Choosing your favorite Premier League goal is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child: it’s a tricky question, with no right answer. Now imagine that the parent has almost 30,000 children, and the task becomes even more difficult. Even once you have filtered out the penalties, the tap-ins, the own goals and the scrappy set pieces, there are still quite a few quality goals in Premier League history that deserve recognition.
We've whittled down those thousands of goals into the ten finest strikes that the Premier League has seen. Some classic goals haven’t made the cut, but hopefully you’ll find it difficult to disagree that these ten goals are all great in their own right (even the ones that were scored against the team that you support).
10. Michael Essien - Chelsea vs Arsenal, 2006/07
The Premier League has seen its share of piledrivers. Tony Yeboah, Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, they all knew how to hit a ball. But never has a Premier League ball been hit more cleanly than Michael Essien’s strike for Chelsea in 2006. The Ghanaian midfielder found the ball sitting up nicely for him some 35 yards from goal. While he had acres of space, the angle and the traffic in front of him made Essien’s task a difficult one.
Essien made it look easy, striking the ball with magnificent power and swerve. A flying Jens Lehmann may have got close, but he was never keeping that one out. The television angle from behind Essien is particularly satisfying, as the ball curved beautifully to kiss the post on its way in.
9. Benito Carbone - Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday, 1997/98
Bought in 1996 for a then-substantial £3 million, Wednesday hoped that the Italian striker Carbone would take the league by storm. While that wasn’t always the case, there was nothing Newcastle United could do about Carbone’s wonderful bicycle kick at St James’ Park.
Carbone set the move in motion with a deft flick, before a string of crisp passes worked their way to Ian Nolan on the left flank. Nolan’s ball was accurate but at an awkward height, although Carbone had no problems. A cushion on the chest and a deft flick allowed Carbone to unleash a perfectly placed overhead kick into the bottom corner.
8. Eric Cantona - Manchester United vs Sunderland, 1996/97
England owes France a real debt of gratitude, particularly in terms of language and enigmatic Premier League strikers. This has never been more evident than when Eric Cantona lobbed Sunderland’s keeper in a manner that can only be described as ‘nonchalant’. Other words like 'sublime' and 'majestic' would just about do in describing the goal. But only nonchalant does the goal true justice, as well as the ensuing celebration.
After weaving his way past two Sunderland defenders near the halfway line, Cantona broke into a sprint towards goal. A one-two with Brian McClair took Cantona to the edge of the penalty area, before that nonchalant chip took the ball the rest of the way. Cantona stood still, watching the ball arc delicately to its destination. The Frenchman then simply held his arms outstretched, receiving the acclaim of the Old Trafford crowd.
7. Maynor Figueroa - Stoke City vs Wigan Athletic, 2009/10
Maynor Figueroa is not a defender renowned for his contributions in the final third. He has only amassed more than one league goal in a season on one occasion in a long career (a prolific 2017 MLS campaign saw the Honduran notch 3 goals for FC Dallas). All of those factors should combine to prove that Figueroa should absolutely not be shooting from a free-kick in his own half.
Yet that is exactly what Figueroa did, barely taking a moment to think when a foul was awarded to Wigan. Stoke players were casually retreating into their half when they saw Figueroa’s missile fly over their heads, over keeper Thomas Sorensen and into the back of the net. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez commended Figueroa’s exceptional footballing arrogance in daring to take the shot on. If the ball had ballooned into the crowd instead, Martinez may have found some different descriptive words.
6. Peter Crouch - Stoke City vs Manchester City, 2011/12
You could argue that Manchester City had Peter Crouch exactly where they wanted him: 30 yards from goal, beyond the corner of the penalty box, probably about to miscontrol a ball at an awkward height. An awkward height for most players, perhaps, but Crouch flicked it up for himself before arcing in an astounding volley over a stunned Joe Hart.
Crouch’s remarkable effort pips Figueroa’s strike in the category of ‘Goals You Thought A Player Was Not Remotely Capable Of Scoring’. That the ball only needed five touches in total to go from Asmir Begovic’s boot to the back of the net makes this goal the perfect representation of Tony Pulis’ Stoke. Crouch’s world-class technique also makes it one of the least representative goals of Pulis’ Stoke. One of football’s great paradoxes.
