“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:
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.