Goals win games. This fact makes them the most coveted commodity in football.
Teams will pay players 100 times their weight in gold in modern football if that player can fire in 20-30 goals a season.
As tactics and strategies become more complex and players are required to be able to perform multiple jobs simultaneously, the player who occupies the most diverse position on the pitch, the midfielder, is under increasing pressure to perform these tasks.
Goals are becoming an increasingly important metric in gauging their performance levels and value.
Is it accurate to use goals to measure the performance levels of every midfielder, though?
Or should fans be more considerate of specific midfielders roles in their respective sides before making sweeping statements about their ability based on a single metric?
Goal scoring vs non-goal scoring midfielders
Modern football has seen the rise of players who deal mainly in goals.
The likes of Frank Lampard, Yaya Toure and Steven Gerrard in previous years and the rise of the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Dele Alli has seen the modern fan begin to view midfielders as players capable of achieving 15+ goals in a season.
Some of these players are. However, the players who do are usually given the greatest level of freedom.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba had been lambasted by critics for going 21 games without a goal, a period stretching to around November.
This stat has divided opinion, with many using it as a evidence of the Frenchman’s supposed failings since rejoining the Manchester side.
Despite the fact that Paul Pogba plays predominantly as a central midfielder for a defensive coach, many critics have sneered at his goal return and labelled him an overpriced flop, following his £89 million transfer from Juventus.
However, Pogba has scored five times in the Premier League this season, putting him third in the rankings for Premier League top goal scoring central midfielders.
The top scoring central midfielder has only two more goals than the Frenchman, so either every central midfielder in England is having a bad season or their role makes it difficult for them to achieve high goal tallies.
Tottenham midfielder Moussa Dembele is another player who has come under increasing scrutiny for his lack of goals.
The Belgian has not recorded a single Premier League goal contribution this season. However, he plays a very defensive role.
Dembele’s primary responsibilities are to provide defensive protection and aiding his team in the transition between defence and attack.
The Belgian was widely heralded following his performances against Juventus where he dominated the midfield and helped Tottenham to secure a foothold in the game.
Dembele has performed like this, in the same role, consistently over the past three seasons.
Prior to the Juventus game, however, whenever Dembele received praise it was followed by the usual chorus of, “but he doesn’t score enough goals”.
Dembele plays in an already attacking side with striker Harry Kane winning back-to-back golden boots and more advanced players, in Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, also recording double digits last season.
For the Tottenham team, Dembele’s power and dribbling is more important to them than his goal-scoring prowess.
As football fans and critics, alike, begin to judge footballers on stats rather than with their eyes, the importance of the most trusted stat of all, goals scored, will grow in importance, while other attributes will likely take a back seat.
Dele Alli and Aaron Ramsey are always going to score more goals than Dembele and Pogba for the simple reason it is their jobs to do just that.
Critics should take the time to take player’s roles and responsibilities in their respective teams into account before making comparisons.