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 www.soccerbase.com . It is based on appearances in league and cup.

Looking at the main strikers currently available to Mackay:

Goals1

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:

GOALSOLD

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.

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Maloney can do it for Scotland, but will he do it for Latics?

 

What a delight it was for a Latics fan to watch Shaun Maloney curl in that beauty for Scotland on Friday. It was reminiscent of the gem he scored in that 1-0 win for Latics against Manchester United in April 2012.

A lot has happened since that memorable first win over the Red Devils. Maloney was the creative force behind that incredible revival that saw Wigan Athletic not only beat United, but also win away at Liverpool and Arsenal. They were heady days for Latics and for Maloney.

It was only in the second half of that 2011-12 season that Maloney established himself in the team lineup. In the 2012-13 season, which ended in relegation from the Premier League, he made 41 appearances, scoring 7 goals. Sadly since then, following a long layoff through injury, he has not been an automatic choice in the team, even when fit.

Maloney’s performances for Latics this season have been intermittent and patchy. He was not fit at the start of the season and has not commanded a regular place in the Wigan Athletic lineup. This is in contrast with his position in the Scotland squad where he has been a first choice under Gordon Strachan.

Maloney made his debut for his country in 2005 and has since made 36 appearances, with 4 goals. His recent performances have been excellent, as he has fitted perfectly into Gordon Strachan’s tactical system. He scored a very well taken goal in the enthralling 1-1 draw with Poland in Warsaw and it was his deflected shot that won the previous game at home to Georgia. The gate at Celtic Park for the Ireland match was the highest for Scotland for 25 years, an indication of how much Strachan has lifted the Scots. After years of mediocrity Scotland are regaining respect on the international scene. Strachan’s positive tactical approach is to be commended and Maloney plays a key role in his team.

Maloney is in the final year of his contract at Wigan. He remains a fan favourite, although not always one of the manager. It has been rumoured that he did not see eye to eye with Uwe Rosler or Owen Coyle. Hopes were high when he returned from injury near the end of last season. He could have provided the magic to lift Latics through the playoffs, but maybe it was expecting too much after his recovery from hip surgery.

Seeing Maloney for Scotland the other night, he looked as fit as he ever has been for Latics.

Is Maloney more interested in shining for his country than his club? Is he prepared to deal with the physicality of the Championship division? Is he going to be supportive of a new manager at Wigan?

Will a change of manager at Latics inspire Maloney to show the kind of ability that will unlock defences in the Championship? One hopes that will be the case, with a player that has so much to offer.

The alternative could be his departure in January. Let’s hope that will not be the case.

Maloney back in the limelight – but can it last?

MaloneytScotland

Shaun Maloney has had a pretty miserable time over the past twelve months, but he can still hit the headlines. He was already being quoted about the resurgence of Gordon Strachan’s Scotland side before his deflected shot sealed a 1-0 victory for them over Georgia in midweek. Now he is in the limelight once more, quote after quote from him appearing in the media.

Through his ten years of service at Celtic and an international career that started in October 2005, Maloney is well known to Scottish journalists. Moreover in a sport where its professionals are hardly known for their eloquence, he comes over as intelligent and thoughtful in his comments.

Just a couple of years ago Latics had three players regularly making appearances for Scotland. Gary Caldwell was captain for both club and country, Maloney featured regularly and James McArthur was staking a case for a midfield holding position. Since then McArthur has left for Crystal Palace and both Caldwell and Maloney have had major injury problems. Given that Maloney had started in only two matches for Wigan Athletic this season, Strachan clearly has belief in the player to pitch him into a European Championship qualifier.

Injury has been a constant companion to Maloney throughout his football career. For Celtic from 2008-2011 he made only 38 starts in three seasons. He arrived at Wigan from the Glasgow club in August 2011 for a fee of £850,000. He struggled for fitness in the first half of the 2011-12 season, making just three substitute appearances. In early March 2012 he made his Premier League debut for Latics, setting up an equaliser for Victor Moses at Norwich and making a very positive impression.

He was to go on to become a regular starter and a key player in Latics’ miraculous escape from relegation. Maloney’s first goal for Wigan was a penalty in the memorable 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield. His great goal against Manchester United in early April secured a 1-0 win and moved Latics out of the relegation zone for the first time since October. He went on to score another beauty in the 4-0 demolition of Newcastle just over two weeks later.

Maloney was to steer clear of injury in the 2012-13 season when he scored 6 goals in 34 starts and 2 substitute appearances in the Premier League. He scored a memorable opening goal in the FA Cup semi final against Millwall, but Maloney will probably be remember best of all by Latics fans for the corner kick that he launched on to Ben Watson’s head for the Cup Final winner.

