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Premier League weekend featured goals of all shapes and sizes

The FC guys are already seeing improvements in Liverpool's defence and ability to close out games following their victory over Crystal Palace.

The debate about football's greatest-ever goal has long been contested between an almost undisputed shortlist of three, all scored in international tournaments during the 1970s or 1980s. Notably, they are all completely different, essentially incomparable.

Carlos Alberto rounded off a brilliant Brazilian team move against Italy in 1970, Argentina's Diego Maradona produced a mesmeric dribble through the England defence in 1986, and Marco van Basten struck a remarkable dipping volley for Netherlands against Soviet Union two years later.

Which was the best? Well, your preference depends not merely upon the outright quality of the goal, but also upon precisely what you believe constitutes a great goal and a similar thought process might have played out when considering the best of last weekend's Premier League strikes.

None of them were goal-of-the-season contenders but they did fall neatly into 10 categories which, in turn, can be split into two groups: Seven types of the best goals are about individual brilliance, the other three reflect team harmony.

The solo dribble: Callum Wilson (Bournemouth vs. West Ham)

Receiving the ball with no support and surrounded by five West Ham defenders, Wilson slalomed past Fabian Balbuena, jumped over the challenge of Pablo Zabaleta, and left goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski backwards-somersaulting in his attempts to stop the finish.

It might be the classic playground goal, but the solo dribble has become less common, thanks to more compact defences and greater pressure on the ball. The closest thing to Maradona's goal in recent years -- Lionel Messi's vs. Getafe in 2007 -- was dismissed as "the result of a collection of errors" by his future manager Pep Guardiola, modern football's chief philosopher who preaches passing over individualism. 

The long-range thunderbolt: Will Hughes (Watford vs. Burnley)

Hughes collected a loose ball inside the Burnley half, drove forward and smashed beyond Joe Hart from 25 yards.

Long-range strikes are not becoming less common, but they are becoming less revered. To take an extreme example, when David Beckham scored from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996, few had witnessed anything comparable and it was instantly heralded an all-time classic.

These days, modern footballs can be struck further and, in an era where hundreds of matches are filmed every weekend, we have witnessed many halfway hits. Indeed, when Charlie Adam did something similar against Chelsea in 2015, the dominant reaction was relief that he had finally managed such a goal, after years of attempts. 

The impudent finish: Glenn Murray (Brighton vs. Manchester United)

This is essentially the opposite to the long-range strike: It's not about the fact Murray managed to score from where he was -- five yards from goal -- but rather the delicacy of the finish, using the spin on Solly March's low cross to lift the ball over David De Gea.

Twenty years ago, a dink over the goalkeeper was regarded as extravagant genius and borderline showboating. Now it is a standard, accepted manner of finishing, possibly because an improvement in pitches means players can trust the roll of the ball. However, as Messi showed vs. Bayern three years ago, the cheekiness of the finish, deceiving the goalkeeper with finesse rather than beating him through power, should not be underestimated.

The curler: Lucas Moura (Tottenham vs. Fulham)

A lovely connection from the Brazilian international, who wrapped his weaker foot around the ball to steer it in off the far post.

A variation on the long-range strike, this hit with whip rather than power and trajectory is more important than speed. Modern footballs and boots have allowed more invention with curl and bend and this summer's World Cup was notable for the number of outstanding curled strikes from, among others, Denis Cheryshev, Ricardo Quaresma, Luka Modric and Benjamin Pavard.

The curler inside the far post has become the accepted picture-book goal, thanks in no small part to the rise in popularity of inverted wingers.

The chip: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City vs. Huddersfield)

This was an unusual goal, in that it was essentially "route one" with a long ball from goalkeeper to centre-forward. Having received Ederson's pass, Aguero shifted the ball inside and away from the goalkeeper, then chipped delicately over covering defenders.

The chip -- longer-range than a dink -- is surely the most arrogant way to score a goal. Paul Scholes tells an amusing story about Peter Schmeichel chasing him whenever Scholes successfully chipped him in training; similarly, when the goalkeeper foiled an effort, he would thump the ball as far away as possible, furious that anyone would have the audacity to attempt it.

