Strikers are almost always judged solely on their goal-scoring output and why not; it is what they’re paid to do (£300k/week some of them). But while a lot of analysis is done into the goal scoring prowess of attacking midfielders (Hazard, Toure etc) in addition to their creative powers, here we take a look at strikers who excel in finding the right pass and perfect touch when they’re not rippling the back of the net. We decided to use the top 5 scoring strikers this season, and to keep it balanced we kept it to one per team, which gave us a formidable five of Suarez, Aguero, Rooney, Bony and Giroud.
The Suarez Story
It is here that we truly see the phenomenon that is Luis Suarez. In addition to the hatful of goals he’s scored, he also features in the Top 5 of the Premier League in terms of Chances Created with 87 (inc. assists). In fact, he is the only striker to feature in the Top 20, with Rooney a distant 24th with 56 chances created. Suarez also ranks highest among strikers with the most assists (12), and the best rate of clear-cut chance creation (134.7 mins per chance created – 23 in total – ten more than the next in the list). Indeed, he ranks second overall in the EPL in terms of Assists, coming in second only to teammate and skipper Steven Gerrard.
One wonders if City’s march to the title would have become a procession if their talismanic forward stayed fit longer than he managed, but even with constant injury struggles Aguero has managed to make an impact on the team around him. With a total of 35 Chances Created, he’s provided more opportunities than Bony (25) and been comparable to Giroud (37).
He also provides these chances at a much higher rate than the two (44 mins/chance as compared to 99 & 83). El Kun also has the best Pass Completion % (with an 85% accuracy with Open Play Passes and an 81.7% accuracy overall). However, it must be remembered that he has attempted the least amount of passes of all the five due to matches missed.
Rooney marshals United attack
This season rarely ever saw Rooney play as an out-and-out No. 9. His tendency to drift deeper than usual, sometimes into the centre of midfield, to retrieve the ball is indicated by his passing stats. With 1324 passes from Open Play and an 80% success rate, he has passed the ball more than anyone else (Suarez comes second with 1265 passes). His control of United’s set play routines also means he has the most assists from a dead ball with 3, with the other four collectively managing just one.
Bony and Giroud are victims of the system
Although both Bony and Giroud have been equally prolific in front of goal with 16 goals apiece, their creativity and passing stats tail off in comparison to the three mentioned above. They’ve both attempted fewer dribbles than Sergio Aguero, who was on the field for a lot less time, and have attempted far fewer passes than either Rooney or Suarez.
Neither of them is as creative as the rest because, well, they don’t need to be. Both Swansea and Arsenal play a 4-2-3-1 system (or some variation of it), with these two playing primarily as the target men up front. All the other strikers mentioned play off a main striker; Aguero teams up with Dzeko/Negredo, Suarez is part of a trident with Sturridge and Sterling/Coutinho and Rooney almost always plays off Van Persie as a second striker. This naturally forces them to attempt more passes and create chances for the player up front, something which Bony and Giroud are not afforded.
Strikers always will be lauded for their ability to score goals, as they should. But as Luis Suarez showed us this season, they don’t necessarily have to be as one-dimensional as that. It will be interesting to see how he performs next season with more than just league games to play, and whether he can show us his prowess in the big games too. Rooney and Aguero will both hope for better seasons in Manchester next year, and are perfectly poised to make a massive impact on their teams. Wilfred Bony will always remain a decent striking option, and if some rumours are to be believed, he could partner Giroud up front at the Emirates next year, which would lighten some of the burden on the Frenchman and allow him to play with a lot more freedom than he’s been afforded so far. Andy Carroll will, as always, remain Andy Carroll.