English Premier League

Empty stadiums may have kicked-off a goals bonanza

Crazy results have stunned the English Premier League

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Results from the empty English Premier League stadiums suggests it may also make self-belief grow stronger.

Sunday’s thrashing for Liverpool, beaten 7-2, and Manchester United, who lost 6-1, was the first time ever that two of the biggest clubs in the game have conceded more than six goals on the same day.

They may be regarded as “freak results” were it not for a pattern of crazy goal-scoring that is turning this season into a real life version of fantasy football.

Last weekend, Leicester City pulled off the first big surprise of the season by scoring five goals at Manchester City who were many people’s tip to regain this season’s title. Instead, City now languish in the bottom half of the table alongside their Manchester neighbours.

There have been 144 goals scored in 38 English Premier League games this season, an average of 3.79 per game, the highest goals per game ratio in an top-flight season since 1930/31 (3.95 goals per game).

While some had predicted Everton and newly-promoted Leeds United to cause a few upsets, few expected the flurry of goals and unpredictable results that have turned this into one of the most explosive starts to any season.

It has prompted some to believe that improvements among some of the regular also-rans is only part of the explanation. Another is that it is down to playing in empty stadiums.

While the Scottish Premiership is more or less falling into its familiar order, there were comments last week that even for Celtic and Rangers home advantage no longer has any real meaning. Visiting teams do not have to face the “12th man”, the 50,000-plus partisan supporters who are able to intimidate the opposition.

The Old Firm’s presence at the top of the table says more about the gulf in the quality between them and the other teams, even without the help of their supporters, largely because of their ability to attract top players.

Not so in England where all 20 clubs have millions available to pull in talent from around the world.

Some observers will argue that games being played in the calmer surroundings of empty stadiums has created a greater equilibrium, allowing the players the freedom to express themselves without the added psychological effect caused by hostile supporters.

Fans have their say:

Weekend results:

  • Leicester 0-3 West Ham
  • Southampton 2-0 West Brom
  • Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield United
  • Wolves 1-0 Fulham
  • Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham
  • Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool

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