While this season has seen Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero put in prolific performances for their respective clubs, there are some high-profile names who are struggling to hit the back of the net. Most notably are the strikers based in Manchester such as Robin Van Persie and Edin Dzeko, whilst much as already been made of the form of Mario Balotelli and Emmanuel Adebayor, who are not hitting the heights they have previously reached and effecting their team’s results.
Many of the top clubs seem to be enduring a ‘crisis’ period at the moment and one of those is third placed Manchester City. Apart from Aguero, and maybe James Milner, no one is excelling for the Premier League champions and Edin Dzeko’s failure to hit the back of the net has placed all of the responsibility on Aguero and seen City fail to replicate their devastating attacking play from last season. The Bosnian international scored 16 goals last campaign but has only managed two this season both of which came against Hull City. The difference in Dzeko’s finishing can be seen in his shot accuracy and conversion rate; last year saw 46% of his shots hit the target and 19.3% beat the goalkeeper, however, this season that figure has decreased to a 31% shot accuracy and a conversion rate of 15.4%.
For Edin Dzeko, he is fortunate that his team-mate Aguero is hitting peak form so criticism hasn’t been too high, but for Van Persie – with Rooney and Falcao spending a period on the sidelines due to suspension and injury – his failure to get back to the prolific form that helped Manchester United win the league two seasons ago is having an effect on results.
Manchester United, despite the luxury of talent in forward areas at the club, have scored 17 goals, and while this is 7th best in the league, 4 of those goals came in the home victory over QPR and the defensive issues in the side means they’re needing to score over 2 or 3 goals a match in order to outscore the opposition. In recent matches, they have struggled to do this and Van Persie has been a quiet figure throughout this period managing just 22 shots in 10 matches – his worst figure since joining the Red Devils (26 shots in 13/14 and 29 shots in 12/13). Scoring three goals this season, two of those goals have earned United 4 points showing the importance of the Dutch striker finding the back of the net. However, in his 10 league appearances only 4 victories have been achieved and Van Persie’s conversion rate is a worrying 13.6% having failed to convert 19 of his shots. While this is the same figure as last season and smaller than the preceding season – 21 shots were missed in 12/13 – due to the smaller number of shots, his conversion rate was 26.92% in 13/14 and 27.59% in 12/13.
In recent days, Adebayor has vocally clashed with Tottenham fans about the atmosphere at White Hart Lane impacting the performance of the team. The Togo international has seen his performances drop from those produced last season and Tottenham’s struggle to score goals – as well as problems keeping them out – have seen the North London club drop into the bottom half and fail to have a consistent striker in the side. Adebayor has a shot accuracy of 64% this season, but a conversion rate of 14.3% compared to 33.3% last season questions the quality of those shots that hit the target. The number of shots Adebayor is having is the most concerning problem though – only 14 have been made in 10 appearances – which was fine when the striker was consistently scoring, Adebayor also creates chances for his team-mates with 12 this season, but the failure to test the opposition goal more often is costing Tottenham as they have become to look very blunt on the attacking front.
Another player whose struggles in front of goal have been widely discussed is Mario Balotelli, particularly with the injury to Daniel Sturridge and Liverpool’s poor run of form. After 9 appearances, Balotelli has yet to find the back of the net in the league and the frustrations are starting to become clear with an increase in long range shots instead of keeping the move flowing. The problem the Italian striker faces though is a different style of play, a style his qualities do not match. However, that does not excuse the number of clear cut chances Balotelli has missed this season. Balotelli has attempted 25 shots this season – more than Adebayor and Van Persie – but his failure to beat the goalkeeper is an issue. A look at where his shots have been placed, there is a pattern. Most have been on the central right of the goal, which makes it easier for the goalkeeper to save and when Balotelli tries to find the right hand corner 8 of these shots have gone past the post.
An area Balotelli has been strong in his career is in the air due to his physique, but during his Liverpool career he has only won 15% of the 27 headed duels compared to winning 35% of his 54 headed duels for Milan last season.
With the pressures of playing at a big club higher than ever in modern football, Tottenham, Manchester United and City, and Liverpool will hope their star strikers can find a way out of their bad form and help move their clubs back to the top of the league.