On the last day of the first round of LaLiga, the one played this weekend, six of the games were resolved 1-0 (or 0-1) and a seventh, Real Madrid-Real Sociedad, 0-0. Seven games reached the break with no goals on the scoreboard, as has happened in around a third of the 188 games played since it all started in August. The competition reaches its halfway point and none of the top 10 classified have more points than goals in their results account. A rarity.
At first glance, the conclusion seems obvious: this League lacks goals. Many. But is it a right feeling? The data confirm that, indeed, LaLiga faces a serious goal crisis this season. This is dictated by both the comparison with the rest of the major championships on the continent and this season with the previous ones in the Spanish tournament.
According to the data collection carried out by the livefutbol.com portal, in the first 188 games of this course, 447 goals have been scored, which yields an average of 2.38 goals per game. Only 10 of the 92 editions of LaLiga played throughout history had a lower goalscoring record than that of the first round of this 2022/23 season. The last of these was, 32 years ago, 1990/91, which is the second least prolific in history, behind 1972/73.
In other words, this League is being the least goalscoring of the last three decades. A headline that is not so surprising if you look at the recent historical series, which marks a clear decline in scoring production in recent seasons.
In the last decade, the peak in this statistic was set in 2016/17, in which both Real Madrid (106) and Barcelona (116) scored more than 100 goals. This course, the scoring projection of both (the whites have one more than the blaugrana) is around 80 goals.
Since that season, in which an average of 2.94 goals were scored in each game, the decline in that facet is constant. In the last three, the figure stabilized, with just three hundredths of a difference between each of them, a negligible amount. The jump from last season to this one, however, is 12 hundredths, which is equivalent to about 45 goals in a 38-game season.
IS IT FOR THE VAR?
Why? It is tempting to point to VAR as one of the possible causes, but the most pronounced downward trend started the season before the technology was introduced in LaLiga, 2017/18. The referee’s report at the end of the first season with that assistance, 2018/19, concluded that the VAR had conceded as many goals (15) as it had cancelled..
And, looking abroad, the last season (18/19) without video arbitration in the Premier yielded almost identical data to those of the past: 2,821 versus 2,814 goals per game. In Germany, meanwhile, the current season is the highest scoring season since 1985. and in Italy the courses 19/20 and 20/21, both with VAR already, are among the 10 best in history in that facet. Video arbitration, in short, is ruled out as a valid argument for this casuistry.
The review of the best competitions on the continent, however, serves to make it even clearer that the Spanish League has a problem, at least a deficit, in terms of goals. The other four major leagues in Europe present better data in terms of goalscoring production: in Serie A, 2.61 goals per game are being scored this season; in the Premier, 2.77; in the French Ligue 1, 2.89; and in the Bundesliga, 3.26, almost a bit more per game.
Cristiano and Messi
Ultimately, you have to look for other reasons. And one of them seems clear: the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi from the championship. Between 2009 and 2018, the years in which the Portuguese arrived and left Real Madrid, respectively, between the two stars they added no less than 60 goals, reaching 96 in the 2011/12 season. Neither does Luis Suárez, who reached 40 goals with Barcelona in the 2016/17 season, appear in the Spanish competition.
This season, no striker seems capable of approaching the numbers of those three players. Not even Robert Lewandowski, who leads the Pichichi table with 13 goals. There is only one other player who reaches halfway through the championship with a dozen goals, the Spanish player Joselu (11).
The Pole draws a progression of 26 goals (or, being generous, 27, since Barça has one game left in the first round to play, this Wednesday against Betis) at the end of the season. With those numbers, Lewandowski would only have been Pichichi in one of the previous 15 seasons2019/20, in which Messi raised the seventh of his eight trophies after finishing the course with 25 goals.
Benzema, Morata, Gerard…
Karim Benzema, the top scorer last year, adds ‘only’ nine, largely because he has been injured and has only played 10 of Real Madrid’s 18 games. At Atlético, Álvaro Morata sets the course record, with seven. Gerard Moreno, another classic on these lists, barely has four, also affected by injuries. Raúl de Tomás, 17 goals last year, has just returned to play after half a year fallow due to his murky departure from Espanyol. And at Barça, apart from Lewandowski, only Pedri (5) and Dembele’s (6) have scored more than three goals in LaLiga.
And it is that there, ultimately, seems to be the crux of the matter, in the lack of offensive talent. As this newspaper already recounted, LaLiga forwards are getting older, largely because the best young gunners are landing in other championships (Haaland, Vlahovic, Núñez…) or, as in the case of Mbappé, they have not left their own.
for one reason or another (mark the money very high on the list), the reality is that they do not land in LaLiga. And so, of course, fewer goals are scored.