A statistical analysis of Rangers problems up front

Kris Boyd, courtesy of SNS

Forwards are relatively easy to evaluate, fancy stats aside – judge a goal scorer by the bottom line — goals.

With that in mind, let’s play a little game.  I want you to look at the forwards listed below & based solely on the data – choose which players you would want starting in this weekend’s showdown with Hearts.

The statistics listed below are simply an average of goals per game.  Five Rangers forwards are listed (one is out on loan with another Championship side).  Only league goals are taken into account.

Player A:  0.50 goals per game

Player B:  0.15

Player C:  0.40

Player D:  0.38

Player E:  0.22

So who did you choose?  I’m assuming that Player A is in your lineup – that’s a given.  Understandably, you want a little more information about players C & D.

Before we divulge who each player is – let’s give you some context.  Liam Buchanan, who scored last weekend for Alloa Athletic v. Rangers, currently leads the Scottish Championship with seven goals & is averaging 0.58 goals per game.  Last season, Jon Daly had the same number – 0.58 – albeit in a lower division.  Also last season with Kilmarnock, Kris Boyd’s goals per game average was a scintillating 0.61 in his bounce-back campaign.

Kenny Miller, courtesy of SNS

So the bar of an exceptional number is basically set at 0.50 or higher – a goal scored in every other game.  Player A is producing at a very good rate – however his number is a little skewed given that he has only played in eight of Rangers league matches.  But it is difficult to ignore Kenny Miller’s production – even though most fans aren’t necessarily noticing his output.  What’s particularly impressive is that he was truly struggling this year with the Vancouver Whitecaps – only scoring 0.14 goals per 90 minutes – if you exclude penalty kicks.

Miller’s inclusion is obvious.  He’s scoring at a very impressive rate & obviously played in many more matches that carry more gravitas than a November match with Hearts.  So, beyond the data, his experience will be leaned upon greatly by Rangers.

The player with the next best scoring rate at 0.40 is a player that has stepped aside once Miller returned to full health.  Nicky Clark has been one of Rangers best players this season but has not gotten in the starting lineup for weeks.

The debate comes down to whether Miller & Clark’s success is due to playing alongside a ‘target-man’ who creates space for them to get chances or if they could actually continue that success playing alongside each other.  Given Rangers lack of pace – would a tandem of Miller & Clark catch Hearts off guard & bring a whole new dynamic to Rangers offence?

Player D is actually a tricky inclusion.  Calum Gallagher has had a relatively productive loan spell with a league competitor, scoring 0.38 goals per game for Cowdenbeath.  Like Miller, it’s a small sample size but give Gallagher credit – he’s making the most of his opportunity & proving that he can play at this level.

Jon Daly, courtesy of Willie Vass

It is unfair to use a goals per game average to evaluate Jon Daly’s play this year – but he is Player E – with the 0.22 average.  If a better data base was available you would like to measure a forward’s effectiveness by looking at goals per 90 minutes…but let’s just say Scottish football is a little behind when it comes to accessibility to statistics.

Last year, Daly scored 0.58 goals per game – but that number was skewed by a poor finish to the season.  In the first 21 matches of 2013-14, Daly scored at an astounding rate of 0.81 per game.  In his final eleven games, as Daly’s body began to break down, his rate dipped to 0.36 & he was largely ineffective.

The above flub by Kris Boyd occurred in a preseason match against the Sacramento Republic.  The miss was stunning & sadly a sign of things to come this season for Boyd.  Yes, Boyd is Player B scoring just 0.15 goals per game.  If you prorate that over the course of the 36 game season, Boyd is on pace to score 5.4 goals this season.  That is shockingly bad.

Much was made of the new & improved version of Boyd last season with Kilmarnock.  He had learned from his experience in America & now embraced the importance of a more complete approach to playing forward.  But, even with his evolution in his all-around game the bottom line was that he was scoring goals – 0.61 per match.  What has happened?  Often Rangers midfield is blamed for a lack of service & rightly so – but players like Miller & Clark are managing to utilize their quickness to create their own opportunities.  Plus, Boyd has had chances but is either snake-bitten or struggling with fitness issues (four months into the season).

So what does Ally McCoist do?  Go with a traditional target man in Daly?  Double-down on Boyd & see if he can break out of his slump?  Miller is a given & as we have learned – deservedly so…but what about Clark?  Why is it either/or between him & Miller?

It’s a decision that may be help decide the fate of the manager – does he stay with what hasn’t worked or try an approach that the statistics say is his best option?

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10 thoughts on “A statistical analysis of Rangers problems up front

  1. The problems with Rangers up front is players like Ian Black in centre midfield, he is unable to give a quality ball to the players up front of in the wide areas. Lewis McLeod the player who has the capabilities is played wide on the left. The wide players play on the wrong side of the field, left footed players are on the right, while right footed players are on the left. This means that they are unable to cross the ball with their natural foot but have to turn back to put in a cross, it must be easy playing as full back against Rangers. I keep saying this hoping that Mo, Larry & Curly Joe might read it “Play players in their proper positions, you know the one you signed them for”

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  2. Bang on. Time to play Miller and Clark together, with McLeod in central midfield. Black should make way for McCulloch and Moshni brought back. Also time to dump Foster. Can’t jump and positional play poor..

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  3. I agree with Miller & Clark , Boyd needs to be dropped for his own good, And also foster is finished should never got back to the club to start with utter mince, Also Law should be going forward instead passing square and back all the time then standing around has he never been told find a space to run into .

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  4. What a load of shite boyd has already scored more than 5 in all competitions so what he is having a bad spell all good strikers do take wayne rooney for example few seasons ago how many games did he go without scoring get a grip and do some proper work and get some proper facts

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    1. Jon
      As I noted in the post – I only took league goals into account. Boyd has scored five goals vs. two League Two sides (Clyde & Queen’s Park) which totally skews any real evaluation of his play this season. That’s a fact.

      He’s going through a bad spell, for sure & if Ally sticks with Boyd in the biggest match of the season (so far) it will be a leap of faith that he can somehow find the magic to snap out of this slump. Sometimes managers need to put form aside & put their trust in players who have a history of performing. Boyd is one of those kind of players. This will not be an easy decision for Ally.

      Stats are only on aspect of all this – there’s the ‘eyeball’ test as well. Watching how a player performs & seeing what he brings to a game. Sadly, for the last few weeks Boyd has failed the eyeball test as well.

      I hope, no matter what, someone scores some goals on Saturday for everyone’s sake.

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  5. It might take Hearts by surprise to go for pace and movement and pick Clark and Miller BUT are the rest of the team confident enough to play football through midfield and not just lump it long .Alternatively I would play Daly before Boyd as he could cause Wilson problems in the air , good player but not the toughest.Right back is a concern too , but the only alternative there would be McGregor and we really don`t want to take him out of the middle. Faure looks just as bad as Foster and how they are still both at Ibrox , baffles me.Need to work out who replaces Templeton too as he has been a passenger for last two weeks and we cannot afford any of those on Saturday .

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