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.
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.
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?