Close Up of Footballer In Stadium at Night

Famous Football Goal Droughts

Dominic Calvert-Lewin looked a nervous man as he stood over an 88th minute penalty at St James’ Park on the 2nd of April 2024. His side had been on a very poor run and looked likely to slump to their fourth defeat in a row but the late spot-kick gave them a great chance to level the scores and potentially nick a point.

The pressure was intense and nerves understandable, but from a personal perspective the pressure was so much greater because the Everton striker had been on a horrible run of games without a goal. He was on the worst drought by any major forward in the Premier League and it was hard to imagine that not all that long ago he had played for England.

Thankfully for the Sheffield native and the Toffees, he banged the penalty away to earn a point for his club. Of course, Calvert-Lewin is not the first striker to suffer a goal drought and nor will he be the last. Over the years even the very best strikers English football has seen have endured barren spells in front of goal.

Confidence is so important to all footballers but perhaps strikers most of all. Miss a few chances and it can take a hit. And if that is then exacerbated by a couple of games without any decent opportunities to score and a few more missed efforts, a run of three or four games without a goal can quickly become seven or eight. A striker’s fundamental role in the team is to score goals and if they aren’t doing that questions are asked and pressure mounts upon pressure.

But what are the worst goal droughts in history? Here we take a look at some of the longest sequences top attackers have suffered without hitting the back of the net, as well as some tough runs that might not be the longest but certainly attracted a lot of attention. Before we do that though, let’s take a quick look at Calvert-Lewin’s recent run.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin Goal Drought 2023/24

Games From To
23 29th Oct 2023 (vs West Ham) 2nd Apr 2024 (vs Newcastle)

DCL ended his run of games without scoring from the penalty spot on the 2nd of April 2024. Prior to that, his last goal for the Toffees was all the way back on the 29th of October 2023. That is a serious drought by any standards, stretching a massive 156 days, or just over five months. In terms of games, it was 23 long, hard matches of misery for the former Sheffield United striker.

In all this season he has played 26 times for the Blues in the Premier League and has scored four goals, providing just one assist. Everton have struggled to score all season, despite creating some decent chances at times and his lack of output has been a big part of that. He actually started the campaign quite well, despite missing some early games through injury, and netted three goals in the first seven PL matches he took part in. However, as we know, goal number four was then a massive five-month wait away. But how does that compare to other Premier League goal droughts?

Forlan Found Unwanted Fame

Diego Forlan Playing for Uruguay
Diego Forlan took almost eight months to score his first goal for Manchester United. Image by Celso Pupo, Bigstock Photo

Diego Forlan ultimately had the last laugh and should be a bit of a poster boy for any striker who suffers a poor spell in front of goal, especially if that happens to be after a big-money move to a major side. He ended his career with a Copa America title, a Premier League crown, an FA Cup and the Europa League, and in all won silverware with six different clubs, as well as his native Uruguay.

But despite all that, many in England may well remember him most for the “impressive” goal drought with which he started his Man United career. Being remembered in such a way is far from ideal but Forlan is the one with the medals, trophies, and many happy memories.

We are not, however, here to talk about that, but instead the 24-games he went without finding the back of the net after moving to the Red Devils from Independiente in Argentina, in January 2002, for a fee of £7m. He went 18 games without a goal in that first campaign and his poor form in front of goal continued into 2002/03. Eventually, in September 2002 he finally scored.

The goal came in the Champions League, albeit against Israeli minnows Maccabi Haifa and, admittedly from the spot. But after nine months, we have little doubt that he, the United fans and the man who signed him, Sir Alex Ferguson, were all simply happy that he was off the mark. His first Premier League strike would not come until the 26th of October, so it was hardly a case of them flooding in once he broke his duck.

Other Notable Droughts

Football Stadium at Night Viewed Through Goal Net

There have been so many other notable droughts that we can’t possibly go through them all here. Hard though it might be to believe, Erling Haaland once went nine Premier League games without a goal. In the Norwegian’s defence he was injured for five of those, but by his standards we think four matches still counts as a shocking spell!

And Haaland, Calvert-Lewin and Forlan are in fine company too, because one particularly notable lack of goals came from the Premier League’s greatest ever goal-getter, Alan Shearer. The former Southampton, Blackburn and Newcastle man may have a record 260 PL goals to his name but even he was not immune from a barren run.

His worst sequence without scoring came for England rather than at club level, and possibly at the worst possible time, just ahead of a home European Championship. Prior to Euro ‘96 Shearer went an unthinkable 12 England matches without notching. Terry Venables famously and publicly stuck by his man though and was rewarded when it mattered most, Shearer scoring in the tournament’s opener against Switzerland and netting five in total to win the Golden Boot.

Another great striker, at least when at his best, Fernando Torres, also had to endure a torrid time at one stage. The Spaniard, who won three major tournaments with his nation, not to mention the Champions and Europa League at club level, had been brilliant with Atletico Madrid and then Liverpool. He left the Reds having banged in 81 goals in just 142 games, acquired by Chelsea for a massive £50m.

His career at Stamford Bridge started badly and got worse (even if it did technically yield an FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League!). The 110-capped Spain star went over 900 minutes before opening his Chelsea account and scored just once in 18 games in his debut season. Better would surely come once he settled in? Wrong.

In the 2011/12 campaign Torres went 24 games without hitting the back of the net. He ended his Chelsea career with just 20 PL goals in 110 matches, a poor return by any standard but truly abysmal for a £50m man.

What About Other Positions?

If going 20+ games without a goal is bad, imagine turning out more than 300 times in the Premier League without scoring. To be fair, Kenny Cunningham was not a striker, but a defender, so scoring was hardly a key part of his job description. But football is a team game and if defenders can chip in with a few goals a season they can really help their side.

Cunningham, however, was not that sort of defender. He played 72 times for Ireland without scoring and at club level notched just twice in 615 matches. That record drops to one in 531 senior league games and a big fat, ugly zero in 335 in the Premier League (for Wimbledon and then Birmingham). No outfield player has appeared in the competition more times without scoring.