As many football supporters say, the target men era died with the 4-4-2 formation. There is some truth in those words, as the strikers that are big, strong and dominant in the air become much less popular than they used to be in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. It’s also quite remarkable that there are very few top clubs that still use that role. The target men didn’t totally extinct though. They are still used by many managers, who prefer their teams to play defensive, direct football. Actually, I believe that every team could use a good target man, as even when you’re playing possession-based football it’s always nice to have a plan B, an option to go more direct.
I’ve decided to take a look at some of the league’s most renowned target men and check which one of them is the best at the moment. In order to make this statistical comparison as accurate as possible I’ve made the groups of primary and secondary stats and given points (below right).
The primary stats are the most essential ones for the target man. This group has the stats that are fully (or almost fully) determined by the player himself. All the stats that are partly determined by the player’s team exist within the secondary stats group.
The secondary stats group also has the stats that are less significant for the target man, yet I found them important enough to include them into this comparison.
The passing ability is important for every football player, as it helps you to build actions and set up your teammates. Still, I recognize that it’s not the most essential of target-man abilities, that’s why I’ve put it into the secondary stats group.
The rest of the stats in this group are minutes per goal, chance created, clear-cut chance created and assist ratios. The big part of job is made by the whole team here, as it’s hard to score a goal or create a chance when your team is defending for about 80 minutes every game. It’s also easier to do it in attack-minded team that dominates most of their matches. I’ve decided to make those a secondary stats then, as this comparison is meant to be all about individual abilities of a players.
Primary stats group has aerial 50-50’s win %, shooting accuracy, chance conversion and clear-cut chance conversion. A good target-man should be dominant in the air and the best way to check how he does in this aspect is to look at his aerial 50-50’s. Target-man is also a striker, not just a long ball chaser, and as a striker he’s supposed to be able to shoot and score, that’s why all those stats made it to the more important group.
As you can see from the table above, I’ve decided to compare Benteke, Dzeko, Carrol, Holt, Lukaku and Crouch. They are all either very talented, important for their teams or just renowned players. The primary stats are the ones that names which have a grey background. Secondary stats highlighted on the light blue background.
Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku are both young players with some potential and still making their first steps in English football. Given that and the fact, that the target men usually peak later than other strikers due to specifics of their job, both of them are doing very well this term. Benteke, already described by some Villa fans as being ‘out of this world’ has achieved a similar clear-cut chance conversion to Premier League’s current top scorer, Luis Suarez (and Dzeko achieves even better than the prolific Uruguayan here!), while Lukaku’s shooting accuracy reached an impressive 61%.
Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch seem to be the most old-fashioned target men. They are both very dominant in the air but their passing is really poor. They are also having some problems converting their chances, though Crouch seems to be better than Andy here. In fact, Carroll’s finishing is so poor that he converts only 9% of his chances, which makes him the worst scorer in this comparison, and 33% of his clear-cut chances – joint worst with Grant Holt.
As for Holt, he’s looking really bad here. The interesting thing is that he’s not the worst player in some of those stats, he’s fourth or fifth in most of them though. He just doesn’t seem to be very good at any of the compared aspects, maybe except passing as his passing accuracy of 64,87%. It’s not enough to make him look any better though.
Edin Dzeko seems to be Holt’s exact opposite. He wins in most of the compared areas – his passing is most accurate, it takes him least time to create a clear-cut chance for his teammates, his mins per goal, chance conversion and clear-cut chance conversion ratios are the best. Actually, all you have to do to check which one of those players is the best is to take a brief look at the table and see all those green fields under Dzeko’s name.
If after that brief look you’re still not entirely convinced about the conclusions though, here are the calculated points.
As mentioned before, Edin Dzeko is the best one of the compared strikers and the points system shows that too. Benteke is just 1,5 point behind him though, so it’s quite close. Romelu Lukaku reaches the 20 points level.
Again, it’s really worth a notice that both Aston Villa player and Chelsea loanee are still young with their best footballing years yet to come. The other young striker, Andy Carroll who’s four years older than Lukaku and one year older than Benteke looks much worse here. He finished fifth with 11,5 points, closer to the last Grant Holt with 9 than the fourth-placed Peter Crouch with 18,5 points.
So Dzeko is the best target man out of those compared but it’s clear that the Belgians Benteke and Lukaku will be forces to be reckoned with in years to come.
[box_light]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.[/box_light]