Goal scoring is a skill. Players who can create something from nothing, providing a timely tally for their side, are frequently the difference between one and three points. Players like Robin van Persie — 92 chances created in 2011-12 season — can provide a spark with the ball at their feet and a lethal final touch. However, there is another class of striker that always seem to appear at the right place, at the right time: poachers. We’ve gone back over the past two years and examined which players got their name in the papers while their teammates labored on the pitch to provide the clear-cut chances which resulted in a goal. Some of the names may surprise you, and likely will not. But each has contributed to his team’s success on the pitch in the most direct way possible, by sticking the ball in the net.
Know right at the top – there’s nothing keenly scientific done here. We’ve simply looked at goals scored on clear-cut chances against the total number of clear-cut chances the forward had and in relation to the total goals they scored each season. We’ve weighed that, wholly subjectively, against the chances they created for their teams and the volume of passes and crosses they both attempted and completed. The results make for very entertaining reading as we reminisce over some of the top poachers best returns during the last two years of Barclays Premier League action. Read on and enjoy.
Midfielders do not fit the criteria of poacher very well. While doing research, it quickly became evident that even the most proficient midfielders created too many chances, saw too many goals come from penalties, or failed to score enough total goals to make the final Top 5 list. However, we wanted to pay special note to one midfielder and we’ve included him as the honorary No. 6 on our list of five. Since we’ve already broken our own format, we’ve also added an Honorable Mention, possibly added additional players at will and raised the question of worst finisher of clear-cut chances. It is not scientific.
Honorable Mention – Diry Kuyt
Kuyt posted a remarkable 65% clear-cut chance conversion rate. The Dutch attacker scored 13 goals in the 2010-11 season with Liverpool and 11 of those game from clear-cut chances. The one-time Reds forward, winger and attacking midfielder finished 11 of 17 such chances. He took 50 total shots, with 31 finding the frame for 62% shooting accuracy. In 2010-11 the only player who took 50 or more shots and recorded a higher shooting accuracy than Dirk was Arsenal’s Samir Nasri (34-of-52 – 65% shooting accuracy). Between the two attacking midfielders they would have posted a remarkable single-season for a prolific striker, the duo recorded 103 shots with 63% shooting accuracy and 23 total goals. (Editor’s Note: Dirk Kuyt seems as though he was the total opposite for Liverpool in 2011/12!)
If this story were to be written at the end of the season it may be that a current Gunner makes the list, though he will need to step up production from this point forward. Olivier Giroud arrived at the Emirates with a reputation for making the most of a chance but has not found the net this season. Since the start of 2008-09 in Ligue 1 and 2 the French striker has been lethal, scoring 30 goals in 61 matches for Tours and 33 goals in 71 matches for Montpellier. In the 2012-13, his debut campaign in the Barclays Premier League, he has seen 3 clear-cut chances but scored on none. In fact, he has taken seven shots and recorded none on target. We expect he rights the ship shortly and
6. Kevin Nolan
Nolan spent last season in the Championship with West Ham, but his last Barclays Premier League season was one to remember. The Magpie’s skipper hit 12 goals and added one assist as helped the squad avoid relegation in their first season back in the Prem. Nolan was included here because he did not contribute much to the offense apart from his goals. He played 2658′ that term, in which he created 26 chances — all from open play. The midfielder’s chances turned into a single goal assist, with his own finishing far outstripping his contribution to teammates tallies.
The season had two highlights, a brace against Aston Villa in game week two and a magnificent hat-trick against Sunderland seven matches later. Against the Black Cats, Nolan scored with an overhead flick (26′) and had a simple finish from Andy Carroll (34′). Indeed, he could have had a hat-trick in the opening half but was denied the opportunity to take a 45′ penalty. The BBC described the situation of his third and final goal in their match report: Nolan, who looked a little bit peeved when Ameobi took the penalty, finally grabbed his hat-trick when a corner swung from the right was headed on by Ameobi and flicked in by the midfielder. The 75′ goal would close scoring for the Magpies and only a late Darren Bent strike (90′) would spoil an excellent victory for the home side.
One of the reasons that midfielders failed to make this list is the lack of total goals scored and Nolan’s 2010-11 season is proof positive. He hit 12 goals in this campaign with seven of those coming in the first nine game-weeks and with five over two matches. After his hat-trick, Nolan hit only one goal in his next eight EPL fixtures.
