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The ultimate Premier League Goal of all Seasons (26-21)

As a kid, nothing beat the excitement of waking up on a Sunday to watch a VHS recording of Match of the Day. The weekend was built around this tradition. Nothing could be better, well almost nothing.

Every now and then, as another edition reached its climax (usually just before the ‘highlights’ of Southampton’s weekly defeat), masterful host Des Lynam would utter a simple phrase that brought instant joy to my young heart. ‘It’s time for Goal of the Month.’

The pinnacle of this extravaganza of wonder strikes came on the final show of the campaign. Goal of the Season! The best of the best. In the days before Arsenal fans flooding online votes, it was time to nail your colours to the mast, ask the bill payers permission and help steer your favourite goal to glory.

The first football season I can recall is the 92/93 debut of the Premier League. The late Dalian Atkinson’ solo masterpiece beat out wonder goals from a teenage Ryan Giggs and Altrincham superstar Clive Freeman. Atkinson’s was the first Premier League goal to win the award and there have been 25 since then. As an excuse to watch a load of old football, relive my childhood and create an entirely meaningless and objective list, it is time to rank them from 26-1 to decide on the ‘Goal of all Seasons.’

The full list, in chronological order, is as follows:

Dalian Atkinson (ASTON VILLA vs Wimbledon – 92/93)

Rod Wallace (LEEDS vs Spurs – 93/94)

Matthew Le Tissier (Blackburn vs SOTON – 94/95)

Tony Yeboah (LEEDS vs Wimbledon – 95/96)

Trevor Sinclair (QPR vs Barnsley – 96/97)

Dennis Bergkamp (Leicester vs ARSENAL – 97/98)

Ryan Giggs (MAN UTD vs Arsenal – 98/99)

Paulo Di Canio (WEST HAM vs Wimbledon – 99/00)

Shaun Bartlett (CHARLTON vs Leicester – 00/01)

Dennis Bergkamp (Newcastle vs ARSENAL – 01/02)

Thierry Henry (ARSENAL vs Spurs – 02/03)

Dietmar Hamann (LIVERPOOL vs Portsmouth – 03/04)

Wayne Rooney (MAN UTD vs M’Boro – 04/05)

Steven Gerrard (LIVERPOOL vs West Ham – 05/06)

Wayne Rooney (MAN UTD vs Bolton – 06/07)

Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs vs ARSENAL – 07/08)

Glen Johnson (PORTSMOUTH vs Hull – 08/09)

Maynor Figueroa (Stoke vs WIGAN – 09/10)

Wayne Rooney (MAN UTD vs Man City – 10/11)

Papiss Cisse (Chelsea vs NEWCASTLE – 11/12)

Robin Van Persie (MAN UTD vs Aston Villa – 12/13)

Jack Wilshere (ARSENAL vs Norwich – 13/14)

Jack Wilshere (ARSENAL vs West Brom – 14/15)

Dele Alli (Crystal Palace vs SPURS – 15/16)

Emre Can (Watford vs LIVERPOOL – 16/17)

Jamie Vardy (West Brom vs LEICESTER – 17/18)

To rank the goals, I have used a highly technical algorithm. My measure is as follows;

  • If I had 10,000 attempts to score that goal, how many times would I succeed?’
  • ‘Did it look good?’
  • ‘Other ‘factors’ (context of goal, standard of kit/boots, celebration etc) to be used as tie-breakers’

*I have also tried to remain as neutral as possible despite my undying love for Sir Matthew Le Tissier*

So here goes. 26 Goals of the Season, ranked in reverse order, based on opinions only. Feel free to dispute/abuse my decisions in the comments section but please remember I didn’t choose the options; I’m working with what the BBC/public have given us.

