A closer look at the stats reveal areas of concern for Rangers top forward

Martyn Waghorn

written by – Rangers Report

As talks have been exceedingly heating up about Mark Warburton’s plans for the January window, the going consensus is a need for another striker & a defensive midfielder.  The calls for another forward seems to be rooted in concerns in relying on Kenny Miller & Nicky Clark as depth players & not so much an indictment of Martyn Waghorn.

The former Wigan Athletic forward has been lighting the scoreboards in the Scottish Championship this season & has a league leading 14 goals in 14 league matches.   He also leads the league in shots (59) & Expected Goals (7.33).

However, when you look deeper into Waghorn’s underlying numbers, you start figuring out if you are an optimist or if you are a pessimist.

Waghorn’s shooting percentage (ratio of goals in relation to his shots on target) is a very respectable 0.378.  But when you strip away the penalty shots, you see a very different number.  When you take away his eight penalty shots & seven penalty goals – his shooting percentage dips to 0.233.  That rate is actually the worst among the top 20 non-penalty goals scorers in the league.

Player Team non-pen G Shots SOT SH% xG
John Baird Falkirk 9 37 18 0.500 4.44
Martyn Waghorn Rangers 7 51 30 0.233 7.33
Jason Cummings Hibs 7 42 21 0.333 6.20
James Keatings Hibs 6 24 8 0.750 2.38
James Tavernier Rangers 6 39 14 0.429 2.84
Mark Stewart Raith Rovers 6 25 12 0.500 4.92
Denny Johnstone Morton 5 38 16 0.313 4.75
Derek Lyle Queen of the South 5 40 18 0.278 3.56
Lee Wallace Rangers 5 25 10 0.500 2.97
Jason Holt Rangers 5 17 9 0.556 3.19
Liam Buchanan Livingston 4 17 9 0.444 1.43
Will Vaulks Falkirk 4 27 10 0.400 2.56
Iain Russell Queen of the South 4 14 6 0.667 1.67
Jordan White Livingston 4 18 11 0.364 3.95
Stephen Mallan St. Mirren 3 24 12 0.250 2.43
Liam Henderson Hibs 3 22 5 0.600 2.45
Luke Leahy Falkirk 3 10 3 1.000 1.13
Blair Alston Falkirk 3 16 7 0.429 2.78
James Craigen Raith Rovers 3 23 11 0.273 2.62
Jordyn Sheerin Livingston 3 16 5 0.600 1.69

All of the above numbers reflect the players’ non-penalty shots & goals.

John Baird, courtesy of SNS

The other eyeopener lies in the fact that labeling Waghorn the leading goalscorer in the Championship is actually a misnomer given that Falkirk’s John Baird has actually scored more non-penalty goals.

Rather then jump to conclusions about Waghorn’s play, the goal of this post is to estimate whether his scoring rate will stagnate or if it will improve going forward.

The immediate conclusion is that it has to improve given the volume of shots he creates & the fact that his shooting percentage is so low.  While this assumption is based in the realms of probability – I wanted to take a closer look at Waghorn’s results in the area of the pitch he is paid to do his business.

Forwards, like Waghorn, do most of their dirty work in the heart of the goal area – in High & Very High Danger areas.  Basically, the goal mouth straight out through the center of the penalty area.

The following charts the aforementioned top 20 scorers, but strips away all shots not taken from High/Very High Danger areas in attempt to see what effect low percentage shots are having on a player’s scoring rates.

HD-VHD Effectiveness

High/Very High Danger shots are going along the vertical axis & HD/VHD shooting percentage runs along the horizontal.

  • Let’s focus on Martyn Waghorn first of all.  He leads the league in 17 High Danger/Very High Danger shots & 33% of all his shots have come from the heart of the penalty area.  His shooting percentage is 0.294 & is still on the low end.  The average shooting percentage for these 20 players is 0.437 – so again it’s not up-to-par.  If he continues to generate shots from this area – his success rate should improve.  Right?
  • Waghorn is actually joined by a very good group of forwards – Jason Cummings, Derek Lyle, Jordan White, & Denny Johnstone have combined for 21 goals this season & an optimistic view would be that they may get even better.  Like Waghorn, they are getting high quality shots off at an above average rate & are poised to improve on their current scoring rates.
  • John Baird is in scintillating form this season.   The 30-year old has scored on 89% of his nine High Danger/Very High Danger shots, while he is shooting 0.357 from other areas.  That is unreal form.
  • Mark Stewart’s success rate of 0.667 on nine shots is probably more attainable for the players in the should be scoring more group.  His finishing prowess leaves him only one non-penalty goal behind Waghorn but with 26 less shots!
  • The players in the Unsustainable grouping are for the most part midfielders who don’t generate high numbers of shots from within the penalty area.  The High Danger/Very High Danger area is really the office for forwards but when players like Liam Henderson, James Keatings, & Jason Holt do make a visit they are finishing at excellent rates.
  • Will Vaulks & Stephen Mallan are not expected to be threats from within the penalty area & it shows.  But then there’s Livingston’s Liam Buchanan.  The 30-year old, who scored 14 goals last season for Alloa, has really struggled this season.  While he does have four goals this year, the fact that he only has three shots from the heart of the box should be a concern.
Martyn Waghorn, courtesy of Keith Campbell

Back to Martyn Waghorn…there are areas of concern & hope while looking at his underlying numbers.  He’s getting a high volume of shots which has translated into the highest Expected Goals totals in the league.  He’s averaging 0.51 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes, which is only behind John Baird (0.65) & Jason Cummings (0.54) for players who have 1,000+ minutes this season.  For players with 500+ minutes, Waghorn is fifth.  If you add his five assists to his total then Waghorn leads the league in points per 90 with 0.88 (James Keatings has an unreal 1.11 points per 90 but has only played 568 minutes this season).  So, while the 14 goals is a bit misleading given the penalties – he has been effective…very effective.

His finishing could be better & that woeful shooting percentage is a concern.  It has to be.  The fact that he scores on 29% of his High Danger & Very High Danger zone is a not good enough. The fact that his finishing in the area that forwards should make their living is below the average of the top 20 scorers is, quite frankly, a surprise.

On the bright side, his career shooting percentage is 0.37 – which should signal improvement in this area from Waghorn going forward.

But the bottom line is that the warning signs suggest that Rangers may want to monitor these numbers over the next couple of months as they decide how great the need up front is during the January transfer window.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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