A collection of some of the worst and most bizarre goal droughts (including Newcastle United, Chelsea, and Liverpool stars) in Premier League history.
A lot of strikers feed on confidence. If they find the back of the net once, the goals will keep flowing, but a dry spell can be so damaging to their self-belief that they almost become different players. Sadly, the stuff of sports pyschology is still in its infancy, and there’s no way to look inside the mind of a forward to figure out why they suddenly become so abject in the box.
The closest we can get, for now, is to take a look at the figures and ask ourselves why a trained professional – whose chief responsibility is to register goals – can switch off so sharply. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of five of the worst goal droughts in Premier League history, so that if your team’s main man up front starts to drop off a little this season, you can compare, take comfort, and think of the ways it could be worse.
5. Erik Meijer (Liverpool) – 24 games
Somehow, Erik Meijer become a bit of a cult hero for the Kop during his time at Anfield. It says something about the love of irony amongst football fans that the imposing Dutchman won the hearts of Liverpool fans if not their minds. Signed from Bayer Leverkusen in 1999, he was meant to provide a serious aerial threat for the team – offering something a bit different from the more technically gifted duo of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen.
Alas, he only scored twice in two seasons, with both goals coming against Hull City in the League Cup. ‘Mad Erik’ was favoured by supporters for the passion he showed as a player, but the end product was never there. He left the club in 2001 having never scored a league goal.
4. Fernando Torres (Chelsea) – 24 games
Certainly one of the most high profile goal droughts in Premier League history, the mystery of how Fernando Torres suddenly became unable to score will continue to perplex football fans for years to come. Having bagged 65 goals in 102 games for Liverpool, the reported £50 million BBC Sport say Chelsea paid for his services in 2011 might have raised a few eyebrows due to the size of the fee, but its sense as a football decision could hardly be questioned.
Then there came the remarkable 24 games it took one of world football’s most feared strikers to register a goal for his new club. Torres was never quite the same after that miserable dry patch, and although his return to Atletico Madrid has allowed him to recover some respectability in goal-scoring terms, it will remain an uneviable statistic for any striker.
3. Nile Ranger (Newcastle United) – 26 games
Although he played a part in Newcastle’s swift return to the Premier League in 2010, his time at the club was not spectacular. Injuries to Shola Ameobi and Leon Best saw a weight of expectation placed on his shoulders which he could not carry, and he never scored a Premier League goal for the club.
2. Diego Forlan (Manchester United) – 26 games
It’s hard at the best of times for a foreign player to adjust to the Premier League, and signing half-way through a season can’t make it any easier. Perhaps that’s why Diego Forlan – who scored in almost every other game during his time in Argentina – found it so hard to get up and running after making the switch to Manchester United in January 2002.
It took him 26 games to finally score for the Red Devils (although only 23 of those were in the league), making his dry run the stuff of infamy amongst the Old Trafford faithful. Although he scored a few important goals for the club, he never really found his feet in the Premier League and it wasn’t until moving to La Liga that he rediscovered his edge in leading the attack.
1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – 29 games
Perhaps it’s unfair to include a midfield player amongst a list of goal-dry strikers, but given that Hazard – at his best – scores more goals in the midfield than some strikers manage in a good year, and given the disastrous disappearing act that he pulled off during Chelsea’s woeful 2015-16 season: it isn’t completely unfair.
The fact that Hazard got into double figures (as well as winning the league) in both seasons either side of that remarkable downturn, suggests that whatever hoodoo Jose Mourinho conjured over the dressing room in the interim, it particularly affected the skilful Belgian. He can count himself lucky that it did no lasting damage to his reputation, but it still has to be recorded as one of the worst goal droughts – from an otherwise incredible player – in Premier League history.