Pitchside Europe

The stats which prove the title is Man City’s to lose

Goals win games. It's a simple and obvious statement but goals are at the essence of football. In general, barring a remarkable defensive campaign, goals also win titles.

This season is unlike many others then, in that Chelsea and Arsenal are both well in the fight for the Premier League crown despite scoring 20 fewer than Manchester City, and even 18 fewer than fourth placed Liverpool.

In each of the previous four seasons the top scoring side has gone on to be crowned Premier League champions. Although Manchester City, with 68 goals, are still regarded as the favourites with most, the goal difference tally that sits next to points in the table makes for surprising reading.

To win a title a team must rely on a constant supply of goals throughout the side and while that's particularly true in attack, the team that shares the goals out between the squad will generally fare best. Liverpool are a case in point this season. They boast the top two scorers in the league but outside of their star forwards' contributions the split is telling.

Players starting in a forward’s position this season have scored 43 of Liverpool’s 66 league goals. That's more than twice as many as any other side, with City second on 21. The Reds have also had a considerable contribution from their defenders where goals are concerned, with their seven ranking only behind Merseyside rivals Everton (10).

However, with just 11 goals shared between their starting midfielders this season they fall way short of the three sides above them (City 31, Arsenal 30, Chelsea 23).

On their way to the title last season United saw as many as 14 of their 86 league goals scored by starting defenders and as many from midfield positions as attack (30) despite their perceived reliance on top scorer Robin van Persie. City and Chelsea, who fell short, had problems in certain areas.

The former saw just five goals scored by starting defenders while the latter, quite remarkably, saw just nine from starting strikers - a tally only better than Norwich's eight. Had Chelsea had a striker on form last season they may have challenged, just as Liverpool may be top in the current campaign had they seen more goals from midfielders.

The runners up in each of the last four campaigns have generally struggled for goals in one area or another. In stark contrast to their contribution last season, United's starting defenders in 2011-12 scored a measly three goals as the Red Devils finished a close second to neighbours City.

Meanwhile, when Chelsea finished second in 2010/11 just 15 of their goals where scored by players starting in midfield where Arsenal, who finished fourth, had as many as 32 in comparison.

A look at this season's respective figures shows that Manchester City are right to be installed as favourites. As many as nine of their players have scored more than twice in the league this season, including centre-back Vincent Kompany (three) and central midfielders Fernandinho (three) and Yaya Toure (12), with the latter's tally particularly crucial.

Meanwhile, both Chelsea and Arsenal have seen their starting strikers net just 11 league goals, which is way down on City's 21. If either were to win the league this season it would be a drastic change from the pattern of most that have gone by.

It stands to reason that all players will go through dry spells in front of goal. It's the job of the squad to replace those goals when that happens, or else an arid individual run becomes a problem for the collective.

For example, Newcastle have failed to score in their last four league matches, missing top scorer Loic Remy for the last three and second top scorer Yohan Cabaye for all four.

With a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference the title is still likely to be City's to lose. If they can keep the goals flowing throughout the squad than it's a challenge that they should stand up to.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

Martin Laurence - @martinlaurence7