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April 17, 2014

Into the Mixer: The Top 70 Scorers in Europe This Season + The Lion of Selhurst Park

By Ted Knutson

Welcome to my new, (probably) weekly column. I’ve been looking for a way to dump football and stats thoughts into a weekly piece for a while, but didn’t have a name or a particular theme. Everyone who writes for StatsBomb has some reticence about throwing up smaller blog pieces, as there’s a perception it might harm the perceived quality of the work. My thought was that you just need to label these things as blogs/thought dumps/whatever, and you’ll a) definitely end up with more content and b) hopefully end up with more happy readers.

So here we are. Today – and most days in this column – will be a potpourri of stuff I’ve been thinking about, working on, or whatever. They won’t generally be extensive, finalized pieces. Instead expect some written explanation around recent radars I’ve produced, updated thoughts on season or stats storylines, or just random shit I didn’t know where to put.

The Kingmaker
I noticed this past weekend just how many teams currently in “races” of one sort or another Crystal Palace play in the run-in. I dubbed him the kingmaker, and then @Chairlord requested a photoshop of Pulis as Tywin Lannister. I contacted the incredibly talented @BreakfastPercy about the idea, and this was born.

PulisGOT2

Tywin’s titles are fairly long, so I’ve kind of combined and shortened them into calling Pulis “The Lion of Selhurst Park” and for this season in particular: The Kingmaker.

His first act in bending the final positions of Premier League powers to his will came with the defeat of Chelsea at Selhurst Park itself. He followed that by destroying the Welsh in Cardiff and probably sealing their doom.

Next came an even more improbable act than the Chelsea slaying, as the Kingmaker travelled to Goodison Park and rode home with Roberto Martinez’s head on a pike. This took Everton from nearly coinflip odds to finish fourth and pushed them deep into long shot territory.

The only question is where will the conquests stop? Pulis has a chance to swing the odds of three more contenders one way or another before the campaign ends. The first opportunity comes when Manchester City visit Selhurst, looking to recover from their disastrous draw against Sunderland. Next come title favorurites Liverpool, also looking to leave Selhurst with their title hopes and dreams in tact. And finally, on the last day of the season, mighty Palace travel to Craven Cottage, where they could potentially play a huge role in determining the fate of Fulham and their imperious dictator, Felix Magath.

Back at the beginning of January, I looked into the predictive model crystal ball and said there was no way Palace were being relegated. Palace fans who read this were incredulous. I also apologized for all the mean things I might have said about Pulis over the years. I have learned my lesson – Pulis is actually a good manager, capable of bringing defensive stability to even the most disorganized of sides. Since he joined Palace, they have been a top half of the table team, something that even the most ardent of Pulis supporters would not have predicted.

The comparison to the master planner from Game of Thrones above is just a bit of fun, but Crystal Palace are wreaking havoc on a surprising number of fates in the run-in this season.

And almost unbelievably, Tony Pulis is at the heart of all of it.

Scoring Contributions in Europe
Those of you who have been reading my work for a while know that I value goals scored and assists similarly. To me an assist is simply a goal that resulted from a pass. We tend to step back from goals and assists to things like shots, shots on target, and key passes when looking for real predictive work in player analytics, but scoring is still damned interesting.

Scoring Contribution in my radar charts is a combination of non-penalty goals per 90 and assists per 90. I view this as a more complete way of looking at offensive contribution than just taking goals or assists. Obviously there are times when you just want to look at one or the other, but when evaluating overall impact, I like the combo platter. (Note: there’s also something to be said for drawing penalties and counting them as .75 of an assist, but I don’t have that data handy yet, so can’t test its incorporation.)

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, I have compiled the top 15 players in Scoring Contribution in each of the big 5 leagues below.

Okay, Top 15 except for in France, where I cut it to the top 10. France has lower goalscoring overall, seemingly less talent outside the top two teams, and even has fewer basic actions per game than any other big league around.

Why?

We don’t know. It’s just weird.

Apologies ahead of time – I forgot to round off the figures in Excel before taking the screen caps. Le mew, le sigh.

EPL_SC_Leaders

The EPL listing is pretty cool. You have the expected top 3 who everyone knows have been tearing it up, followed by Theo Walcott, Rooney, PODOLSKI, and Ramsey. Poldi may not run much, but he has a knack of being in the right place in the right time, and when he shoots it unleashes Thor’s Hammer from his boot. Good luck stopping that as a keeper.

Further along, you get more usual suspects like Adebayor, Lukaku, RVP, and the ageless Samuel Eto’o. (Is he 32? 37? The same age as Joseph Minala? Nobody knows.) The tail end of the Top 15 starts to get strange again. Remy is expected, and Eriksen seems to get better and better, but Welbeck and Dzeko are the ones rounding out the top 15. I expected Negredo to be the other City striker to pop up there, and Welbeck appears to be maturing nicely for Manchester United.

