If, at the start of the season, there would be one manager that you would predict would not have to utter the words “I miss a striker that scores” it may well have been Louis van Gaal. The attacking options at the Dutchman’s disposal looked a frightening proposition for the rest of the league to have to deal with but, be it through injury or a lack of form, things haven’t panned out how he would have hoped in attack.
In a week in which Arsene Wenger has also commented on his main front man, this time speaking in defence of Olivier Giroud, it appears a number of the league’s big hitters have come up short in front of goal, with Liverpool certainly another case in point. A striker on form can so often be the difference between success and failure, with WhoScored.com assessing the stats of the very best of them.
With Chelsea crowned champions this weekend, the influence of a clinical finisher certainly gave them the edge, at least ahead of the likes of United and Arsenal. Diego Costa has struck 19 times in his debut Premier League season, missing just 7 of the 22 ‘big chances’ – as defined by Opta – that have fallen his way.
While Sergio Aguero is now the Premier League’s out-and-out top scorer (22 goals), with Costa’s most recent injury certainly aiding the Argentine’s bid to win the Golden Boot for the first time, he has missed twice as many ‘big chances’ in comparison (14). With both players netting 15 ‘big chances’ this season the Spain international’s conversion rate from said opportunities is significantly superior (68.2% to 51.7%), and on such margins are titles decided.
The same is perhaps even more pertinent in a relegation scrap, and while Charlie Austin’s goals had given QPR a fighting chance up to now, a number of high-profile misses – see his penalty saved against West Ham recently – have proven costly. The Hoops front man has netted an excellent 17 goals this season but he has also missed more ‘big chances’ (16) than any other player in the Premier League.
Of the 19 players to register double figures thus far it’s Christians Benteke and Eriksen that have relied on ‘big chances’ the least, with just 3 scored apiece. In fact, when you exclude those goals no player in England’s top-flight has scored as many as the in-form Belgian, and interest, along with his asking price, is sure to be mounting. Where Austin’s big misses may prove costly – Benteke has fluffed just 6 in comparison – the Villa man’s goal tally, despite being inferior to that of the Englishman, looks likely to be his side’s saving grace.
When looking at shot accuracy and conversion rate it is again Diego Costa whose striking efforts have been particularly effective. Of the same 19 players to score ten or more goals this season the Chelsea forward ranks second in both departments, with a 48% shot accuracy and 25.3% conversion rate.
The fact, then, that Robin van Persie leads the way when it comes to testing the keeper with his attempts at goal (49.3%) is somewhat surprising given his struggles this season. While the Dutchman has been impressively accurate thus far his clinical touch has deserted him at times, with a modest conversion rate of 13.3% better only than Wilfired Bony (12%), Christian Eriksen (10.8%) and Graziano Pelle (9.6%) of the league’s leading marksmen, making his manager’s frustrations wholly understandable.
It’s another surprise inclusion at the other end of the spectrum here, with Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse boasting the best conversion rate of all players to notch double figures this season (27.5%). His return from suspension may well be key to Newcastle picking up any more points at all this season, with the Magpies suffering badly in his 7-game absence, failing to score in 4 of those games and losing every single one.
The fact that Olivier Giroud ranks as high as fourth in the same regard, with 22.6% considerably greater than top scorer Aguero (16.5%) and even in advance of a man who can do no wrong right now, Harry Kane (20.2%), perhaps suggests that Wenger was right to stand by his man. A statistical rating of 7.39 from WhoScored.com certainly indicates that any severe criticism of the Frenchman’s at times patchy form has perhaps been a little harsh after all.
It’s the quality of Diego Costa’s finishing stats across the board that really stand out though, with the former Atletico man’s prolificacy in front of goal acting as a microcosm for the Blues’ success this season. It’s been the perfect marriage between signing and side, with Costa’s deadly form all but assuring Chelsea of the title months before the season’s end.
With statistical strengths of ‘finishing’, ‘key passes’ and ‘headed attempts’, while offering a counter attacking threat as well as a pain in the proverbial presence up front, he has been a dream addition for Mourinho. If ruthless efficiency is boring, Costa is about as dull as they come…
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download app