Is Premier League finishing getting better? Or are goalkeepers getting worse?

Alistair Tweedale
The Telegraph
Romelu Lukaku is the Premier League's leading scorer, with 23 goals - PA
Romelu Lukaku is the Premier League's leading scorer, with 23 goals - PA

We are well and truly in the age of the superstar striker.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's goal-scoring records are simply astonishing. Then there is Luis Suarez, Neymar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And don't forget Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski, Gonzalo Higuain and Alexandre Lacazette.

At the younger end of things you have Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku, Andrea Belotti and Paulo Dybala, Timo Werner and Kylian Mbappe. Goals, goals, goals, goals, goals, goals.

Should we find it surprising then that goals are being scored with increasing efficiency?

Indeed, shot conversion rates around Europe are on the rise; no more stark has the increase been than in the Premier League.

From 11.6 per cent of all shots being scored in 2008/09, there has been a steady increase in Premier League games. In 2016/17, 15.1 per cent of shots are going in.

Is Premier League finishing getting better?

What's more, the proportion of shots on target being saved has decreased season on season, from 72.5 per cent in 2008/09 to 67.6 in 2016/17.

So are attackers finding the corners more, or are goalkeeper standards slipping?

It could be that strikers are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. Ronaldo is probably the greatest athlete football has ever seen, while Messi's balance is unparalleled. Their emergence will have pushed others to aim even higher.

<span>Ronaldo needs little opportunity to show off his torso</span> <span>Credit: EPA </span>
Ronaldo needs little opportunity to show off his torso Credit: EPA

There has always been talk of the best players being those with a desire to make it to the very top, staying behind after training to practice free-kicks, corners or their shooting, but with improved coaching and facilities the benefits of doing so may be more striking than in previous times.

Kane is a lethal finisher, closing in on 20 Premier League goals for the third consecutive season, while Lukaku has improved again as he looks to earn a move away from Everton.

The money now in England's top flight means every team can afford to have a superstar striker; even doomed Sunderland have Jermain Defoe, whose finishing remains up there with the best.

Or could the reason be that goalkeepers are getting worse?

There is more pressure than ever before on those between the sticks. Every mistake is watched over and over, analysed to oblivion and regurgitated at every opportunity by opposing fans.

<span>Every mistake Mignolet makes is pounced upon by his detractors</span> <span>Credit: Rex Features </span>
Every mistake Mignolet makes is pounced upon by his detractors Credit: Rex Features

Football is getting faster and faster, and the pace of the game cannot be helping those wearing the number one jersey. True success is an almost impossible dream for the world's goalkeepers.

Of course there is the chance that the gradual increase is simply coincidence, and that over the next nine seasons, conversion rates will level out again.

But given that it is a trend that stretches beyond England, and is mirrored in Ligue 1, La Liga, Serie A and the Champions League, there is probably more to it. The Bundesliga has seen less of an increase, but an increase nonetheless.

Goal-scoring records are forever being broken as players go to greater and greater lengths to be the very best. As those players push themselves to the limit, strikers are getting better and better. Expect goalkeepers' jobs to keep on getting harder.

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