again, and has been a record breaking campaign. It saw the most goals of any league campaign in the competition's history since its introduction in 1992. But what made this season different? What factors helped break a 31 year old record?

A major contributing factor has been due to a shift in ball design since the 2020/21 season. The Nike Merlin was scrapped, and the Nike flight ball was introduced, with a radical new look. It featured grooves all over the surface, which according to Nike, was done to ‘disrupt airflow across the ball for less drag and a more stable flight.’

Nike Merlin vs Nike Flight design

Since the introduction of this ball model four years ago, the average number of goals scored per game has increased season on season.

Premier League Goals per Game by Season

There was also a new approach to the prevention of time-wasting, with officials tracking the time every stoppage, substitution and set-piece takes away from the ball being in play.

This season, the second half of games alone has seen an average of 8 minutes 11 seconds added on, whereas in previous seasons 5 minutes would be seen as generous. Over the course of the whole season, this amounts to 3128 minutes. Or roughly equivalent to an extra 35 matches.

As of April 25th, total added time per game equated to 11 minutes 39 seconds. It seems that time is money to the premier league big dogs, and with the new added time initiative, you’re getting more ‘bang for your buck.’

Added time impact on the Premier League

The sheer quantity of goals could be due in part to external off-the-field factors, but what say have the players had in it?

Goalkeepers inevitably play an important part in the number of goals that hit the back of the net, with their job effectively being to keep the goals per game rate as low as possible. Of the first team regular goalkeepers in the 2020/21 season, less than half of them remain now.

The 5 picked for the following graphic have been chosen due to the notable quality of their goalkeeping and the regularity with which they take to the pitch.

Save percentage of Premier League goalkeepers

An overall downturn in the goalkeeping department then. Now let's see what the story is with the goalscorers. Those chosen for this data scored 15 or more goals over the course of the season in 2020/21 and 2023/24.

Premier League shooting accuracy 2020/21

Premier League shooting accuracy 2023/24

So it appears that 4 years on since the change of ball model, while strikers aren't necessarily shooting more often (except for the evergreen exception of Erling Haaland), frequent goalscorers are hitting the target more often, and thus finishing in much more clinical fashion. Coincidence? Maybe.

The most outstanding statistic here however is the sheer number of prolific scorers. Only 7 players passed 15 goals in the 20/21 season, while 11 surpassed the same milestone this season. Better quality of attackers perhaps? That can only really be speculation, but they have certainly made the most chances that have fallen for them this season.

There are countless other variables that contributed to such a record-breaking season, such as the highest penalty conversion rate in a season (89.7%) or the record for the most different individual goalscorers (298), but it seems the factors above contribute most notably to such a landmark season.

One thing is for certain, all the stats point to one thing: the old moniker that the Premier League is the best league in the world.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Harry Pascoe

Football Writer

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