Chips are always associated with the most aesthetically pleasing players -- Dennis Bergkamp, Francesco Totti, Glenn Hoddle among them -- who are able to marry the blend of imagination and technical perfection required.

The arrowed free kick: David Silva (Manchester City vs. Huddersfield)

Silva's first-ever free kick goal in the Premier League -- on the occasion of his 250th appearance in the competition -- had a bit of whip, a bit of dip and was fired into the top corner.

The problem with free kick goals is that they are, basically, all the same. Aside from remarkable trajectories like those of Roberto Carlos vs. France, Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Portsmouth or even Dimitri Payet vs. Crystal Palace, it is difficult to become genuinely excited.

The taker has 10 yards of space -- strictly measured by the referee's spray -- as well as time to compose himself. What is more, he can hit the ball with his stronger foot after a measured run-up. Standard free kicks, even when despatched perfectly, cannot be taken seriously in goal-of-the-season conversations.

The thumping volley: Andre Gray (Watford vs. Burnley)

A slick passing combination with Troy Deeney was finished by Gray's impressive first-time, mid-air hit, albeit -- maybe -- slightly shinned into the net

Volleys are treated with a unique air of reverence; Van Basten's goal would not have been nearly as remarkable had the ball bounced before it was struck, while Robin van Persie's extraordinary hit against Charlton in 2006 is the best example of both ball and player flying through the air. They are considered the ultimate example of perfect technique, although it is rare to see trajectories as mesmeric as that of Van Basten; they are usually more simple, powerful finishes.

The team passing move: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal vs. Chelsea)

Why is Unai Emery determined for Petr Cech to play out from the back? Because of goals like this 19-pass move, which featured 10 separate players and was finished smartly by Iwobi from Henrikh Mkhitaryan's low cross.

Despite the recent rise of possession football, goals that feature contributions by nearly an entire team remain rare; Esteban Cambiasso's for Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro is a good example.

They require bravery in deep positions, patience to switch play and wait for gaps and a sudden change of pace in the opposition half, as the attacking team shifts from building possession to playing with intent. No other type of goal pleases a manager so much, even if the finish itself is often unspectacular.

The swift counter-attack: Sadio Mane (Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace)

Crystal Palace were down to 10 men and threw players forward as they chased an equaliser in stoppage time, which allowed Mohamed Salah and Mane to confirm Liverpool's victory with a classic goal on the break.

While the passing move requires patience, the swift counter needs quick thought and sudden action. That is what makes this type of goal thrilling: The possibility of a scoring opportunity is obvious despite the ball being the best part of 100 yards from goal. A sudden intensity takes over as attackers attempt to move the ball forward quickly, while defenders often attempt cynical fouls to halt them.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney's goals for Manchester United at Arsenal, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, remain classics of the genre, mixing tactical intelligence with speed, technique and teamwork.

"One off the training ground": Theo Walcott (Everton vs. Southampton)

Leighton Baines lined up a wide free kick but, instead of crossing, he instead rolled the ball square to Gylfi Sigurdsson. He knocked the ball to Walcott, who broke free from standing alongside the defensive wall and finished calmly.

Split-second improvisation creates most great goals, but others are the product of repeated practice. Watching a plan come together, often involving subtle block-offs and decoy runs, sometimes takes football into the realm of NFL playbooks.

Such goals were seen frequently at the most recent World Cup, which was dominated by dead-ball situations, with England the most dominant side from attacking set pieces. 

Conclusion: No two goals are the same

There will almost certainly be a better goal in every category between now and May, but the range here shows why, in the same way that UEFA have separate awards for best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward, we are overdue something similar for goals. For example, the goals of Wilson, Murray and Iwobi are basically incomparable.

More than anything, though, we have become spoiled by great strikes. The goals-per-game rate has remained largely unchanged throughout the Premier League's 26-year history, but the quality has risen dramatically: There are fewer crosses, fewer goalmouth scrambles and, in various ways, more moments of magic.

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