A statistical look at Rangers ‘Front Six’

Barrie McKay

written by – Rangers Report

The following statistical breakdown is inspired by James Yorke’s analysis of Juventus’ recent struggles for StatsBomb.

As you know, Mark Warburton has largely relied on a 4-3-3 tactical set-up for Rangers this season.  The purpose of this post is to look at the stats to determine what role each attacking player is playing in the lineup & to possibly pinpoint which players have been thriving despite limited minutes.

First, the midfielders – i.e. the middle three of the 4-3-3.

Gedion Zelalem, courtesy of SNS
Midfielders Minutes Shot/90 Shots outside of box Shots from inside box G/90 xG/90 A/90
Jason Holt 1010 1.51 0.29 0.71 0.45 0.28 0.09
Andy Halliday 1235 1.24 0.82 0.18 0.07 0.11 0.00
Nicky Law 421 1.28 0.33 0.67 0.21 0.12 0.21
Dean Shiels 650 2.39 0.40 0.60 0.48 0.34 0.00
Gedion Zelalem 650 0.83 0.83 0.17 0.00 0.06 0.14
  • Here you see the statistical proof that Jason Holt is thriving in his role.  Of his shots, 71% are coming from within the penalty area which has led to a fantastic 0.45 goals per 90.  That will be difficult to sustain, as his xG/90 suggests, but overall he really has played exceptionally well in his role.
  • At 18 years old, Gedion Zelalem is still very much a work in progress.  His play has been inconsistent, with the dips in play often accompanying his international responsibilities.   While his talents lean more toward playmaking, when he does shoot I’m sure management would like to see him get those shots off from within the penalty area.  The fact that 83% of his shots are coming from Low Danger areas is an obvious area of improvement.
  • Again, the stats highlight just how effective Dean Shiels has been this season.  He is generating shots at a very high rate & the majority of his shots are coming from within the penalty area.  Of his twelve appearances, ten have been as a sub & his direct play has been tangible nearly every time he has come off the bench.
Nathan Oduwa, courtesy of RFC
Wide Attackers Minutes Shot/90 Shots outside of box Sh from inside box G/90 xG/90 A/90
Barrie McKay 1092 0.99 0.58 0.42 0.16 0.15 0.41
Nathan Oduwa 603 2.09 0.71 0.29 0.00 0.17 0.30
  • Mark Warburton went ‘all-in’ on Barrie McKay & that calculated gamble has more then paid off.  The 20-year old has become a real catalyst for Ranger success.
  • When you couple McKay & Nathan Oduwa’s assist numbers you see that they are having a direct hand in 0.71 goals per 90 minutes.  So much of Rangers success comes from those flanks (along with the full backs) as they cut the ball into the box for a teammate to finish off.  Rangers make a concentrated effort to generate shots from within  the penalty area & when McKay & Oduwa are driving play that has a major impact on shot locations.
  • Oduwa just oozes potential & his 2.09 shots per 90 was a bit of a shock.  The fact that 71% of his shots are coming from outside the penalty area explains why he has yet to score this season.  Given Oduwa’s skill-set, it seems like he’s more likely to score by running at defenders on a counter or by creating space in the box using his quickness.
  • It would be interesting to go back & track Martyn Waghorn’s stats when he is pushed out right & someone else takes on the striker role.  As you’re about to see he has a very high assists per 90 ratio & it would be interesting to see what role he is playing when those assists are occurring – especially if the team does bring in another striker during the January transfer window.
Kenny Miller, courtesy of RFC
Strikers Minutes Shot/90 Shots outside of box Sh from inside box G/90 xG/90 A/90
Martyn Waghorn 1231 3.73 0.27 0.73 0.51 0.54 0.37
Nicky Clark 194 2.32 0.00 1.00 0.46 0.33 0.00
Kenny Miller 595 2.87 0.26 0.74 0.30 0.52 0.15
  • Obviously Martyn Waghorn has been the one relied on the most in this central striker role.  He has been a real driving force for Rangers success this season.  His shot totals, goals per 90, & assists per 90 are all indicators of a strong beginning to the season.  As we recently chronicled, there is a need for Waghorn to improve his finishing as his overall stats have been glossed over a bit by his seven penalty goals.  The above statistics do not include any penalty attempts & when you look closer at his numbers you see a real area of improvement of Waghorn.  While 57% of his non-penalty shots have been on target this season, only 23% of those shots on target have actually beaten the goalie.  That number was the lowest of the top 20 goal scorers in the Championship this season.  If he can improve his finishing, then Rangers have a chance to get even better going forward.

Shots per 90 v Expected Goals per 90

Sh-90 v xG-90

Shots per 90 are going along the vertical axis, while xG per 90 runs along the horizontal.

  • The average among the players highlighted is 1.93 shots/90 & 0.26 xG/90 – so basically Jason Holt territory.
  • When you look at this output in correlation to the roles the players play, outliers begin to stick out.
  • For example, look at Nicky Clark in relation to the other two strikers.  His shots per 90 & xG per 90 have not been at the levels that the other two have produced.  The differences are slight but it supports Warburton’s reliance on Kenny Miller over Clark, even though the goals have dried up of late for the veteran.  If Miller keeps getting chances, where he’s getting them – the goals should follow suit.
  • Like we mentioned before, Nathan Oduwa’s shot totals are impressive but he needs to get ‘better’ chances in order to see a real impact.  Look at Jason Holt – who has a better xG per 90 despite having less shots on average.  Again, the vast majority of Holt’s shots are coming from within the box where he is more likely to score.

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