However, injury was to strike Maloney again only a few months later. After scoring three goals in 6 early appearances in the Championship under Owen Coyle, Maloney was out of action for five months after requiring hip surgery. His last match had been in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, where he was substituted after 63 minutes on September 14th. He returned on April 1st in the 2-2 home draw against the same opponents. Maloney was to go on to make ten more appearances, including the FA Cup semi final against Arsenal and the two playoff games against Queens Park Rangers.

Maloney’s return had given fans the hope that he could produce some of his magic to help Latics secure promotion, but it was not to be. He just could not hit his best form after so long a layoff though injury.

Sadly injury has continued to dog Maloney. He was unable to take part in the pre-season warmup games, but has since started in two league games, coming off the bench in five.

A fully fit Shaun Maloney could help kick start Wigan Athletic’s stuttering season. Playiing on the right of midfield for Scotland against Georgia on Saturday, he looked much more like the player who was key during the more halcyon days of Roberto Martinez at Wigan.

The question is whether Maloney can maintain his fitness, steering clear of injury. Latics supporters will be praying that this will be the case.

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Auld Mac getting better and better – a look at James McArthur

 

The Jimmy Macs - McArthur left with McCarthy.  Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

The Jimmy Macs – McArthur (left) with McCarthy.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

They were the two Jimmy Macs – James McArthur and James McCarthy – in the engine room of Roberto Martinez’s midfield. It could be difficult guessing Bob’s starting lineups, but the Jimmy Macs always seemed to be there. Together with Shaun Maloney they could compete on an even keel with the likes of  Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes. They were the ones who underpinned Wigan Athletic’s famous victories against giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Both had started at Hamilton Academicals in the second tier of Scottish football. Both Glaswegians and both part of the Accies side that won the Scottish First Division in 2007-08. The younger Jimmy Mac – McCarthy – was first to join Latics in summer of 2009, to be followed by ‘Auld Mac’ a year later. James McCarthy made 120 appearances for Latics before he moved to Everton early this season. James McArthur has made 116 up to this point.

Given his wealth of Premier League experience McArthur was expected to be a major force in the Championship division. His early performances under new manager Owen Coyle were disappointing, his partner McCarthy’s departure not helping. Some even suggested McArthur would never be the same without the younger Mac. But then again not many players reached optimum levels under Coyle’s slack regime. However, Coyle clearly recognized McArthur’s talent and leadership qualities, giving him brief captaincy duties for the first time in the absence of Emmerson Boyce.

The arrival of new manager Uwe Rosler signaled a change in tactical approach. Coyle’s long ball tactics had not suited the skilful McArthur and he soon made an impact upon his new manager. He formed a formidable midfield trio with Chris McCann and Ben Watson that was to prove crucial in Latics’ revival. Sadly both McCann and Watson were to pick up long term injuries and since then McArthur has had a variety of players accompanying him in midfield. Nevertheless he has kept up his excellent form.

However, Auld Mac has become more and more influential in that midfield engine room. He has become the fulcrum around whom things happen, a complete midfield player. Despite already having played 45 games this season he was full of energy and drive in an outstanding display in the draw with champions-elect Leicester City on Wednesday.

McArthur was once described as a tough tackler with creative spark. But he has become much more than that. He has become the midfield general who sets the example to his teammates in terms of his commitment and dedication to the Wigan Athletic cause. He will always be remembered as being part of the team that beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup last May. He had a wonderful game as a makeshift wing back.

If there is one area in which McArthur needs to improve it is in scoring more goals. However, when he does get them they tend to be good ones. That rocket shot at Huddersfield last season and the amazing chip over the Northern Ireland goalkeeper are as good as you will see.

Auld Mac is not so old. In fact he is only 26 and still has not reached his peak. He has taken his game to a higher level and many would view the underrated Scot as Latics’ player of the season at this point. It is ironic that when he is showing  possibly the best form of his career he is not making the first choice line-up for his country. Granted he has dropped down a division, but are the current starters for the Scotland team really better than him?

James McArthur is a quality footballer with a great attitude. He can help take Wigan Athletic into the play-offs and beyond.

At 26 he has still not reached his peak. Latics supporters will hope he will stay at the club for years to come.

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A history of Scotsmen and the settling in period at Wigan Athletic

As a kid I often used to walk to school with my mother via her place of work in Wigan’s town centre. Typically, as we walked along we would chat and this would result in heads turning. My mother was a southerner and her accent stood out like a sore thumb. “Wur ya from luv?” was not an uncommon question for her to respond to. After being evacuated from the London blitz she had married a Wiganer who would not entertain living anywhere else but his hometown. It was a culture shock for her. She would recount stories of not understanding a word people said to her and how Wiganers could be so uncomfortably direct in conversation. Wigan was a pretty depressed town in those days, heavily polluted and with one of the lowest average household incomes in the country. Times have changed for the better. After the initial shock, my mother grew to love the town and its people, many of whom did not have easy lives. She understood that Wiganers were proud people with warm hearts.

