Norwich striker Grant Holt recently made headlines, when he criticized England manager Roy Hodgson’s team selection. Holt, an uncapped 31 year old from Carlisle, was coming off a season in which he had helped Norwich finish a surprising 12th in the English Premier League, bagging an impressive 15 goals in the process. While many players are often unjustly left out, Holt was not afraid to verbalize his displeasure with Hodgson. “I gave up on that, said Holt. I think I’ll never be in it. Roy’s come in and picking his players. When two friendlies came up and I wasn’t included, it was ridiculous to be honest. He hasn’t given anyone opportunities – people like Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham from Swansea didn’t even get a look in, but that’s life.” He also went on to say that a player like Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, who has made a positive start to the season won’t even get consideration from Hodgson “unless he scores 25 goals or bags 10 in the next 2 months.”
Although some have stated Holt’s comments are nothing more than sour grapes, excluding a 15 goal scorer from an offensively challenged team is not exactly a recipe for success. And with no less than 9 strikers (Defoe, Carroll, Bent, Campbell, Zamora, Agbonlahor, Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge) being called up to the England squad in the past 12 months, it makes Holt’s exclusion all the more puzzling. Moreover, notably absent from the above list is Peter Crouch, a player who has tallied a remarkable 22 times in 42 appearances for the Three Lions. However, the Stoke City frontman’s last appearance was in 2010, under the leadership of Fabio Cappello.
While Hodgson has decided to take Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, and Daniel Sturridge to the friendly in Stockholm on November 15th, this piece looks at who he should be taking. There is no questioning Wayne Rooney’s place on the team but who else should be there? Thus, a statistical comparison is provided here, in an attempt to answer that very question.
*** Please note the colour codes used in all the charts:
-Blue: highest/best – Purple: 4th highest/best
-Red: 2nd highest/best – Light Blue: 5th highest/best
-Green: 3rd highest/best -Orange: least/worst
The chart lists the total number of minutes played in the 2011/2012 season and the first ten games of this season, by the 6 strikers in question. Peter Crouch has played the most at 3559 minutes, followed by Grant Holt at 2981 minutes, Andy Carroll with 2491 minutes played, Darren Bent at 2452 minutes, and Danny Welbeck with 2450 minutes. Jermaine Defoe has played the fewest number of minutes at just under 2100, mainly due to being behind Emanuel Adebayor in Harry Redknapp’s pecking order at Spurs in 2011.
The possession and passing chart looks at a number of relevant stats. Loss of possession statistics show that Bent has lost possession the least (37 times), while Crouch has lost it 107 times. Minutes played per loss of possession is nearly the same, although Holt loses the ball slightly more often than Crouch (32 minutes versus 33 minutes). Surprisingly, despite playing the 2nd fewest number of minutes, Welbeck has been dispossessed the most. Again, Bent is the best in this area, followed by Defoe, Holt, Carroll, and Crouch. However, Welbeck is by far the best passer of the six players, completing 87% of his open-play passes, 84.5% of his attacking-zone passes, and 82% of his passes in the final third. Defoe is the second best passer, followed by Bent, Holt, Carroll, and Crouch. Interestingly, the players ranked in the same order in all three areas of passing examined (open play, attacking zone, final third).
An examination of the chances/goals graphic shows that Welbeck has provided the most assists with 5, followed by Defoe and Holt with three each, Crouch and Carroll with two a piece, and Bent with one. Shockingly, Carroll has created the most chances (54), in addition to having the best chances created per minutes played ratio (1 chance every 46 minutes). In terms of clear cut chances created, Holt leads the pack with 11, followed by Welbeck, Crouch, Carroll, Dafoe, and Bent.
Goal scoring statistics reveal that Holt has scored the highest number of goals (18), while Defoe has scored the second most, despite playing the fewest number of minutes by far. The pair also lead in terms of minutes played per goal, with Dafoe scoring every 131 minutes and Holt averaging a goal every 166 minutes played. Finally, clear cut conversion percentage stats show that Bent converts 44% of his chances, Crouch is second with 41%, followed by Welbeck, Holt, and Defoe. Andy Caroll is by far the worst, converting slightly less than a fifth(19%) of his clear cut chances.
While Wayne Rooney has clearly cemented his place as the main striker for England’s national team, there is an ongoing debate as to who deserves to join him there. Although Peter Crouch has done remarkably well for the national team in the past, he is no longer the player he used to be, as evidenced by his lack of passing ability, chances created, and clear cut chances missed; all ranking worst amongst the six strikers in question.
Furthermore, although the much maligned Andy Carroll continues to find his way into the side, he will find his opportunities limited if his form doesn’t dramatically improve in the near future. Carroll ranked last or second last in over half (9 of 17) of the various comparisons.
On the other hand, Grant Holt was best, second best, or third best in 11 of the 17 comparisons, including ranking first in goals scored, clear cut chances created, shots on target, and chance conversion percentage.
As for the others, the selection of Welbeck, Bent, or Defoe on any given day is not as clear. All have their various strengths and weaknesses and should be inserted in and out of the lineup based on the situation at hand. Need a goal off the bench? Defoe is probably your best bet. Lacking some cutting edge passing in the final third? Turn to Welbeck.
Grant Holt’s comments may have actually hindered, rather than improved, his chances of playing for England. However, based on his past 15 months of play, he fully deserves that chance. While Roy Hodgson may be able to ignore him for now, similar levels of production going forward will make that nearly impossible.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.