If nothing else, I hope you enjoy the memories…

26th – Jack Wilshere (ARSENAL vs West Brom – 14/15)

The Goal of the Season that ruined Goal of the Season. As the age of online voting took complete control from the good old phone call, the possibility for groups of people to flood public votes presented itself – and nobody took to this new pastime quite like Arsenal supporters. Wilshere’s win signalled the end of the Goal of the Season voting process and meant all subsequent winners are based on ‘expert’ opinion from the Match of the Day studio. In fairness to Jack Wilshere, that isn’t his fault and this is actually a very decent goal.

Wilshere shows great technique when firing a left footed half volley in to the top corner of Ben Foster’s goal. This is the type of finish that catches out lower level footballers on a weekly basis, resulting in a variety of air shots and opposition throw ins. The (former?) England midfielder fares slightly better and bags himself a screamer.

The problem here is that, in the same season, there were other goals that were more impressive; Jermain Defoe won the Tyne-Wear Derby with a weaker foot volley; Bobby Zamora produced an outrageous lobbed finish with the outside of his boot; but perhaps the man most scorned is Charlie Adam, who beat Thibaut Courtois at Stamford Bridge from deep in his own half. In the interest of what is right and just, Wilshere takes bottom place in this list despite scoring a goal that I, like most of us, could only dream of.

25th – Dietmar Hamann (LIVERPOOL vs Portsmouth – 03/04)

I couldn’t remember this goal when I read the list of award winners which wasn’t a great sign. On re-watching, it turns out that Hamann’s effort was a fine strike indeed. This volley required a high level of technical skill as Michael Owen’s looping pull back left the German with plenty to do. He finished with aplomb, mixing power and a touch of slice to fire the ball in to the top left corner from 20 yards.

Unfortunately for Hamann, this goal lacks the uniqueness required to really challenge the leaders of this competition. I can instantly think of Premier League volleys (Scholes vs Bradford, Yeboah vs Liverpool, Danny Rose vs Arsenal for example) that would at least challenge this effort for the title of ‘best first time volley.’ In fact, after a quick YouTube search, I would argue that Lilian Nalis, then of Leicester, should feel mightily aggrieved not to have the Goal of the Season trophy for 03/04 sat on his mantelpiece. Didi Hamann won the award with a great goal but not an all-time great goal.

24th – Maynor Figueroa (Stoke vs WIGAN – 09/10)

Honduran left back. Stoke. Wigan. All the classic ingredients for a Goal of the Season.

Where you would place this goal really depends on what type of goal you like. If it is distance you are after, Maynor is your man. On one hand, it is simply a punt. On the other, it is an extremely difficult, opportunistic goal demonstrating incredible vision and ability.

Scott Sinclair earns a well-deserved Fantasy Football assist for being fouled in his own half. Stoke players, quite understandably given the lack of immediate threat, take time to react. Many miles away, Thomas Sorensen is enjoying the view from the edge of his six-yard box.

Figueroa decides to take matters in to his own hands. With the ball settled close to the touchline in his own half, he looks up, spots an opportunity and unleashes a beautifully struck drive that barely dips before it reaches the net. Sorensen’s positioning is perfectly suitable. Figueroa must be given credit for such a powerful and accurate strike.

Obviously this entire list is subjective. I have always felt that set-pieces should not win ‘best goal’ awards as the scorer doesn’t face the same challenges as they would in open play. This is the only free-kick to win Goal of the Season in the Premier League era. It is one hell of a strike but I must stick to my principles. I wish I could kick a ball that far though.

23rd – Thierry Henry (ARSENAL vs Spurs – 02/03)

I was surprised to see that Henry did not win the award for his flick up and volley against Man Utd during the 00/01 season. Two years later Thierry did finish top of the class; with a very different type of goal.

Derby day goal = immediate bonus points in this complex, detailed scoring system. The context of a goal has to play some role in the way it is remembered. This goal, made up of powerful run and clinical finish, was prime Henry. Add in the backdrop of Highbury and hapless Tottenham defenders and you have a goal that represents a vintage Premier League finish.

