Player stats during Rangers play-off run

Darren McGregor, courtesy of Action Images

written by – Rangers Report

This is the third part of a brief series looking back at Rangers failures last year through the lens of advanced statistics.  My goal for the upcoming season is to make Rangers Report a valued source for fans to gain access to a variety of statistical information on Rangers & on the rest of the Scottish Championship.  This is my initial foray in writing using analytics so your patience is requested.  Also, this is my first go-around with creating charts & graphs – so they’re going to be sloppy/experimental. 

My main objective at this point in the series is to simply preview some of the statistics that the site will feature next season.  The following are individual player stats from Rangers six game play-off run.  It is an incredibly small sample size but can give you a sense of what to look forward for next year when I track the stats not only of Rangers players, but also the other players in the Scottish Championship.

Glossary:

GP:  Games Played   GS:  Games Started   Min:  Total minutes played

Total G:  Total goals   Headed G:  Headed goals   G off corner:  Goals off of a corner kick

A:  Assists  Sh:  Shots   SOT:  Shots on target   

FC: Fouls committed   FC in own end:  fouls committed in the defensive half of pitch

FS:  Fouls suffered (how many times a player was fouled)  FS in Off end:  Amount of times player was fouled in the offensive half of the pitch

CNR Conc:  Corners conceded by a defensive play

Defenders

Player GP GS Min Total G Headed G G off Corner A Sh SOT FC FC in own end FS FS in Off end CNR Conc
Richard Foster 6 6 540 0 0 0 2 1 1 6 4 3 3 6
Lee Wallace 6 6 540 1 0 0 0 2 1 10 7 7 3 6
Marius Zaliukas 6 6 499 0 0 0 0 3 1 6 3 1 1 8
Darren McGregor 5 5 450 1 1 1 0 3 2 9 3 2 1 3
Lee McCulloch 2 2 180 0 0 0 0 1 0 4 2 1 1 0
Bilel Mohsni 3 0 24 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 1 0 0 0

Defenders are probably the most challenging players to assess using advanced stats but you could begin to incorporate some stats into the evaluation of players over a longer sample size then six games.  As an example, for center backs assists would really be meaningless to pay attention to but for full backs they would give you a sense of how effective they are in initiating attacks from the wing.  Richard Foster, who is notoriously poor, was actually pretty decent in the play-offs.  Most observers would agree that he was one of the better players during this stretch & his two assists would support that claim.

It is tricky to incorporate fouls committed into the evaluation of defenders but you could surmise that a players is often caught out of position, or does not have the pace to keep up with the opposition, when committing fouls – especially in the defensive end.  It’s important to note where the foul is committed to get a real sense of if it’s a defensive foul – or simply as case of a player fighting for position in the opposing penalty box, or trying to break up a counter attack before it really gets going.  Darren McGregor had more fouls then any other center-half (9) but only three were in the defensive half of the pitch – which is the same as Marius Zaliukas.  Lee McCulloch committed two in 360 less minutes.

Lee Wallace, courtesy of SNS

Additionally, fouls suffered in the offensive end would be a more useful stat for full backs then for center backs.  Lee Wallace & Richard Foster’s main role was to push play up the flanks.  Usually, Wallace does a far superior job of that then Foster – but in the play-offs the edge would go to Foster.  Both were fouled three times in the offensive end but Foster added two assists.  Of course, Wallace added a goal so neither player was as poor as some of their teammates. On another note, It will be interesting next year to compare the statistics of full backs on the various teams to get a sense of how teams create offense.

I included corners conceded because usually takes a solid defensive play that sends the ball out for a corner.  It’s not always the case but it often is a play that diffuses a scoring threat from the other team.

When we begin to incorporate stats next season – most of these stats will be examined by breaking them down to a per game (90 minutes) average.  It will give us a better sense of what a player is contributing per match in comparison to his peers.  For example, Ricard Foster averaged 1.0 fouls committed per 90 minutes.  If you take Bilel Mohsni’s numbers & apply them to full 90 minutes – his average would be 7.5 fouls per 90 minutes.  That’s the extreme example, but Mohsni really was out of control towards the end.