My first experience of culture shock was arriving in Scotland, where I was to go to college. It was difficult enough to understand what people were saying to you, let alone walk around poorly-lit city streets where the English weren’t the most popular. I missed my trips to Springfield Park with my Dad, who would nevertheless do his best to keep me up to date on Latics progress at the time. I would call him up after he had been to watch a match for him to give me his commentary. It was usually fairly brief, laced with his habitual comment that the referee was the worst he had ever seen in his life. Did referees ever like Wigan Athletic one wonders?

Ian McNeill was not only one of my favourite Wigan Athletic managers, but also a Scot. He had been manager of Ross County and clearly retained good connections with his home country. When he first arrived – launching Wigan Athletic into the newly formed Northern Premier League in 1968 — he brought a posse of his countrymen. “Why do we need these Scotsmen? What’s wrong with our local lads” was a common refrain from some fans at the time. I enjoyed Scottish football, regularly watching the two Dundee teams in my time north of the border, and welcomed the acquisition of the Scots. There were the skilful wingers – Davy Breen and Jim Savage – plus the stylish Benny Cairney as a striker. There was also the lanky centre half, Doug Coutts, and that wonderful left back, Billy Sutherland: he of strong tackles and thunderous shots. But my favourite was Jim Fleming, a really skllful and intelligent forward who probably created as many goals as he scored. I often wondered why he would leave Hearts to take up a role as a part-time footballer at an English non-league club, together with a low key job at the Heinz factory. In those days the Scottish League produced more “ball players” than in England, with the ball less in the air and more at the feet. The” Nine in a row” Celtic team that produced the 5 foot 2 inch magician known as Jimmy Johnstone were the prime example.

Culture shock and Scotsmen remain very relevant to Wigan Athletic in modern day. The team that lined up at Swansea last week included four Scots (counting James McCarthy for the sake of argument), two South Americans, one Central American, one Spaniard, one African, one Omani (Oman is actually in Africa, but belongs to the Asian Confederation) and one English-raised player who represents Barbados. In McNeill’s early days the Scots were the minority in the team which was made up mainly of English players. Nowadays the Scots are the mainstay of the current multicultural mish-mash that represents Wigan Athletic. Like Ian McNeill, Roberto Martinez and Graeme Jones retain links with Scotland where they both played.

Not one of the current Wigan Athletic squad has played for any continuous period of time for a top Premier League club, before arriving at the club. Some might say the that Latics squad lack that genuine belief that players acquire after playing at such levels. The current bookmakers odds favour Queens Park Rangers to stay up despite their poor start, factoring in the presence of previously proven top level players in their ranks: Wright-Phillips, Zamora, Park to name but a few. Wigan do have Gary Caldwell and Shaun Maloney, winners of multiple championships in Scotland when with Celtic, but does that give them the kind of belief necessary for the Premier League?

Roberto Martinez’s task is always difficult. Because of the club’s salary cap he has to bring in players from outside England – Scotland, Latin America and Spain mainly. Even the Scots have a culture shock when arriving: probably not so much to the local culture, but more to that of the Premier League with its relentless physical and mental challenges. Gary Caldwell had spent some time at Newcastle before joining Celtic and he stepped right into the first team after his arrival. However, the other three – James McCarthy, James McArthur and Shaun Maloney were given a period of months before being thrust into regular first team action.

The double culture shock for players arriving from overseas can be daunting. Some like Di Santo and Beausejour had already been through that with their previous English clubs, Chelsea and Birmingham. Others came from Europe, where the culture is more similar than other far-flung parts of the world. But imagine Maynor Figueroa coming from Honduras, a developing nation in Central America. He was sensibly given time to settle in, having been signed in January 2008, but making an excellent debut as a starter– against Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo — in April of that year. Poor old Mauro Boselli, who had never played for a club outside Argentina, was thrust in immediately in August 2010. The end result was that he failed to make that cultural adjustment that was needed. Fortunately Boselli is back at Wigan, some two years later, biding his time to get into the starting lineup and scoring goals galore in cup and reserve fixtures in the mean time.

It looks like Scottish summer signing Fraser Fyvie is going to be given a significant settling in period before being considered for the first team. This despite the fact that he was a regular in the Aberdeen lineup from a tender age. Looking at other players who have been through the same process it appears the right thing to do. Sometimes the needs of the club force the manager into playing new recruits from the get go. It is not ideal, but some players rise to that challenge. Others unfortunately can’t make the adjustment so easily. The double culture shock is significant and should not be underrated.