Following the summer arrival of James Vaughan and Steve Morison City boss Paul Lambert has eight, yes eight strikers to choose from – Vaughan, Morison, Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson, Chris Martin, Aaron Wilbraham, Oli Johnson and Cody McDonald.
It’s likely that Lambert will go with either one or two up top for most matches, but which is the pairing most likely to do the business and keep the Canaries in the top-flight?
With the Premier League’s 25-man rule coupled with the fact that the current squad contains approximately 753 midfielders it’s fair to assume that there isn’t going to be room in the squad for any more than six strikers, so we’re going to need to lose two. And they are Oli Johnson and Cody McDonald.
Johnson didn’t start a first team game for the Yellows last season and made just six substitute appearances before being farmed out to Yeovil on loan for three months. McDonald spent the year at Gillingham and although he scored goals for fun in League Two few expect him to be given a chance in the Premier League, including me.
The six remaining all played Championship football last season and so with a little bit of statistical analysis we should be able to save Mr Lambert an almighty headache by working out who his best pairing should be.
The easiest way to go would be to simply look at the goals scored by each player last season, which would see Grant Holt (23) and Steve Morison (17) comfortably ahead of Jackson (13), Vaughan (9), Martin (6) and Wilbraham (1), but that fails to take a whole manner of variables into account, including the number of games played, number of shots taken and shot accuracy.
No statistical way of coming up with a pairing will be perfect, each category you can think of gives a spin-off of “yes but what about…” questions, for example you could try to measure a team’s dependency on the striker or the quality of players around him, and of course each player has their own style but frankly that gave me a headache so I have instead come up with four categories to focus on.
The player with the best score in each category will receive 6 points, second 5 points, third 4 points and so on. At the end of round four the two strikers with the best total score will be declared the winners, and Paul Lambert and his management team can rest easy knowing that Premier League survival is all-but secured.
Round One – Games Per Goal
For the purpose of this exercise a substitute appearance counts the same as a full 90-minute run-out, which is possibly a little harsh on players like Jackson who made more than half his appearances from the bench last term, but does take into account that strikers come off almost as often as they come on.
A goal roughly ever other game has for a long time been a marked on which a forward is judged, and City skipper Grant Holt (23 goals in 48 games) is top of the chart with 2.09, beating Steve Morison’s score of 2.53 thanks to 17 goals in 43 games for Millwall.
Jackson is third with 3.08 after bagging 13 goals in his 40 appearances, just ahead of James Vaughan (3.33).
Round Two – Percentage of shots that were on target
If you think that the games per goal ratio is fatally flawed then Round Two might be a little more up your alley, as it concentrates on the percentage of shots taken that ended up on target – and we are including any efforts that came back off the woodwork.
In this round Chris Martin comes into his own. He may have the second-worse games to goal ratio but at least he is guaranteed to make the goalkeeper work. 47 of his 81 shots – 58.02% – were on the mark to beat off Simeon Jackson (55.41%) and James Vaughan (55.17%).
Round one winner Holt comes last in this category with a smidge over 44%.
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Round Three – Percentage of shots that were goals
Of course a ‘shot on target’ can mean anything from forcing the ‘keeper into a wonder-save to trickling slowly into his grateful arms, so for round three we’re looking at the percentage of shots taken that actually hit the back of the net.
Chris Martin’s conversion rate of 7.41% is clouded somewhat by the number of free kicks he took earlier in the season, but Grant Holt’s return of one goal from a little over five shots is very impressive.
He wins the round ahead of Jackson (17.57%), James Vaughan (15.52%) and Morison (13.93%).
Round Four – Number of games per assist
The best strikers create almost as many goals as they score, and in this category Holt is head and shoulders above the rest.
His return of 15 assists in 48 games (one every 3.20 games) is miles ahead of Steve Morison (one every 8.60), Aaron Wilbraham (one every 13) and Simeon Jackson, who only created two goals in his 40 league and cup appearances.
So after four rounds the results are in and it’s no surprise that Grant Holt comes out on top with 19 points.
The next three are separated by just three points, and it’s new-boy Steve Morison who gets the nod with 16 points, ahead of Simeon Jackson on 15 and James Vaughan on 14.
And there you have it. Mr Lambert, the two strikers who are statistically most likely to fire us to safety are Grant Holt and Steve Morison.