Haris Vuckic, courtesy of Graham Stuart (Action Images)

Midfielders

FK G:  Goal off of a free kick shot

Player GP GS Min Total G Headed G FK G A Sh SOT FC FC in own end FS FS in Att end CNR Conc
Nicky Law 6 6 540 0 0 1 1 6 4 5 2 6 3 4
Andy Murdoch 6 6 540 0 0 0 0 3 2 5 2 7 4 1
Haris Vuckic 6 6 516 0 0 0 1 10 6 8 7 8 5 3
Dean Shiels 5 5 388 1 1 0 0 2 1 4 3 10 7 1
Steven Smith 3 1 82 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Shane Ferguson 2 1 82 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Robbie Crawford 1 0 28 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
Ian Black 2 0 22 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0

Once again, this is a very small sample size & that needs to be taken into account.  When it comes to midfielders certain stats take more meaning given their roles on the pitch.  Andy Murdoch was not counted on to be an offensive threat so looking at shots or shots on target would not be a fair way to assess his play.  Given that he plays more of a defensive role, the fact that he only committed two fouls in the defensive half supports the observation that he has more of a clean, less rugged approach to that role than say Ian Black had.  Murdoch appears to rely more on smart positioning to break up plays then simply clattering into the opposing player.

Obviously, Haris Vuckic’s shot totals stand out & that supports what the ‘eyeball test’ showed us.  Vuckic was Rangers most important offensive player & as his play went, so did the team’s. Unfortunately, teams seemed better suited in defending him as the season played out & the results of 0 goals & one assist were a big reason why Rangers struggled offensively in the play-offs.

The fact that Dean Shiels was fouled ten times, including seven in the offensive half should also be noted.  So often in his time at Ibrox, he would hide during the big matches.  However, that seemed to change under the management of Stuart McCall & those statistics support the idea that Shiels was actively pushing play & causing problems for the defense.  Shiels was fouled 2.33 times per 90 minutes, while Nicky Law was fouled 1.0 times per 90 minutes.  That doesn’t seem like much of a difference but if those numbers were over a 25 game stretch, for example, the difference would be significant.

Could you argue that Shiels was more actively driving the play then Law based on those stats?  Possibly, but it also goes to prove that they play two very different kinds of games.  Law seems to slow down play – looking for a safe pass or to shoot.  While, especially during the play-offs, Shiels would get the ball & go.  Again, this is where you must combine what you see on the pitch, with what the numbers are telling you.

Kenny Miller, courtesy of SNS

Forwards

Player GP GS MIn Total G Headed G A Sh SOT FC FC in own end FS FS in Att end
Kenny Miller 6 6 527 1 0 0 8 6 4 4 7 4
Nicky Clark 6 3 270 1 0 1 4 2 2 2 4 1
Kris Boyd 3 1 106 0 0 0 6 3 1 0 1 1
Tom Walsh 2 0 71 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0

Sigh.  The depressing sight that was Rangers strike force.  Again, it’s a small sample size – but back in January – I highlighted the fact that Rangers most productive forward was actually playing out on loan with Cowdenbeath & spotlighted the fact that Ranger aging, overpaid strike force were producing very, very little.

When assessing the stats for forwards, it obviously comes down to goals & pressuring the opposing goalkeeper.  You want to see a good number of shots & hopefully a good percentage of those shots on target.  A more complete forward should also be collecting his fair share of assists, while a pacy forward will likely be fouled in the offensive end at a pretty high rate.

There isn’t much here, obviously.  Two goals from your forwards in six matches is shocking, but not surprising for this team.


Note:  One critical group of statistics  missing here involves passing.  Pass rates & key passes are invaluable is assessing players but unfortunately that information is not currently available in the Scottish game.  Some teams are likely tracking this data, but it is not readily available to the public as it is in most major leagues.

Either way, I am excited to provide the aforementioned statistics on the site plus a few more not introduced today in the coming season.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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