The goal itself in my opinion is excellent but not incredible. Speed and ball control are on full display. His precise left footed finish is pleasing on the eye. On close analysis though, Henry doesn’t actually need to directly beat any defenders, meaning it sits below the likes of Atkinson and Wallace on this list. This, in fairness, is credit to Henry; defenders were simply too scared to approach him.

For this reason, I can’t place it amongst the defining solo goals of our time alongside Weah, Zlatan and multiple Messi masterpieces. In fact, I would argue that this effort, while memorable for many reasons, is not even Henry’s best solo effort for Arsenal. Supporters of Liverpool and Inter Milan may reluctantly agree.

22nd – Wayne Rooney (MAN UTD vs M’Boro – 04/05)

The earliest of Rooney’s three goal of the season winning strikes and certainly not the most famous. This FA Cup fourth round strike was full of technical difficulty but has not stood the test of time.

If you type ‘Rooney volley’ in to google this goal does not feature in the suggested links. The top suggestion is, perhaps not surprisingly, ‘Rooney volley Newcastle.’ Strangely, the goal against the Magpies was also in the 04/05 season. The voting public of 2005 made their choice but footballing folklore seems to have reversed their decision.

This winning goal is route one in the extreme. The classic combination of Roy Carroll and Louis Saha provide Rooney with the chance to unleash a 20-yard volley. Already having scored a delicious chip and with United cruising to victory, the pressure is off. The then 19-year-old wonder kid demonstrates the audacity of youth and improvises a powerful dipping volley past a hapless Mark Schwarzer.

Had the (terrible FA Cup designed) ball arrowed higher in to the top corner rather than ending at mid height, or had it come on a bigger stage, this goal would likely be better remembered. As it is, watching this goal back serves as a reminder. The much-maligned Rooney produced some real magic over the years. Perhaps harshly positioned on the list but they’ve all got to fit somewhere.

21st – Shaun Bartlett (CHARLTON vs Leicester – 00/01)

Shaun Bartlett’s moment of glory seems to have been erased from history being the only goal on this list that is not available on YouTube. Yet when I eventually found the goal in form of a GIF on twitter, I was presented with terrible picture quality but a fine strike. Unfortunately for Bartlett’s dreams of topping this particular list, he scored it one year too late. Despite very different techniques, Paulo Di Canio’s volley the previous season was of higher class. The volleys were not at all the same but the overall effect (long ball from right, volley from left) are fairly similar.

This goal’s downfall on this list is this lack of uniqueness. The resemblance to later winning goals from Robin Van Persie and Jamie Vardy are striking. In fairness to the South African, he was the pioneer of this ‘over the shoulder left footed volley’ trend and deserves plenty of credit for a highly skilled finish.

I am ranking it below than the aforementioned strikes as the assist arrived from a shorter distance and Bartlett perhaps had a more favourable angle from which to watch the ball on to his foot. It’s a matter of opinion really, but if this goal can’t even make YouTube, I can’t let it make the top 20 in this table.

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Premier League Table

# Team MP W D L P
1 Everton 6 4 1 1 13
2 Liverpool 6 4 1 1 13
3 Aston Villa 5 4 0 1 12
4 Leicester City 6 4 0 2 12
5 Tottenham Hotspur 6 3 2 1 11
6 Leeds United 6 3 1 2 10
7 Southampton 6 3 1 2 10
8 Crystal Palace 6 3 1 2 10
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers 6 3 1 2 10
10 Chelsea 6 2 3 1 9
11 Arsenal 6 3 0 3 9
12 West Ham United 6 2 2 2 8
13 Manchester City 5 2 2 1 8
14 Newcastle United 6 2 2 2 8
15 Manchester United 5 2 1 2 7
16 Brighton & Hov… 6 1 2 3 5
17 West Bromwich Albion 6 0 3 3 3
18 Burnley 5 0 1 4 1
19 Sheffield United 6 0 1 5 1
20 Fulham 6 0 1 5 1

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