5. Rod Wallace - Leeds United vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1993/94
While Thierry Henry scored some terrific goals from Arsenal off the back of a long-distance dribble, he never quite produced anything in the Premier League that was as impressive as Rod Wallace’s effort for Leeds in 1994.
Wallace started midway in his own half, embarking on a mazy run that took him down the left flank. He left three defenders flailing in that left-wing position before heading towards goal at pace. From there, Wallace set himself up at the perfect angle to curl in a right-footed finish into the far corner. It was like a textbook finesse finish on FIFA, before the finesse option was even a glint in EA’s eye.
4. Dennis Bergkamp - Newcastle United vs Arsenal, 2001/02
Bergkamp’s flick and finish against Newcastle regularly attracts doubts over whether the Dutchman meant to control the ball in such a way. With the greatest respect to some of Arsenal's Premier League strikers, there aren’t many that you would consider capable of consciously performing such a move. If Nicklas Bendtner or Marouane Chamakh had scored that goal, you’d be tempted to see the goal as a poor touch, a quick recovery and tidy finish.
But this was Dennis Bergkamp. The fluidity of the entire movement should end any doubts about Bergkamp’s intent. The way he flicked the ball with his left foot to one side of Nikos Dabizas, spun his body around the other side of the defender and collected the ball for a composed right-foot finish is mesmerizing to watch.
3. Matt Le Tissier - Southampton vs Newcastle United, 1993/94
If you liked the Bergkamp goal with one incredible touch from one player, how about a goal with many incredible touches from one player? Le Tissier was known as ‘Le God’ by Southampton fans, and there was certainly a touch of the miraculous about his first goal against Newcastle in 1993.
A headed pass was directed behind Le Tissier’s forward run, so the attacker improvised a flick to bring the ball in front of him. Without letting the ball touch the floor, Le Tissier then poked the ball beyond an onrushing defender. Another defender saw an opening for a challenge; Le Tissier saw an opening to deftly scoop the ball over the Newcastle player’s head before collecting it perfectly in his stride. A cool side-foot finish followed.
2. Jack Wilshere - Arsenal vs Norwich City, 2013/14
If you liked the Le Tissier goal with many incredible touches from one player, how about a goal with many incredible touches from many players? Wilshere played a one-two with Santi Cazorla before the Spaniard fizzed a pass into Olivier Giroud. A vintage Giroud flick found Wilshere, who responded with a flick of his own. Giroud then slid through the perfect one-touch ball to Wilshere, who had the freedom of the six-yard box to guide the ball into the bottom corner.
Norwich’s defense looked around in confusion, not quite sure what had hit them. A cynic (or a Spurs fan) will say that Giroud and Wilshere were lucky that their touches found one another. But Wilshere never broke stride throughout the move; he knew that Giroud would find him, and that Norwich’s defense would lose him.
1. Sergio Aguero - Manchester City vs Queens Park Rangers, 2011/12
You could make a case that all of the other goals in this list could be improved in some way. The shot could be taken from five yards further from goal, the angle could be narrowed, or the player could score with their eyes closed. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Sergio Aguero’s dramatic winner against QPR is somewhere in the bottom half of all the Premier League goals ever scored. Balotelli’s knock-on was strong but scrappy and, while his evasion of a lunging defender was beautiful, Aguero’s finish was hardly the most exquisite the league has ever seen.
But the context made this goal ludicrously great. With City on the verge of handing the title over to their famous rivals United, Aguero’s 94th-minute strike stole the league in a plot seemingly taken straight out of a Hollywood movie. The Premier League will likely never produce a greater moment of drama or significance, which makes Aguero’s goal the greatest the league has seen.
So there you have it, the best goal in Premier League history is a scrappy finish from inside the penalty area. While this season will no doubt produce some more great goals, will we see anything worthy of contending for a spot in the top ten?