The encounter with Accrington Stanley on Tuesday evening was City’s 31st of the season so far in all competitions, writes Richard Godson.
We have at least another 26 to go with a possible 28 or 31 remaining in the event of perhaps two Wembley trips (for the players anyway) should we progress that far in the EFL Trophy and find ourselves in the promotion play-offs.
Jorge Grant’s goal on Tuesday was our 60th in all competitions for the season so far. With 31 games played, that’s just shy of two per game. Of these, 28 have come in the three knockout competitions at an average of 2.8 per game. In the league, our 32 goals have come at a rate of 1.5 a game. In last year’s curtailed season we knocked in 44 at a rate of 1.2 for the 35 league games played and a further eight goals in seven cup and trophy games, about one a game.
In the 2018/2019 title-winning season, the Boxing Day defeat at Crewe was our 31st in all competitions in that campaign and we had, by then scored 42 goals in 23 league games, an average of 1.8. Over the league season as a whole, we found the back of the net 73 times, an overall average of 1.59 goals per game. Clearly, the second half of that season at 1.35 goals per game was not as prolific as the first in which we put six past Port Vale, four past Swindon and three each past Morecambe and the two Counties (Notts and Newport).
By that Christmas, we were out of both League knockout competitions but still had a trip to Merseyside to look forward to in the FA Cup and if you include that game our 16 cup goals came at an average of 1.78 per tie.
So, if Jorge scored the 60th of this season who scored the 10th, 20th etc? Well, Callum Morton’s debut Imps goal was not only the fifth of our hammering of Bradford City but the 10th of the current season. Our20th came in the 3 – 1 victory over Mansfield Town in the EFL Trophy group stage and was another debut goal, this time for Jamie Soule.
Goal number 30 came in another cup tie and was Jorge Grant’s second in the 6 – 2 demolition of Forest Green Rovers, this one coming from the spot in the 24th minute. The honour of scoring our 40th of the season so far fell to Dutch wonder kid, Lewis Montsma and was the second of our away league encounter with Rochdale. I have a feeling this was his long-range effort that bounced under the Dale keeper but have struggled to find the corroborating video on the club website. Brennan Johnson brought up City’s half-century for the season with the first of his brace against Burton Albion coming as the culmination of a nine-second move described by me in my piece The Old Guard Return.
So if we were to plot these milestones on a graph, what would the curve look like? Not straight, that’s for sure. After racing to 10 goals in the first four games, the next ten come in another five games before the curve then flattens as we have to wait another eight games to reach the 30 goal mark early in game 17. Another four strikes on that night and Anderson’s leveller against Manchester City’s kids mean that by the final whistle of the next game the tally is already at 35. However, a couple of blank days push back the next milestone, 40, to game 23. Then it’s a further five games to the 50 mark before the curve steepens further and we hit 60 goals after a further three games only, thanks in part to three of them coming in the same game as the fiftieth as well as the four against Stanley. I’d venture to suggest there is nothing unusual in the variable course of the curve. This is football after all and scoring the same number of goals in every game would become very repetitive very soon. Much of the game’s excitement comes from its unpredictability.
Another random observation; last season our league goals tally was boosted by four own goals, whereas this time around only one opposing player has turned the ball into his own net. That dubious honour falls to Bradford City’s Tyler French when he obligingly opened our account in the second round of the League Cup.
We have scored three or more goals in three league and five cup games and drawn a blank in five league games and one cup tie. At the other end, we have clean sheets in ten league and two knockout games, shipping three or more goals twice in the league and once (against Liverpool) in a cup tie.
Those who sell financial products always caveat their wares with the warning that past performance does not guarantee future trends and the same is equally true in football. We all recognise the FA Cup run in 2016-17 was the exception rather than the norm. Indeed the following year we went out in the first round so while all these figures tell a story, they promise nothing for the future. For that, we shall just have to wait.
Where this all fits in with Gary’s much-trumpeted xG, I really haven’t a clue. I read the latest article on the subject very carefully but I have to admit defeat on that score (no pun intended). As I have been heard saying in such circumstances, “it’s all Greek to me”. Whether we are scoring more than, or not as many as we should in theory is not really the point from my perspective. Perhaps I’d pay more attention if I was a betting man. However, I’m not and to my way of thinking, it’s what we actually are scoring that counts and as long as the boys keep bagging more than they concede and wowing the virtual crowds along the way, they’ll get along just fine.