Best Strikers in the World Analysis Part II – Ibrahimovic, Falcao, Suarez, Rooney, Cavani, Lewandowski

Top 10 Best Strikers in the world

In Part I of our Strikers Week statistical analysis of the best strikers in the world we took a look at those players who seem likely to stay at their clubs for the foreseeable future. Sergio Aguero, Robin Van Persie, Mario Balotelli, Antonio Di Natale, Carlos Tevez, Mario Mandzukic and Roberto Soldado all went under scrutiny and we learnt a number of things.

Tevez is unmatched as a creator, Soldado’s conversion rate for Valencia last seen was exceptional and Van Persie seems a bargain even at £24million given what he adds both in goals and all-round play. If you haven’t yet then check it out here as well as our open thread where we want you to pick your top ten best strikers. We’ve already had a great response on Twitter so keep the votes coming and we’ll tally them up.

Today, let’s take a look at the next batch of strikers. They are Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Falcao, Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Gomez, an illustrious list I’m sure you’ll agree. 

Interestingly, all bar one could be playing at new clubs come the start of 2013/14 (while rumours about Zlatan returning to Italy persist). This shows the value of these players and how highly coveted they are, with superclubs around Europe preparing bids of up to €60million for their services.

Goal Statistics

First, a look at their goal statistics for 2012/13:

best strikers in the world analysisClick the photo to enlarge. Blue highlight means best on the list for that metric, red the worst. All stats courtesy of Whoscored.

As analytics expert Ted Knutson pointed out after Part I, factoring in penalties is an important element in any striker analysis. I won’t remove them completely (they still had to be scored, and did happen, after all) but separating them is a good and sensible idea so let’s do that:

best strikers in the world analysis - penalties scored


As we can see, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the main man last season with an astonishing 30 goals. Even if we factor out his 4 penalties, the Swede is still comfortably top of the list here. What I find so impressive about this, as we’ll see from the build-up play statistics later, is that Ibrahimovic manages to be so effective a goalscorer whilst also offering a great deal as creator and link man.

Unlike a frontman like Falcao, who plays on the shoulder of defenders looking for space to run into, Zlatan spends a great deal of matches simply wandering around in deeper positions; laying the ball off here, spreading the play there. Yet when time comes to put the ball in the net, there he is.

His knack for goals, and the spaces to occupy to get those goals, is phenomenal. 0.88 goals per game bears this out, but a low conversion rate of 19.1% comes mainly from a tendency to shoot from anywhere, as his 157 shots shows – second only to Luis Suarez of all 15 strikers analysed.

The Liverpool striker is an interesting case. Suarez has the highest number of shots per game but also the lowest conversion rate, superior only to Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez of the 15 assessed. This low conversion rate is a recurring theme for the Uruguayan – last season he had the lowest chance conversion rate of any Premier League player with 10 goals or more, even behind the likes of Yakubu and Danny Graham. What is the reason for this?

Suarez is not the most clinical of goalscorers but what he lacks in that department he makes up for in others as we’ll see.

Suarez needed 8.13 shots on average to score last season, a staggeringly high figure for someone considered a top striker. Compare this to the likes of Robert Lewandowski (4.08), Gonzalo Higuain (3.5) or Mario Gomez (3.45) and we see a huge difference.

Gomez is unfortunate in that his playing time at Bayern Munich placed him bottom on our analysis for goals, shots per game and total shots, but if you look at his excellent conversion rate you realise that someone (Napoli? Fiorentina? Arsenal?) will be getting a real bargain if they can sign the unwanted German up for £20million or less. Don’t forget he hit 26 goals in 30 starts in 2011/12.

Falcao and Edinson Cavani’s high goal numbers are boosted by penalties, but even if you remove them both still managed 20+ goals from open play. Wayne Rooney’s poor goals per game rate is mitigated somewhat by playing behind the striker for most of last season.

Meanwhile Gonzalo Higuain is another who, at the right price, could be an excellent signing for someone this summer. And furthermore, a high number of his league goals this season for Real Madrid were important – often the opening goal of the game for example. A quality player Real may well be overlooking.

Build-up Play / General statistics

Let’s now move onto overall build-up play and see what more we can learn. Click to enlarge:

top 10 best strikers in the world analysis


When you factor in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s assists to his goal tally, is there a better striker in world football today? 30 goals and 8 assists means he had a direct hand in 55% of all PSG’s league goals last season, an incredible number! I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, Ibra singlehandedly won them the title. Of all 15 strikers analysed he, Carlos Tevez and Van Persie lead the assists list with 8.

In terms of key passes Luis Suarez is comfortably top of the list, way ahead of anyone else with 2.7 per game. Interestingly Manchester United have two of the next best key passers in Wayne Rooney and Van Persie, both on 1.8 per game along with Tevez and Ibrahimovic. Mario Gomez and Gonzalo Higuain show they are more the poacher type, with poor numbers for key passes. Suarez also managed a fantastic 2.9 successful dribbles per game.

Mario Gomez leads the way in turnovers per game with only 0.8, matching Di Natale and showing his ability to hold the ball up, but it surprised me to see Falcao have such a high turnover figure of 3 per game. Monaco’s big new signing, Falcao is not a back-to-goal striker by any means – it his one of his biggest weaknesses in fact. But that number is still remarkably high compared to the others.

Reportedly unhappy at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney’s all-round play stats show a highly versatile player, comfortable doing either the job of an out-and-out striker as he did in the pre-Van Persie days or as a deeper creator. 10 assists and 45.8 passes per game at an 82.9% completion rate is impressive and this wonderful diversity to his game only improves his overall value. David Moyes wants to keep him and we can see why; a physically sound Rooney is an asset to any team.