5. Peter Odemwingie
Odemwingie’s 2010-11 season was remarkable in several ways. First, the Baggie’s striker scored 15 goals on 83 shots for a side that scored 56 goals. His tally trailed on Tevez and Berbatov (20), van Persie (18) and Darren Bent (17). While his 51% shooting accuracy was in line with the other top scorers, his 18% was several points below the average among the those who finished Top 10 in the scoring table (22.6%). What allowed the Nigerian international to take his tally into double-digits was a phenomenal return from clear-cut chances. Odemwingie scored on 13 of 23 clear-cut chances while recording 15 total goals. Odemwingie took 83 shots — 42 on target — which leaves 60 shots coming from something other than a clear-cut chance. Of those 60 shots, he managed to score only two goals.
The following season proved Odemwingie more than a mere poacher, scoring 10 goals with five coming from clear-cut chances. Unfortunately for Peter and the Baggies, he missed an additional 10 clear-cut chances in 2011-12. Had his ’11-12 finishing matched the potency of the ’10-11 season, he would have scored between eight and nine goals on clear-cut chances. That would have raised his season’s haul to 14 and given his 29 over two years. Odemwinigie has struggled in the early days of the 2012-13 season as well. He has played the full 90′ only one time — scoring in the 3-0 victory over Liverpool — and is currently serving a three-match suspension for a red card he received 15 September at Craven Cottage.
4. Darren Bent
The only thing keeping Darren Bent from being higher up this list was his profligate finishing on gilt-edged opportunities. Bent is something of a cause de celebre in my posts, having been identified as having one sublime skill or simply one-trick depending on your point of view.
From 2010-12 Darren Bent took 115 shots finding the frame with 66 — recording 57.4% shooting accuracy. Bent scored 17 goals in the ’10-11 campaign and finished fourth in the scoring table. A season later, he scored nine goals on 39 shots with 26 on target for 67% shooting accuracy. Bent finished the season converting 23% of all chances and 43% on clear-cut chance. He scored all nine of his goals from such chances and finished the season scoring nine of 21 clear-cut chances. There isn’t much else to discuss. In that same time frame, the England forward played for two clubs (Aston Villa and Sunderland). For the Villans, he played 3262′ creating 31 chances, 2 clear-cut chances and 2 assists. He also made 20 starts for Sunderland and created 22 chances without a single clear-cut chance or a recorded assist. Seriously, Darren Bent Is Exceptional At One Thing. Read it and see if you disagree.
Next Page: The Top 3 – Which players make it? Take a look…
3. Yakubu Aiyegbeni
One season does not a poacher make. But it would have been wrong to leave off the inspiration for this post. While researching Swansea’s Michu for inclusion in Best New Signings | Hazard, Cazorla, Michu, Kagawa & van Persie we found the interesting note that Yakubu had scored 15 of his 17 goals in 2011-12 from clear-cut chances. The statistic attracted attention because Yakubu had taken only 31 shots on target. The Blackburn Rovers striker made the most of his open looks at goal, scoring on 15 of 28 clear-cut chances (54%). In the
Yakubu’s 17 goals came in a season in which he played XX minutes. Because of the low total shots (57) and the modest shot accuracy (54%), Yakubu managed a shot on target every 79:06′. That was significantly lower than any of the other players who finished within the Top 10 of the scoring table. Wayne Rooney led all players (min. 10 goals scored) with a shot on target every 40:34. His actual statistical record is one shot every 40.56 minutes, just ahead of Robin van Persie’s 40.66 — one shot every 40:39. The fact that Yakubu was, on average, taking a single shot on target per appearance makes his 17 goal haul all the more impressive. The Yak is currently plying his trade for Guangzhou R&F, but the 29-year-old had one final season of pure class in the Premier League as he etched his name in Rovers lore.
2. Dimitar Berbatov
There is something about the sublime skill possessed by the Bulgarian striker that belies the effort he puts into the game. In his last full season for Manchester United, Berbatov scored 13 of 27 clear-cut chances and tallied 20 total goals — sharing the Golden Boot with Carlos Tevez that year. Berbatov made 24 starts that season, four substitute appearances as well, and created an impressive 36 chances resulting in four assists. An interesting note about Berba’s chances created: he created 24 chances in the opening 10 matches, creating at least one chance in each match with a season-high five chances created in a 5-0 United victory over West Ham, 28 August.
Dimi famously was dropped from the Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting XI for much of the 2011-12 campaign. Despite limited chances — he made five starts and seven substitute appearances for 512′ — the striker produced seven goals. In his 12 appearances he created six chances, one clear-cut chance, but failed to record an assist. His striking was on display against Birmingham, Manchester City, Arsenal, Newcastle, Blackburn, Wolves and Liverpool — Berba hit a brace in a 25 September 2-2 draw at Anfield. He showed a bit of rust, scoring on six clear-cut chances but missing on 14. It is remarkable to think that he saw 20 clear-cut chances in 512′ of pitch time, but Berbatov’s ability to get himself in the proper position remained keen, even if his finishing was blunted from lack of use. He has transferred to Fulham prior to the close of the window and is looking to rediscover his top form. With one start and one assist under his belt, he has taken seven shots with three on target and two goals. Berbatov has scored on his only clear-cut chance as a Cottager.
