Why so many goals in this season's Premier League?

Dominic Solanke and Cole Palmer

Even with 44 matches still to be played, the goalscoring record for a 20-team Premier League season has already been broken.

The 2023-24 campaign will likely be remembered for its breathless three-team title race, but it may also go down in history for its gluttony of goals, with high-scoring fixtures being delivered almost every matchday.

Take this midweek for example: On Tuesday, Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 5-0. On Wednesday, Manchester United beat Sheffield United 4-2, and on Thursday Manchester City thumped Brighton 4-0.

In Manchester United's game Harry Maguire's equaliser was the Premier League's 1,085th goal of the season, taking it past the 38-game record of 1,084, which had only been set last term.

Eleven further goals have been scored since then. Top-flight matches this term are averaging 3.26 goals per game, according to data analysts Opta.

If this scoring rate continues this season will end with 1,239 goals, breaking the Premier League's absolute record of 1,222 from 1992-93 - back when there were 22 teams in the division and 462 games played.

It would be a mammoth tally, so what's the secret behind the Premier League's increased goals?

Goals per match in Premier League seasons over time

Longer matches equal more late drama

It only takes a second to score a goal.

So, surely the more seconds there are in a match the more goals a team will score.

England's refereeing body the PGMOL is using longer amounts of stoppage time this season as part of a directive from Ifab, football's lawmakers, in a move aimed at tackling time-wasting.

This season the average match has had 11 minutes and 39 seconds of stoppage time - three minutes and 13 seconds more than in 2022-23.

And, simply put, longer matches have provided more goals.

So far there have been 138 of them in stoppage time this campaign (41 in the first half and 97 in the second). That total already eclipses the record of 102 stoppage-time goals set in 2016-17.

It is also already 54 more than last season's tally. A vast increase with so many matches still to play.

 Premier League stoppage time goals table

Record success rate from the penalty spot

One of the easiest ways to score is from the penalty spot. No defenders in the way, just a designated taker against the goalkeeper.

There have been 93 penalties awarded this season at a rate of 0.28 per game - a 0.02 increase on last year.

But, while the increase in penalties given has only been slight, success from the spot has been dramatic.

In 2022-23, 74.7% of spot-kicks were scored. This year, the penalty conversion rate is currently at an all-time high of 90.3%.

Premier League penalties and success rates over time

Is it not all because Sheffield United are really bad?

Harsh! But also, no.

Bottom club Sheffield United are having a very poor season defensively, having already let in 92 goals in 34 games.

No team in a 38-game Premier League season have conceded more.

But, if you removed the Blades' matches from the stats entirely, this season the Premier League would still be averaging 3.22 goals per game (down from the true figure of 3.26).

That average remains much higher than last season's record of 2.85 goals per game.

Most scorers in 31 years

Finally, it looks like this goalscoring trend is sustainable, for now at least.

It is not just one club skewing the data. And it is also not just one individual having a miraculous season.

So many players are contributing.

Excluding own goals there have been 286 different goalscorers in the league since the opening day.

That figure has only been bettered once, in 1992-93.

But, of course, that was in a 462-match season. All of 2023-24's records have come from just 336 games.