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Old 21st September 2005, 09:25   #1
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Default Premiership on course for lowest goals record

Premiership on course for lowest goals record
By John Ley Telegraph 21/09/2005

On the day that Arsene Wenger warned that boring football could drive fans away from the game, an exclusive Telegraph Sport survey has revealed that fewer goals are being scored in the Premiership this season than ever before and that goals are down almost 20 per cent on this stage last year.

"When somebody buys a ticket and spends £50, £60 or £70, it is not because he wants to be bored," the Arsenal manager said. "It is because he wants to enjoy a football game. I feel we all have a responsibility to keep that going."

Last week Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, said that the "obligation" to entertain was not a word in his footballing vocabulary and that winning had to take priority.

"Of course, we also have the responsibility to win games and the difficulty in the job is to combine both," Wenger added. "But that does not mean at the start that the target must be 'we want to be boring'. The target for every manager and for Mourinho as well - I think he would share that with me - is to try to entertain people. Unfortunately, it is not always the case but we have to try."

There were almost 62,000 empty seats across the nine Premiership matches on Saturday and Sunday and it followed a significant drop in crowds at the home midweek European ties involving Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Bolton.

A Premier League spokesman said: "It is far too early to draw any firm conclusions, but the Premier League remains one of the best-supported leagues in Europe." The Premier League, however, has called a special meeting next month to study whether rising ticket prices and television coverage have contributed to an apparent slump in top-flight attendances.

Blackburn chairman John Williams, a member of the Premier League working group set up to study the problem, saw just 20,725 fans turn up for Sunday's home match with Newcastle, 9,000 fewer than last season. He said: "We in the Premier League have had 10 great years, a fantastic success story, but we are certainly going through the doldrums now. We have to do something now because by the time you see the bandwagon it's too late."

Richard Caborn, the Minister for Sport, is also concerned. He said: "I'm pleased the Premier League have taken this initiative, and the working party are going to have to look at whether clubs are pricing fans out of going matches.

"One also has to question how much football there is on television and whether it's undermining attendances. I believe there is clear evidence that is the case."

The goals issue is another big factor which could affect interest. The 56th game of the season, at Highbury on Monday night, produced two goals - both scored by a defender - to maintain the average of exactly two goals per game. If that continues throughout the season there will be just 760 goals, the lowest in 14 seasons of Premiership football, and 199 fewer than the previous low.

So far, 112 goals have been scored - including only one hat-trick - and anybody who believes it is only early season nerves should compare the total with the goals in last season's opening 56 games. Those matches produced 139 goals.

Already there have been eight goalless draws, while a further 12 games have produced just one, meaning that 36 per cent of all games have produced one goal or less.

Liverpool have netted just one goal and featured in three goalless draws, leaving the Anfield club with their lowest total of goals from four games in their history. Blackburn have failed to score in their last four, going six hours and 19 minutes without a goal. Everton have scored just once and, like Liverpool, that is the worst return from their first five games in the club's history.

Even the goal maestro himself has struggled. Alan Shearer, the all-time leading Premiership scorer, reached the 250-milestone in February and then had to wait 18 games - 24 hours of football - before scoring his 251st goal in the competition, in Sunday's 3-0 win at Blackburn.

However, Frank Lampard, the Chelsea midfielder, is amused by criticism of Chelsea as boring. He said: "I find it quite funny. We're top of the league and we've yet to lose a game. We obviously don't agree with people who say we're boring. We'll just keep on trying to play enjoyable, exciting football and win games. If we win the league again and people find that boring, well I'm sorry."

Another theory for falling attendances is the price of tickets, while one pressure group yesterday claimed the lack of terracing was forcing fans away.

The Stand Up Sit Down lobby group have more than 4,500 members and are campaigning to be allowed to stand in front of seats in lower tiers, as they claim many supporters have done since the introduction of all-seat grounds.

Spokesperson Amanda Matthews said: "We feel that while the return of terraces would be the ideal long-term solution, ours is an ideal short-term compromise that would cost clubs nothing. The vast majority of our members tell us that they are increasingly staying away from games, not necessarily just because of the price of tickets or because the games are 'boring' but because regardless of the football on offer, they are finding the atmosphere increasingly sterile."

Where have all the goals gone?
• This could be the worst season for goals since the Premiership began in 1992.
• If the present average of two goals a match is maintained, the Premiership will feature just 760 goals, 199 fewer than the previous low.

Goals per season
Season - Goals - Games Average
92-93 --- 1,222 --- 4222.64
93-94 --- 1,195 --- 4622.58
94-95 --- 1,195 --- 4622.58
95-96 ----- 988 --- 3802.57
96-97 ----- 970 --- 3802.55
97-98 --- 1,019 --- 3802.68
98-99 ----- 959 --- 3802.52
99-00 --- 1,060 --- 3802.79
00-01 ----- 992 --- 3802.61
01-02 --- 1,001 --- 3802.63
02-03 --- 1,000 --- 3802.63
03-04 --- 1,012 --- 3802.66
04-05 ---- 975 ----3802.57
05-06 ---- 112 ---- 562.00

Percentage of goals per game
--1992-2005 ---- 2005-06
0 --- 8.83 ------- 14.28
1 --18.72 -------- 21.43
2 -- 24.74 ------- 30.36
3 -- 20.21 ------- 21.43
4 -- 14.08 -------- 8.93
5 --- 7.15 -------- 3.57
6 --- 3.76 -------- 0.00
7 --- 1.66 -------- 0.00
8 --- 0.69 -------- 0.00
9 --- 0.15 -------- 0.00
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