Oh yeah, and Carlton Fucking Cole is 16th on the list so uh…

LaLiga_SC_Leaders

Messi is once again first, overcoming his injury issues to put up yet another great season (despite getting bashed in the last couple of weeks for apparently not doing enough). The second place on this list isn’t Ronaldo though… it’s Gareth Bale. And Alexis Sanchez is in third. Damned impressive.

The sixth spot delivers the first non-Barcelona or Madrid player, and surprisingly, it’s not Diego Costa, it’s Jeremy Perbet. Sadly, he’s 29, so not exactly a “hot prospect.” Standing even more prominently in that category is 33-year-old Aritz Aduriz of Bilbao. He’s been great though, and one of the forces driving them back into a Champions League spot.

For teams scouting Spain for scoring prospects, Carlos Vela is probably the best name lower down the list, but all indications from recent transfer windows indicate he has no interest whatsoever in moving away from Spain.

Bundes_SC_Leaders

Ribery, blah blah… wait.

The Hell.

Is Sven Schipplock?

Apparently he’s a 25 year-old German super sub for the nuclear-powered scoring rate of Hoffenheim. There have been 4.3 goals scored per game in Hoffenheim matches this season. That’s insane.

So you have the excellently-named Schipplock getting two different scoring boosts versus a normal player. The first boost comes from the fact that he’s appeared as a sub sixteen times this season, and as Colin Trainor showed a couple of months ago, playing as a sub boosts your scoring rate. Additionally, he’s surrounded by good players like Firmino, Volland, and Salihovic for a team that plays a gung ho style of football.

Even so, that scoring rate is monstrous. Someone might want to take a flier on Sven next season and see what he can do as more than just a sub. Or steal him away and keep him in the same role in the Premier League. Just rename him Ole Gunnar Schipplock, and the fans will know exactly what to expect.

After master Sven, you have Sidney Sam, now aged 26, and currently of Bayer Leverkusen but moving to Schalke this summer as part of a…

wait for it…

2.5M euro deal sealed this winter. The guy with the third best scoring contribution in the Bundesliga was bought for EPL chump change.

After that you have Mandzu and Reus, both of whom are definitely staying put this summer. Reus allegedly has a release clause that activates next season, and can do it all, including having an interesting even scoring split between goals and assists.

Then you get to some intriguing names. The first is Stuttgart’s Maxim, who is only 23 and profiles really well as an attacking midfielder ready to make the leap. You also have Bayern second string player Xherdan Shaqiri, who has bulked up a ton over the last two seasons and is still only 22. Someone in the Premier League should at least check and see if he wants more playing time, especially since Bayern just re-signed Robben and Ribery to new contracts.

Lasogga is on loan to Hamburg (from Hertha Berlin), and is a battering ram type player who is somehow averaging nearly 4.5 shots per90, with 53% accuracy. He’s also only 22, and coming into the last year of his contract. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in the next 12 months. Modeste is another name flying below the radar, and he’s simply an efficient, no fuss forward. He doesn’t dribble much, doesn’t have a lot of key passes, but he never gets his shot blocked and he scored well.

Rounding out the Bundes top 15 are names everybody knows, followed by Brazilian wunderkind Roberto Firmino, and Dortmund’s steal from last summer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

serieA_SC_Leaders
Um… Destro is destroying that league.  In fact, he has the highest NPG90 rate in Europe.

Yes, even higher than Messi, Suarez, Aguero, Ronaldo, Sturridge… everyone.

He’s also doing it in a league that is notoriously stingy toward goalscorers. He only has about 12 full 90’s played and is probably unlikely to keep up that rate over a more substantial part of the season, but those numbers at age 23 are fantastic.

Next comes Francesco Totti.

Wait, let me start over.

Next comes 37-year-old Francesco Totti, currently second in the whole of Serie A in Scoring Contribution.

Italy seems to be the type of league where older players can excel even well past what leagues like the Premier League generally allow, but let’s not kid ourselves here – Totti is a special case even there. What a master.

After Totti comes the rejuvenated Carlos Tevez, Icardi (21), Immobile (24), and um… Luca Toni?

Toni is 36.

Like I was saying…

ligue1_SC_Leaders

Part of me feels like the less said about Ligue 1, the better, but Arsenal and Newcastle have to shop somewhere, and there are a few interesting names on the list.

If I were scouting for a team, I’d take a very close look at Waris, and Lacazette, while Riviere is a young player who is blossoming at Monaco this year. It will be interesting to see if he continues to get playing time, or gets nudged out of the way by bigger names (and probably a new manager) in the next transfer window.

Let’s be honest, though… at this point in its history, buying players from Ligue 1 is the equivalent of getting most of your clothes from Primark.

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Article by Ted Knutson