Forwards: The Top 10 Individual Seasons (2008-2013)

After an extensive amount of research into the performance of EPL forwards over the last 5 seasons I now have quite the historical database. I recorded player age, shots, team, their scoring percentages. Almost everything, in fact.

~370 players played over 500.000 minutes, took over 19.000 shots and scored over 2000 goals.

.

There are two simple rules I put in place when logging the data for strikers:

  • Penalties are stripped out.
  • Penalty shots and shots on target are stripped out

There is also a firm but fair rule which denied many a striker a place in this Top 10 list which we are focusing on today:

  • Player must have played a minimum of 60% of the available league minutes.

The minimum minutes requirement nixed quite a few outstanding seasons, but it was necessary to have this limit and guard against smaller samples and phenomenal half season performances (P. Cisse).

The one player who suffered from this minutes (ToP%) rule was Fernando Torres. Torres, in 2009/10, was 25 years old and at the peak of his powers and posted a Goals per 90 of 0.95 and a scoring % of 56.2%. Alas, Torres only played ~47% of the available minutes. It was a tremendous season from the Spaniard but I had to omit it. Rules are rules.

 

Top 10 Forwards By Goals Per 90

 

Here is the Top 10 forward performances of the last 5 seasons:

 

10 – Jermain Defoe (2009/10)

 

To kick us off, Jermain Defoe did this in 2009/10:

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT  ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Tottenham 27 Defoe 0.60 0.14 3.91 1.62 71.44 36.96 41.44

 

0.60 Goals per 90 and 1.62 SoT per 90 are strong numbers. Defoe’s stellar season was powered by strong shooting accuracy and scoring percentage numbers. Defoe certainly played a vital role in securing 4th place (ahead of Man City) in 2009/10.

 

9 – Gareth Bale (2012/13)

 

Another Tottenham player, this time Gareth Bale’s sensational season from 2012/13.

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT  ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Tottenham 23 Bale 0.65 0.12 5.08 2.25 81.77 28.77 44.24

 

0.65 goals per 90 from a player who only played a portion of the season in a central position is a mind boggling number. Bale wasn’t much of a creator and his Scoring% is below a forward’s average, but there is just so much to like here: Durable (ToP%), a shots monster who is above average in shooting accuracy and the best shots on target per 90 number I have on record. All at the age of 23.

 

 

8 – Robin van Persie (2012/13)

 

Another from 2012/13

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Man United 29 van Persie 0.66 0.23 3.95 1.76 87.43 37.70 44.53

 

Robin van Persie’s transfer to Man United was not without risk with injury history and advancing age among the question marks against the Dutchman. RvP cast aside those concerns with a season for the ages.

Goals and Assists per 90 were both historically elite as was van Persie’s SoT per 90. What of the concerns about van Persie’s injury history? A time on pitch percentage of 87.4% will answer that question. Without this performance Man United probably don’t win the 2012/13 Premier League title.

 

7 – Wayne Rooney (2011/12)

 

As good as van Persie was in 2012/13 Wayne Rooney topped it in 2011/12.

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Man United 26 Rooney 0.67 0.13 4.74 2.00 79.23 33.33 42.28

 

Rooney was sensational in 2011/12 posting 2 SoT per 90, a near 80% ToP% and a strong shots accuracy number. With Berbatov struggling and Welbeck and Hernandez only playing support roles, Wayne Rooney carried this United team in 2011/12.

 

6 – Sergio Aguero (2011/12)

 

As good as Rooney was in 2011/12 it was Aguero’s goals, and goal, that brought the title to East Manchester.

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Man City 23 Aguero 0.70 0.28 4.44 1.71 72.14 40.82 38.58

 

The second 23 year old on the list, Aguero’s first season in the blue of City is the greatest debut season I have on record. Goals and Assists per 90 are strongAguero’s SoT per 90 is the second lowest on this Top 10 list but it barely matters for the Argentine’s performance was powered by an elite Scoring%.

This excellent season was capped by the most famous moment in Premier League history.

 

5 – Luis Suarez (2012/13)

 

The third player on the list from 2012/13

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Liverpool 25 Suarez 0.70 0.15 5.70 2.19 82.67 31.94 38.50

 

Suarez gets a bad rap from some folk for poor shot discipline and shots locations. Despite this, Suarez still posts an accuracy number which sits above average. Scoring% is sub par but the important numbers – Goals and SoT – are Suarez’s strongest numbers. In fact, Suarez’s 2.19 Shots on target per 90 is the 4th best number I have on record. If Suarez could be finally taught to shoot from better locations then, my word, this would be some player.

 

4 – Robin van Persie (2011/12)

 

The second appearance on the list from RvP.

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Arsenal 28 RvP 0.73 0.24 4.62 2.13 93.25 34.18 46.20

 

In 2011/12, van Persie was finally fit and healthy and the league was finally able to see what a healthy van Persie could do when an offensive scheme was tailored to his strengths. RvP blew the rest of the league away and that included Rooney’s amazing 2011/12 season. Goals, SoT and shooting accuracy were all at a very high elite level. For me, van Persie’s Time on Pitch percentage told us this was a player that could finally, and I mean finally, stay healthy.

It was a one-man show of skill and finishing with a unique skill for scoring important (-1,Tied, +1) goals.. Arsenal replaced van Persie’s goal tally via committee and many a blowout of the league’s bottom feeders.