1b. Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor is an offensive juggernaut. The reality is, he does not belong on this list but if he is going to be on the list, he must be near the top. In the 2011-12 season, Adebayor scored 17 Premier League goals for Tottenham Hotspur. All 17 came from a clear-cut chance. That is remarkable, particularly when seen in contrast with his total shots. Adebayor could have actually been a touch more proficient with his clear-cut chances. Although he scored on 17 such chances, he failed to score on an additional 24. His 41.5% proficiency was the behind only Mario Balotelli’s 38.1% (8 goals from 21 clear-cut chances) and Grant Holt’s 31.25% (5 of 16) were worse among players with at least 13 goals score (13 was level 10th in the 2011-12 scoring table). Adebayor managed 90 total shots, with 48 within the frame.
It does seem a touch wrong to include him on this list despite the prolific scoring record last season because Ade is also a premier creative force. However, his ability on the ball is not limited to sticking it past the opposing ‘keeper. Ade was a Top 20 player in terms of chances created in 2011-12. He created 61 chances — more than Lampard (55), Yaya Toure (54) or Wayne Rooney (51) — and six clear-cut chances. He assisted on 11 goals, level 4th in the Premier League with Alexander Song and only four off the pace set by David Silva (15). Adebayor was the only player to record double figures in goals (17) and assists (11) in the 2011-12 season.
1a. Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher is not an offensive juggernaut – he is a man-shaped machine that was designed for the sole purpose of scoring goals. Over the past three years he has seen enough pitch time to record a full season of Premier League matches. In 2010-11 Fletcher was on the field for 1395′, in 2011-12 that increased to 2353′ and he has 153′ for Sunderland in the early days of 2012-13. That is a combined 3901′ or 43 1/3 full matches at 90′ per match — assuming 93′ per match it is just shy of 42 matches. In that time he has scored 25 goals on 110 shots with 49 on target for 47.6% accuracy.
In his last two seasons with Wolverhampton, the Scottish striker found the net a combined 22 times with 16 goals coming from clear-cut chance. Fletcher transferred to Sunderland before the summer window closed and he has brought his form with him. He has taken three shots in 153′. All three have found the target and all three resulted in goals. He has one clear-cut chance and, naturally, converted it. In both 2010-11 and 2011-12 he scored eight of 11 clear-cut chances for a staggering 73% clear-cut chance conversion, by far the highest of any player to receive at least 10 such chances.
The natural question that arises from doing this research is: who was the worst at finishing clear-cut chances? Unfortunately for Liverpool supporters, that was Luis Suarez. The 2011-12 campaign was a forgettable one for Suarez for many reasons and his poor finishing on gilt-edged chances is near the top of the list. The Uruguayan footballer was presented with 28 clear-cut chances over the course of the season and managed to score a paltry seven goals from such attempts. He missed 21 clear-cut chances, more than all but 11 players in the Premier League saw over the course of the season. His 28 clear-cut chances was fifth most (level with 17 goal-scorer Yakubu Aiyegbeni) in the Premier League while his final tally of 11 goals was level 14th with Lampard, Sturridge, van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe (who played 1287′). Suarez’s 232.45 minutes per goal was the third worst of any player to have scored 10 or more goals in 2011-12 — behind Danny Graham (237.08; 12 goals) and Peter Crouch (277.90; 10 goals).
The blame for Liverpool’s poor scoring record in 2011-12 can not fall on Suarez’s shoulders alone. The clever forward created 64 chances to lead the Reds in that statistic, meaning he was not only responsible for scoring the goals but also for creating the chances. His teammates let him down with their finishing as well, as Suarez recorded three assists from 64 chances — including eight clear-cut chances created. Unfortunately for Liverpool and Luis, the early signs this season have also not been encouraging. Suarez has taken 19 shots, finding the frame five times and scoring twice — including one goal in his five clear-cut chances.
Also in the running for the worst finisher was Jermain Defoe during his 2010-11 season. Defoe scored 4 goals on 42 shots — 23 on target for 55% shooting accuracy — but went zero for 10 on clear-cut chances. ZERO for 10. This season, Defoe’s shooting accuracy his dipped to 37% (7-of-19 on target) and scored three goals, including one goal from three clear-cut chances.
A case we’ve overstated? Who was left off the list? Have a favourtie forward you would like profiled by Cooper? Leave you comments below.
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