Just like the liquidity crunch has frozen financial markets worldwide, the goal crunch has hit the Premiership hard. 33 goal less draws and counting. In both cases it would appear to be brought on by the excesses of deregulated capitalism. One is fact, the other theory. In fact, there is this and other theories being bandied about and novel suggestions to fix this sudden bane confronting the EPL.
Clubs are hunkering down because there is a financial windfall if they remain promoted, as the richest league keeps getting richer from TV subscriptions, sponsorships, and merchandising which allows them to spend astronomical sums on transfers and wages.
It may have to do with the 4-5-1 formation favoured by many teams which clogs up the passing lanes and forces teams to take the more difficult wide route. Pepe Reina might have succeeded in showing us a way out through the thicket.
The problem is that the Premiership was already overheated with enough money to stuff everyone and their aunt. The 4-5-1 is nothing new. An influx of pragmatic foreign coaches? We have had Houllier and then Mourinho in the past who could never be accused of profligacy but even they seem to draw the line on goalless draws while betting everything on unappealing 1-0 victories. So why now?
It comes on the heels of unprecedented CL supremacy.
Lets put it this way, this season has been particularly unsettling for the usual suspects. In fact, the top clubs might be paying a price for overexposure, physical exhaustion from a glut of matches, escalated expectations, and ennui.
Off season transfer distractions, diva like behaviour, changes in coaching, and injuries. This is all part and parcel. But the CL seems to have exacerbated the situation and dramatically curtailed production. Cristiano Ronaldo was involved in a bitter feud between Man Utd and Real in the off season. Drogba came unhinged in the coin toss incident and was sidelined by Scolari. Torres has missed more than third of the season already. Adebayor did not make any new friends with his wishy washy Arsenal commitment and has been wanting in effort. Anelka has cooled off considerably from his bright start. The top four teams have been involved in 14 goalless encounters, a very high number.
These players provide insurance against drawing blanks, in fact, they are there to break the backs of teams like Fulham and Wigan with a stoppage time strike. Nothing should be taken away from the Cottagers impeccable defense but they have had to deal with a misfiring upper echelon finding goal scoring elusive in general.
In comparison, Barca is running a virtual jailbreak with 84 goals coming thick and fast. Samuel Eto'o has 25, Messi 19. Second placed Real has 66. The top four teams have 4 goalless draws. In the Serie and the Bundesliga the number is 7 and 2, respectively. In fact, the Bundesliga provides an interesting story. The top team Hertha Berlin has scored only 39 goals. But there have been no goalless draws. Instead they have had any number of 1-0 wins. The attack in these leagues are doing what they are supposed to be doing, scoring, breaking goalless deadlocks. There maybe an association with these developments and the European leagues having to deal with the new reality of perennial English CL contention. Call it transference but they look a lot fresher and more focused in their domestic season.
Amidst all this Mark Hughes is probably scratching his head at suggestions like widening the goals. With 5 draws, none goalless and 14 losses he is really going for broke. A bit more of Fulham like obduracy and Man City would be competing for an UEFA berth.