With Alan Pardew’s main transfer target this summer being a top class striker, it is important to look at what Newcastle currently have available on the striker front in order to see what type of striker is needed. Newcastle United have struggled to find the back of the net in their pre-season matches and against Arsenal in the season opener. This has heightened the need to find a goalscorer to fill the void that was left when Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool at the end of January 2011.
We will look at the 2010/2011 premier league performances of the four Newcastle United strikers that are still on the books in an attempt to assess what these strikers offer the club, and which of them impressed in their time on the pitch. We will also examine the performance of new recruit Demba Ba during his time at the relegated West Ham United side, and how this compares to his new teammates.
Many of Peter Lovenkrands’ appearances for Newcastle United were not as an out-and-out striker but more as a support striker or a deeper lying attacker. This does explain why his physical performance stats and heading stats are weaker than those of the more physical, target man style of his fellow strikers. Playing in a bit more withdrawn role one would expect that he would be more involved in the build up play and chance creation of the team, but he only created a goal scoring opportunity every 122 minutes and only made a pass every four and a half minutes.
Lovenkrands also isn’t a real goalthreat as a goal every 243 minutes illustrates. Apart from Nile Ranger, he also has the poorest chance conversion rate only putting away 31% of his chances. On the positive side he was involved in 16% of the team’s goals. He also has the second lowest minutes per clear cut chance record which suggests his positioning and movement in the final third is strength of his. With his left foot he scored 5 goals, hit the woodwork 3 times and was on target 64% of the time. Had Peter Lovenkrands scored with those 3 near misses his stats could’ve looked a lot better. But as it is he seems to well suit to be more of a versatile squad player than a starting striker.
The most used substitute in the premier league 2010/2011 season, Nile Ranger didn’t score a single goal in his 562 minutes on the field. His stats paint a picture of a player that didn’t make the grade last season with his heading, finishing, aerial, physical, control and passing stats all being the worst or second worst of all the Newcastle United strikers. It isn’t surprising that the club is willing to listen to offers for the young striker.
Nile did create 11 chances, mostly late in matches, with one assist. Many feel the 20 year old has what it takes to become a top striker in the future, but unfortunately his stats in 2010/2011 doesn’t justify Alan Pardew giving him time on the pitch ahead of his other forwards. A loan spell might be the answer, but don’t be surprised to see him sold before September.
Having been at the club for 10 years already, the Nigerian international became Newcastle’s first choice striker following the departure of Andy Carroll at the end of January. Shola only had 13 clear cut chances in 1756 minutes of play, compared to Leon Best it is more than double the amount of minutes per clear cut chance. This indicates that Ameobi’s positioning and work rate within and around the box is a weakness.
His finishing of his chances is reasonable compared to his teammates, but with only 23% of his overall shots ending up on target and a full 293 minutes per goal – Shola tends to frustrate fans more than delight them. Even his heading stats make for painful reading with only 18% of them being on target for the big man. Shola Ameobi is a good penalty taker and always lifts his performance for matches against Sunderland with 6 goals and 3 assists in 6 matches against their fierce rivals.
With Shola having the worst stats (excluding Nile Ranger) for minutes per chance created, minutes per goal and shots per goal, he clearly isn’t the man to lead the line against anyone except Sunderland. If Newcastle play a 4-5-1 or sign a new striker Shola should find a place on the bench more often than not.
Leon Best’s hat trick against West Ham United certainly does have a massive influence on his stats for the season. If we omit the 64 minute hat trick he scored, his minutes per goal goes from a very impressive 125 minutes to 230 minutes per goal which is still the best of all the strikers they had available last season. So keep that in mind when looking at his stats for last season.
Leon Best had the same amount of clear cut chances as Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands despite only playing nearly half the amount of time that they each played. His conversion rate was also the best of the available strikers. Best not only got himself into scoring positions more regularly than his teammates but also finished these opportunities better. His minutes per offside indicates the type of player he is and that he enjoys playing on the defenders’ shoulder and making runs into the box. That also explains why he didn’t create as many chances as he is a finisher and not a playmaker.
His physical and heading abilities are the best of the strikers, he won 50% and 52% of his possession – and aerial duels respectively. Along with 40% accuracy with his flick-ons, he had 15 attempts at goal with headers – that’s a headed attempt every 50 minutes compared to Ameobi’s 103 minutes per headed shot. Leon Best only had 35% of his shots on target, but if you look at his shots with his favoured left boot this stat goes up to 60% with 3 goals. The stats suggest that Leon Best really is mint. With a creative player playing along or behind him and quality delivery from set-pieces and the wide men Leon Best has the movement, shooting and heading abilities to score many goals.
First thing to remember when looking at Demba Ba’s stats is that he played for a weak, relegated West Ham United team. A team that created far less scoring opportunities than Newcastle did, he also seems to have been given license to shoot from anywhere since 20 of his total of 49 shots were from outside of the area.
The Senegalese internationals’ stats shows that he is more than just a target man, he created a chance every 85 minutes for West Ham United and before he joined them he had already amassed 4 assists in 1281 minutes for Hoffenheim along with his 6 goals for them. His goalscoring ability is the reason Alan Pardew brought the injury-prone striker in. With an impressive 133 minutes per goal and 19 minutes per shot in his first taste of English football, every Newcastle fan will hope that he can build on this and bring in the goals needed to push for a top 8 spot. His stats are really good with 50% of his headed shots on target, passing accuracy of 74%, combined with his pace and physical abilities he looks like a quality striker.
Demba Ba has struggled to find the net in pre-season and after being substituted at halftime against Arsenal, one wonders how high his confidence levels are. Alan Pardew has spoken of how he expects Demba Ba to score the goals for his team, and based on his stats he definitely is capable of finding the back of the net, fans will hope he starts sooner than later.
Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan scored 23 goals between them for Newcastle last season; these 5 strikers managed 25 goals between them in total. Alan Pardew will be hoping for 1 of these strikers to step up and score 15 goals or more for him this season. Ameobi and Lovenkrands are experienced campaigners and will add depth to a thin squad, but are unlikely to reach double figures unless they play 5under1and every week. Nile Ranger may well be sold or loaned out this season. According to the stats Demba Ba and Leon Best look the likeliest to be able to reach that goal if given the opportunity.
Alan Pardew is still looking to bring in another striker before the transfer window closes and has really struggled to find the right player with failed efforts of bringing in Gameiro, Gervinho and Erding. Numerous other names have been mentioned such as Nicolas Bendtner, Nolan Roux, Daniel Sturridge (I wish), Modibo Maiga, Toivonen, Macheda, Park etc. If there are any strikers you would like me to compare to the current crop please leave a comment below.