The stats of goalscoring at Latics

“One of our forward-thinking players is going to have to stick the ball into the back of the net and that’s the key to it.”

So said Malky Mackay after the Leeds match where Latics had 60% of possession and 19 efforts on goal without scoring.

But in these days of increased use of data in football, did Mackay bear in mind the stats when picking his starting strikers? Has he looked at the performance records of the players he has at his disposal?

Goalscoring stats can be misleading. So often they are quoted as appearances per goal, which can be so unfair on a player largely used as an impact substitute. How can we compare the record of a player coming on in the 85th minute with one who has played the full 90? When we calculate a stat of appearances per goal we should also take into account at the ratio of starts to substitute appearances to get a true picture of player performance. Perhaps a more reliable indicator is starts per goal, but what about a player like Callum McManaman who would rarely complete the full 90 minutes?

However, these stats together can help us get a picture of the player’s goalscoring capabilities. Moreover looking at the player’s past performance stats can give us an overview on their current performance.

Compiling stats is dependent on a reliable source. The data that follows was compiled using player performance information from . It is based on appearances in league and cup.

Looking at the main strikers currently available to Mackay:


The raw stats suggest that Mackay chose the two players with the least probability of scoring against Leeds, Marc-Antoine Fortune and James McClean. However, until his recent conversion to central striker McClean has been on the left wing, where it is harder to score goals, so the stats should be interpreted carefully. The career stats suggest that the pairing with the most likelihood of scoring goals is that of Leon Clarke and Billy Mckay.

The more senior Latics supporters will remember the lethal goalscoring partnership of Harry Lyon and Bert Llewellyn. From 1965-68 Llewellyn scored 96 goals in 115 appearances for Wigan. Lyon remains the club’s leading all-time goalscorer with 273 to his name in his stay from 1962-70.

More recently the most memorable pairing is probably that of Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts, whose stats show that each of them needed only just over two starts per goal.

In the Premier League days the partnership of Emile Heskey and Amr Zaki was one the best. Heskey was never a natural goalscorer but he created the space for Zaki. The result was the Egyptian scoring 11 goals in 24 starts.

In the Premier League era, Henri Camara was Wigan’s most consistent goalscorer. Taking a look at the stats of strikers who have now left Latics gives considerable insight:


The case of Nouha Dicko stands out. Deemed not wanted by the club, but his goalscoring record for Wolves has been outstanding. Dicko never started in a league game for Latics.

The sad stays of such as Conor Sammon and Jason Scotland are reflected in the difference between their Latics stats and those of their careers. The simple explanation would be that they were not good enough for the Premier League. But then again, is Dicko good enough for the Championship?

Andy Delort and Oriol Riera are back to scoring goals again in their home countries following frustrating stays at Wigan. Given the downsizing at the club, even if the miracle happens and relegation is avoided, it is unlikely they will return.

Mackay is now talking about solving his goalscoring problem through the loan market. This must feel like a kick in the teeth for such players as Billy Mckay and Martyn Waghorn who have shown in the past that they have the ability to be in the right place at the right time as far as goalscoring is concerned.

The coaching and management at the club continues to ostracise players. It has been far too apparent over the past couple of years that HR skills are sorely lacking.

Mark Twain once said “Facts are more stubborn things, but statistics are pliable”. As outsiders we are not privy to the real facts about what is happening at the club during the Mackay era. But pliable as statistics might be there is no getting away from the woeful record the Scot has had since he took over.

In a season where Latics have scored only 32 goals in 36 league games, one begins to wonder where the next goal will come from. It is a sad result of the mismanagement of the striking talent that the club has had and continues to squander.


Koné and change? Tactical formations at Wigan Athletic

Trawling the internet for news on upcoming football transfers can certainly be entertaining, if often misleading. I quite enjoy it, but have learned to take it with a pinch of salt. This is not to denigrate the work of the internet journalists who give us these revelations: quite often they may have received a tip off from a player’s agent, family member or a club. Sometimes even the player himself. What is clear is that only a small proportion of the transfers reported by our sources, actually happen.

Over these weeks I have read  that Wigan Athletic have been interested in quite a few central strikers. The names of Victor Anichebe and DJ Campbell have been banded about more than others. But why would Latics want a fourth central striker, with Di Santo, Boselli and Sammon already on the books? If they played 4-4-2 it would be perfectly understandable, but our knowledge of Roberto Martinez and his tactical preferences precludes that possibility.

Arouna Kone has now arrived.  Although Kone has not played in the Premier League before he has all the attributes to be successful. He is strong and agile and to score 15 La Liga goals for Levante (the “other” team in Valencia) last season means he is sharp.  No league in the world plays the same kind of fast and physical football that we see in England, but La Liga is a highly competitive league, one of the world’s best. None of Latics’ previous acquisitions from Spanish clubs had established themselves as mainline players to the same degree  as Kone and the other acquisition from Mallorca, Ivan Ramis. I view both as potentially excellent signings.

Let’s get back to those internet transfer gossip sites. Today’s digest suggested Conor Sammon was headed for Derby County. The link between Sammon and Derby has come up repeatedly  but now there is talk of a permanent transfer rather than a loan deal. We may well be back to to three centre forwards again. However, is there going to be sufficient playing time for three central strikers, who are going to be on the same par, despite contrasting styles? Di Santo was developing into a fine centre forward last year, with his brilliant hold-up play and superb technique. Boselli is a natural goalscorer who has come back to Wigan motivated to show us his best. He has a fine pedigree. Kone is maybe a cross between the two in the way he plays.

So how do you fit in three quality central strikers, given the manager’s preference for the lone centre forward? Last year Victor Moses was given licence to roam, cutting in from the wings, getting into central positions. If and when Moses goes there will be wealth of players to compete for his role. Crusat,  Dicko, McManaman and the exciting new loan signing Miyaichi are the natural winger-types, who could slot in there. However, given the quality of the three central strikers now at his disposal, Martinez might choose to play one of them in the Moses  position. This would require some tactical adjustments, with a shift towards a more conventional twin striker system. Let’s hope Martinez has this in mind.

The change in tactical formation midway through last year proved to be the catalyst that helped Latics stay up, defying the odds. It helped to get the best out of the players at Martinez’s disposal. Assuming the Moses transfer, he will soon be faced with a similar challenge – how to get the best out of three quality central strikers, while not leaving out the winger-types. An exciting prospect.