 

 

3 -Wayne Rooney (2009/10)

 

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Man Utd 24 Rooney 0.73 0.10 5.88 1.79 75.87 40.74 30.51

 

Rooney was pretty darn good in this World cup season, scoring 40 goals in 50 competitions and often whilst playing up front on his own. Tevez and Ronaldo had flown the nest the previous summer and Rooney was the only remaining superstar forward. And he played like a superstar.

Rooney’s 0.73 goals per 90 is the 3rd best I have on record for players who played over a ToP% of over 60%. The goals were powered by a very good Scoring% (40.7%) and sheer volume of shots (3rd highest on record). Rooney’s shooting accuracy was below average as were his assists per 90 but none of this mattered much, Wayne was a true shots beast in this season.

United were pipped to the title by Chelsea and lost out in the CL semi to Bayern, the foot injury suffered by Rooney in the run-in was a huge blow to Man United. How times change.

 

 

2 – Dimitar Berbatov (2010/11)

 

What?!

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT▾ ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Man United 29 Berbatov 0.82 0.16 3.99 1.71 61.81 47.62 42.86

 

This actually happened.

Berbatov’s 29-year-old season is the second best Forwards performance of the last five years. An 0.82 goals per 90 was powered not by overwhelming shots volume, but by stunning scoring% (47.6) and shooting accuracy numbers (42.8%).

Berbatov’s 2011/12 season wasn’t a consistently outstanding one, but when he was on, he was on. 3 against Liverpool, 2 against Blackpool 5 against Blackburn and 3 against Birmingham. Now these goals are hardly against the highest quality of competition and this may be seen as a knock against the player. The simple fact is, all of the players above have a flat truck bully element to their game, and all strikers are streaky and tend to score in bunches.

The numbers are the numbers and they have Dimitar Berbatov at age 29 as having the second best season on record.

 

1 – Didier Drogba (2009/10)

 

Team Age Player Goals Assists Shots SoT ToP% Scoring% Shot Acc%
Chelsea 31 Drogba 0.91 0.32 5.75 2.14 77.55 42.42 37.29

 

Didier is our champ. That Drogba performed this well at age 31 is incredible. Strikers tend to be well in decline by this age, but Drogba rolled back the years and this outstanding league performance enabled Chelsea to pip Man United on the last day of the season.

0.91 goals per 90 is by far the best on record. Drogba’s assist numbers are off the chart too. Shots on target per 90 and Scoring% are super elite. Right across the board Drogba just kills it. This was a truly special Premier League forward who in 2009/10 recorded the best individual performance of the last 5 seasons.

Drogba was truly a rare player in that his peak years came much later than is normal for forwards. A warhorse, a beast, a bully. Drogba was all these things, but my he could play.

 

Visualized

 

Newnewnewnew_medium

 

A quick note: I could only go back as far as 2008-9 in this study. I cannot use shots data from seasons previous to that date due to issues with an inferior data supply. A quick glance over the goals and minutes charts for the few seasons previous to 2008-09 tell me Cristiano Ronaldo – the 2007-08 vintage – has the best Goals Per 90 record of any player with 1.016 goals per 90. He was really something.

Article responses

Thanks Ben!
The usual suspects, but interesting information. Didn’t think Defoe would make it and were surprised (a lot) that Torres only played 47% that year.
Referring back to one of Ted’s earlier pieces (I think), you can understand why these proven goalscorers carry a hefty price. They can certainly carry a team to the trophy.

Reply

As a Chelsea fan, i am delighted at the conlusion!! Drogba rules!

I was wondering what Torres’ numbers were for that season that you omitted. Would he have made any difference in the top 10?

Reply

Torres in his 25 yo season only played 47.7% of the games, scored at 0.95 per 90.

Reply

Scored at 0.73 in 48% Top% as a 24 yo. All went downhill after those two seasons.

Reply

Think you forgot to take pens out for Ronaldo. Puts him 2nd, behind Drogba. Torres of that year would’ve been 3rd. Henry 5th, behind Berbatov (since the start of 38 game seasons).

Reply

Sheet. you are correct SIr. Was just taking a quick scan through the lists as i was editing this piece. Still, not bad from Ronaldo

Reply

Torres in 09/10 would have been #1 but for a ToP% that was sub 60%. 18 goals in 1704 mins. He was magical, and his game just went

Reply

When was the last time you tried to run without hamstrings, Ben? Be nice to ‘Nando. If nothing else, he gave us this lasting video.

Reply

Vamos! – those were the days…

Reply

Seriously Ted,
I never understood quite why Chelsea bought Torres. I mean, why buy a player that humiliated and red carded the best CB in the PL at the time, Nemanja Vidic? Why buy a player who almost single handedly crushed Los Merengues out of CL and as a side note humiliated Pepe, at his peak, for fun? Why buy a player that out muscled one of the best full backs around, Philipp Lamm, so winning the Euros for Spain?
Anyway…
Are there any statistics to suggest Torres played better (i.e. contributing more) during Benitez’ spell at Chelsea?

Ps. the franchise-word is still a no-no…

Reply

Definitely wish to talk with you – I have a sllghtly different view on this and after walking through my research on Possession with Purpose I would welcome comments and thoughts… for me a key ingredient not here (although the data is very representative) is the ‘team activity’ that occurs prior to the individual striker scoring their goal…

I’m not sure I have the solution set on that but for now it’s my latest attempt to try and get there…

Reply

[…] Suarez had a monster season in 2012/13, which I had ranked as the 5th best season by a forward in the last 5 PL seasons. Still, during the summer, many Liverpool fans wanted to […]

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

66 − = 65