Premier League

Why Goal of the Season competitions don't work

We all remain in awe of arsewinders from outside the area, better goals often get lost in the shuffle

8:00am on Tuesday 13th October 2020
Team FC

Here’s the problem with Goal of the Season competitions.

It’s not that goal analysis is utterly subjective, or that beauty can be in the eye of the beholder, or even that some goals might mean more to you because of context.

READ MORE: The Greatest Goals in Premier League history

Well, it is all of those things, too. But it’s also because, as a football-viewing public, we place too much credence on long-range goals.


Let's backtrack a bit; some of the best moments in Premier League history have come as a result of laces lashing leather; Michael Essien, Steven Reid, Patrick Vieira, all proponents of the majesty and the brutality of blasting home from outside the area.

Plus, there’s varying types of long-range goal, from unique volleys that require impeccable technique, to deliberate attempts from distance like a David Beckham or Charlie Adam that deserve the utmost respect. There are also players like Paul Scholes who have made shooting from distance a prerequisite skill, one that they were able to execute so often that it ceases to be lucky – they are just good at it.


But most players aren't Scholes and, therefore, long-range goals are just blind luck.

They are a Hail Mary, coin in the fruit machine, lottery ticket punts that more often than not end with a team-mate bemoaning being the better option out wide as the shot flies into the stand. As a fan is there anything more frustrating than watching one of your defenders ambling forward before shooting, badly, from an unlikely and improbable angle? It’s groan-inducing, and it’s simply bad football.

READ MORE: The Greatest Goals in Premier League history

Shots from outside of the area are low xG opportunities, and in the six seasons prior up until 2017/18 they generated goals just 3.5% of the time on average. In 2017/18 there were 133 long-range goals scored (excluding free-kicks) from 3,694 shots, or 0.036 per game.


And there’s one irritating thing about the classification of long-range goals, and it is this; anyone who has ever played football has, at some point, felt that shudder through your shoulders knowing that the sweetest connection has been made, and the eminent satisfaction of the shot flying into the net. It’s great. But it doesn’t make it unique.

We tend to give undue credence to goals from outside the box as our general disposition by nature of their distance from goal, we love it when they fly into the net, and that’s fine. But if you are comparing a long-range strike that could really be hit by anyone at any level to a brilliant piece of skill (Dennis Bergkamp) or a once-a-season team goal (Jack Wilshere), that’s where a problem arises.

The end result may be the same, but the method of getting there categorically is not.


Times are changing. There were almost 1,000 less shots struck from outside the area in the Premier League in 2017-18 than in 2012-13; possession-based football has increased in popularity as has the understanding that arse-winding a shot isn’t a particularly adept strategy. Pep Guardiola, his half-spaces, and his insistence on playing through opponents to get closer to the goal mean this isn't changing any time soon.

With the continued introduction of xG, we know that coaches and analysts are sitting with players to assess their shooting positions and where they are most successful from. Because constantly smashes the ball from range is grossly inefficient and, therefore, far from the best method of scoring. Getting closer to the goal is a key tenet of studying and applying xG on a tactical level.

Long-range goals will still be scored, of course. But in FootballCritic's Ranking of every Premier League goal in history (see the links above), we assessed each 'Great Goal' on a variety of attributes. There are plenty of goals from outside the box in the list, but our bigger scores are reserved for goals that require more than just fortunate timing. That is surely why we watch elite sport – to experience moments of improbable skill that sets these superstars apart, and they should be celebrated as such.

A long-range goal is the equivalent of a putt from off the green that somehow finds the cup; it is worthy and enjoyable in its own way but there’s so much more to these sports than that.

Let's make more room for the truly special goals in our end-of-season competitions. So drop by and have a look at our ratings, and leave some of your own. If you like long-range goals, there's still plenty that score highly in our list.

Are there any vintage Premier League goals missing from our list that you think should be assessed by Football Critic? Drop us a message on social media or via email and we’ll have a look, and we’ll let you know if we choose to add it to the database.

READ MORE: The Greatest Goals in Premier League history

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