League's top scorers take on the lowest as Burnley go to Anfield - but why are so many teams scoring fewer goals?

Liverpool may be on their worst run without a goal in almost 16 years.
Roberto FirminoRoberto Firmino
Roberto Firmino

But Burnley have failed to score in three of their last four Premier League games, and four of their last six.

And the fact remains, Thursday night's trip to Anfield sees the league's top scorers, entertain the lowest.

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The Reds may be seven goals down on their tally of 44 at this stage last season, but the Clarets have 13 fewer.

However, only eight sides in the Premier League last season have scored more as we come to the halfway point, and they are largely sides who are enjoying vastly improved campaigns - Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Everton, West Ham, Southampton, Aston Villa, and Brighton and Spurs, who are both only one goal better off.

Goals per game in the league is at 2.73, having dropped off from 3.79 in the first four weeks of the season.

And that stat is largely in line with what happened before and after project restart, when it was 2.72 either side of the lockdown.

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So why have goals been so hard to find for so many sides from last season?

Liverpool's strike rate is down, with Sadio Mane scoring only six league goals, and Roberto Firmino five, with calls for changes in their front three from some quarters ahead of the Burnley game.

Manchester City are 19 goals worse off, with Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero - who has spent much of the season injured - only scoring twice between them.

Arsenal's lethal frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled - his two goals against Newcastle on Monday night were his fourth and fifth, with his goal against Southampton at the Emirates last month his first in open play in three months, and first at home for 648 minutes.

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Throw in Newcastle, who have one goal in seven, and Burnley's well-documented struggles in front of goal, and is there a pattern emerging in the league?

Sean Dyche has pondered why, but is at pains to explain matters, as he said: "At the beginning of the season there were factually more goals, and it seemed games were more open.

"Whether or not everyone has got used to this idea...I think we're all trying to define it and I haven't got the answer, but coming out of lockdown last season, it was like 'the last nine games, go for your life, cram it all in' and I think everyone went on that kind of thinking.

"Then I think we all hoped over that small summer period, you never know, there might be people coming back in the stadiums and the first signs.

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"Then we realised that wasn't going to happen, and then we had a weird series of results, which can happen, and then, after lots of goals, it seems to have tightened up again.

"I don't know if that is the reality of teams re-adapting to not having the crowds in, to having to find that edge in performance and tighten things up a bit, I don't know, but there seems to have been a calming down period with games becoming tighter again.

"The margins seem to be less, I think we're all trying to define it, how much an impact it is still having without fans in stadiums, but it's definitely had some form of impact."

Burnley's goals are down, but their physical statistics are largely similar to what they would be with fans roaring them on: "We can only go on our own figures and they're not radically different, ours are still pretty high, a few very high.

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"The game scheduling is different, so that has to be factored in, usually now we would be easing off after a lot of games.

"But it's going to be quite a busy period, crunching the season down, so that will have an affect.

"We've had the various different times, we've had a lot of quirky times, as have other teams, so maybe that's added in as well.

"I don't think we have enough information over a long period to find out true patterns, there are some early thoughts, but you need a longer period of games really."

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However, despite Burnley being somewhat goal-shy, they were four points clear of the drop zone at the time of writing, and Dyche feels his strikers will rediscover their touch over the second half of the season: "The analysis of football is that strikers go through stages, they have some quiet stages and big stages when they are scoring freely.

"Our strikers, when you look at what they've achieved at various levels and in the Premier League, it suggests they will start scoring.

"Our job is to fast track that and give them as much ammunition and chances, and quality of chances.

"I think we've been getting towards that, times when it;s been clicking, others when it's been quiet, but when you have players who factually score goals, and at this level, I have total belief.

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"It's just trying to bring it your way, and that's the team's job."

So far, he has stuck with the tried and tested pairing of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, but could he mix things up at Anfield to bring a change in fortune?: "There's varying signs, reasons, thoughts, popular misconception of Burnley that I never change the team - I've been here eight years and I don't think it's the same bar Ben Mee and Kevin Long!

"Do I change the team when it's still got, what I call, life in it, and it's performing? I don't always do that.

"But I have a reasonable eye on when it does need changing, so we'll see."