At 72% Robert Lewandowski’s pass completion rate is low, bettering only Mario Mandzukic and Toto Di Natale of all 15 strikers analysed. 5 assists to go alongside 24 goals (0 penalties) is excellent however, particularly when added to a 24.5% shot conversion rate. Though he takes less shots, you could argue he offers more all-round than both Falcao and Cavani.


Mario Gomez’s low number of appearances still can’t mask a fine shots to goals ratio. Whether this is because Bayern are so good they put the goals on a plate for him or not, the numbers still outdo teammate Mario Mandzukic and hint at a ruthless striker who could improve many teams this summer.

Gomez, like Falcao, is a goalscorer through and through. Both managed just one assist this season. This is the antithesis of Luis Suarez, who needs 4 or 5 (or 8.13!) chances to score a goal but adds so much creativity to Liverpool that it’s tough to imagine them without him.

There are many more conclusions to be made here, one, for me, being that Gonzalo Higuain could be the signing of the summer for any team needing a proven, quality striker.

What do you think? Let us know your own conclusions by leaving a comment below. Next in Strikers Week we’ll be tallying up your totals to see who comes out on top as the best striker in the world, so keep sending your votes in the comments or via Twitter (@JustFootball).

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12 Responses to “Best Strikers in the World Analysis Part II – Ibrahimovic, Falcao, Suarez, Rooney, Cavani, Lewandowski”

  1. terry dowds
    June 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    what about chicharito best rate in premier and look at his mexico record. a born poacher

  2. Hurricane
    June 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    I think you forgot to factor one important thing when assessing the individual performance of the strikers: team performance.

    All the strikers mentioned in these 2 articles except Tevez and Aguero played in much consistent team performance last season. Team performance like under Fergie, Simone, Ancelotti were quite good, thus resulting in the strikers of these respective teams having more good games. Good team performance helped in good individual performance. Players played much better in consistent team performance.

    Liverpool had erratic, inconsistent team performance last season, resulting in some good games and some bad games. But they mostly played aggressive passing games all the time, resulting in Suarez having good time overall, as aggressive play suited him well. They adopted 4-3-3 throughout.

    Mourinho had wobble start of last season, but overall team performance was still quite consistent and good. Higuain’s performance wasn’t entirely impressive in that.

    Not to mention Bayern Munich – a triple champion team performance.

    In contrast, team performance under Mancini can be considered rather poor and erratic. They had some good games, but the bad ones were just painful to watch. Mancini tended to set up the team to play possession football initially, but mostly changed the tactics into conservative ones towards the end of the game. In short, he liked to play safe to protect the 1-goal lead or even a draw. Unlike Brendon Rodgers who stuck with his aggressive football throughout the season, Mancini liked to change his tactics midway in the game, resulting in erratic team performance and inexplicable substitution – Carlos Tevez being subbed more than 20 times last season. The strikers clearly suffered from this.

    Balotelli clearly suffered under Mancini, but triumphed under Allegri. This was likely due to the erratic team performance under Mancini, and resurgent form of Milan team under Allegri in 2nd half last season. Though Balotelli scored 6 penalties out of his 12 league goals with Milan.

    Thus, of all the managers, Mancini was the only one who got sacked for poor team performance.

  3. sam
    June 21, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    “3 men and 3 woman in a room, statistics show that average person has 1 testicle” – that’s statistics for you.

    However no doubting that this is a very informative article. Having missed part one my comment is solely based on part II.

    As a Chelsea fan, this article finely supports my argument that Cavani is indeed an unnecessary luxury at Stamford Bridge, the graveyard for strikers. While Gomez (statistically) is the weakest striker on the list in terms of goals, he is indeed the type of striker they need at Chelsea. A true out-and-out number 9 and valued at less than half the price of Cavani, he is also more financially plausible. With Ba, Torres and Lukaku the need for a “Hollywood” signing is redundant.

    Although the article states that Liverpool depend highly on Luis Suarez, he’s not worth the controversy and the baggage, and also Liverpool seemed to have done fine without him but would you leave a player who always creates havoc for the opposition defenders, on the bench? I wouldn’t.

    Falcoa with such an influential part of Athleticos success seems like a great acquisition for Monaco but how will he survive with the modern day “false number 9” being the more popular role amongst strikers? Still no doubting he is one of the greats out there.

    Zlatan, Zlatan, Zlatan! Off the top of my head Zlatan has won the league every season bar one, for the past 8-10 season (approx) can you really put a price on such incredible stat!

    And how about a wildcard – Swansea’s Michu? While he’s no European marvel his record is very respectable and as the previous post mentioned Chicharito, I believe Michu to be a greater asset.

  4. deji
    June 21, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Kind of suprised there is no Robin Van Persie in the mix.

  5. Pranav
    June 22, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    One thing im disappointed in is the lack of attention kießling is receiving. All the top scorers including lesser known ones like michu benteke etc. are being discussed but there is hardly any mention of kießling. He is the top scorer of the bundesliga outscoring the likes of lewandowski and mandzukic and the leverkusen squad has no superstar to support him. That feat along with a whoscored rating of 8 is i think something worth more than a mention.

    • Jonathan F
      June 24, 2013 at 6:08 am #

      This is a very good question Pranav – make sure you check the site on Monday for much more on this very subject….

  6. DaNi
    June 24, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Ibracadabra Is Best

  7. Ruben
    June 27, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic is best.I vote him.

  8. Saa
    November 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Where’s Aguero!?

    • Jonathan F
      November 22, 2013 at 1:50 am #

      Read the third line, Saa…..


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