Southampton and West Ham have taken a lot of people by surprise this season. Often touted as the victims of their own success throughout the summer window, a new look Saints side under Ronald Koeman have hit top form early on and currently sit 2nd in the league. On the other hand, West Ham, who were termed one-dimensional and boring through the last season under Sam Allardyce, have added a bit of flair to the side coupled with consistency and currently occupy the final Champions League spot.
The quick adaptation by their new recruits has been one of the key factors in the performance of the two teams. The likes of Tadic, Pelle, Song and Sakho have been quick to leave a mark on the league. In this article we look at three frontmen, and compare the performances of Grazianno Pelle, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia in the season so far.
Amongst the three, Pelle has been involved a lot more in his team’s attack as against his compatriots from Upton Park. He’s made a far higher number of successful passes per 90 minutes (14) when compared to Valencia (9.5) and Sakho (5.5). While Tadic has been the most vital cog in Southampton attack, having created 35 chances, Pelle has been the Saints’ second most creative player with 18 chances, averaging more than 1.5 chances every 90 minutes. On the other hand, both Valencia and Sakho created 6 chances apiece averaging close to 1 chance every 90 minutes.
The three strikers have been relentless in attack for their respective teams. Southampton as a team have averaged 14 shots per game and Pelle, sitting atop the line up has contributed close to 1/3rd of those, averaging almost 4.5 shots per 90 minutes. While West Ham strikers Valencia and Sakho might lag behind Pelle in the number of shots they have mustered per 90 minutes, they have still managed to rack up an impressive number of shots. Both of them average close to 3.5 shots per 90 minutes. There isn’t a lot to separate the three strikers in terms of shot accuracy as they average a shot accuracy in the range of 35-40%, which isn’t a bad figure to have at their frequency of shots per game.
Pelle has been phenomenal for the Saints, scoring exquisite yet crucial goals for them. He has scored 6 goals in the Premier League and 3 in the League Cup, 3 of which were winning goals. His overhead volley against QPR will remain etched in the hearts of Southampton fans for a long time to come. While Sakho too has scored 6 goals, with 2 winning goals, he has a better goal per 90 minutes ratio having played fewer minutes than Pelle. His 6 goals have come in back-to-back games, and 4 have come via headers from positions that he could be in only by virtue of his movement and anticipation. His peer from Ecuador, Valencia has bagged 3 goals this season, with one of them being a winning goal. His rocket of a goal against Hull City speaks volumes about his ability on the ground. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Valencia has incredible aerial abilities making him a complete menace for defenders to handle.
One of the key attributes of Pelle has been his ability in the air. While Southampton might not play one-dimensional football (they don’t need to with the kind of players they have), his skill in the air has been put to good use. Playing mostly in a single striker system, his ability to receive and hold up balls has been crucial. He has been relentless in entering into aerial duels, entering into 90 of them so far this season with a success rate which hovers around the 50% mark. Sakho too has been busy getting into aerial duels, averaging close to 10 aerial duels per 90 minutes, winning close to 40% of them. Also, like mentioned before, 4 of Sakho’s goals have come via headers making him a perennial aerial threat. Valencia, while still very good in the air, as showcased in his two headed goals, has shown an incredible ability to run at opposition. He averages close to 2 successful take-ons per 90 minutes. His teammate Sakho gets past his opponents at an average of 1 per 90 minutes, while their compatriot Pelle, has displayed a different set of attributes.
Sakho has a better goal scoring record when compared to Pelle and Valencia so far. However, from what we have seen so far, Pelle adds so much more to his team’s attack than either of the West Ham strikers. His physicality has been well documented and his improving chemistry with Tadic will put teams to test. While Southampton sit very close to the table toppers Chelsea, they have a very tough set of fixtures lined up and their credentials for a top-4 finish will be severely tested in the days to come. On the other hand, West Ham have an assorted competition for the fourth spot as the likes of Swansea, Arsenal and Manchester United are knocking on its doorsteps. The strike forces of both these teams have been brilliant so far and the good work will need to actually substantiate their claims for a much coveted top-4 finish.