Best Strikers in the World Analysis Part I – From goal king Van Persie to master creator Tevez

Yesterday we kicked off Strikers Week on Just Football, in which we’ll spend the week analysing the best strikers in the world. The aim is to see what we can learn from various attackers’ performances this season. We asked you to name your personal top ten, and please continue to do so over the week as we tally the results.

Now for Part I of the analysis. In this part we take a look at seven strikers who should be sticking around at their current clubs (although one or two are coveted elsewhere and may move). In Part II we will assess those who look like they may be on the move, according to various transfer rumours.

It’s not an exact way of splitting them up but it allows us to look at two distinct groups closely without it being overwhelming. All statistics are via WhoScored who source their data from Opta. For all players we will be looking at league stats only, as although most played in Europe, some did not and others did at different levels (Europa/Champions League).

So step up the first seven players to go under scrutiny: Robin Van Persie, Roberto Soldado, Antonio Di Natale, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Champions League winner Mario Mandzukic.

We have split the analysis into two sections – goal statistics and general build-up play statistics, which allows us some insight not only into their scoring rates but also their all-round contribution to team play. Highlighted in blue are the best numbers for this group of players, in red the worst numbers.

Goal Statistics:

best strikers in the world analysis

The list is ordered by number of league goals scored in 2012/13. Click the images to enlarge.

Shots to Goals ratio and Shot Conversion % are basically the same stat, but I quite like looking at it as a ‘how many shots does he need to score’ figure, while some prefer a percentage rate. It’s horses for courses, whichever you prefer.

Observations

As we can see from the data, Robin Van Persie is the king of goals in this list with 26. He also dominates the total shots column with a staggering 141 shots, nearly as many as Mandzukic and Aguero combined. Of the players in Europe’s 5 major leagues to average 3.5 shots per game or more only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Alvaro Negredo had more shots on goal than the Manchester United man.

Van Persie needed 5.42 shots on average to score in the Premier League last season. This is at the higher end of the scale but not as clinical as Roberto Soldado or Mario Mandzukic, with the Valencia man needing only 4.17 shots per goal. Of all 15 players we are analysing over the coming days this puts him 4th on the list behind three players (who we’ll reveal tomorrow).

Soldado had an excellent season in Spain – a 24% conversion rate and 24 goals in 33 starts is quite brilliant, bettered only by Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao and Negredo (who surprisingly few people have placed in their top 10 list so far).

One thing I found fairly surprising was Mario Mandzukic‘s low total shots and shots per game stats, which perhaps hint at an efficiency of shooting in his play (he still managed 0.63 goals per game) and a possible reluctancy to shoot unless in the best possible position.

This is a marked contrast to someone like Carlos Tevez, whose goals per game and shots conversion % were comfortably the worst of the 15 players assessed. Tevez played a high number of his games positioned deeper in a more attacking midfield role in fairness however, which could help explain this paucity of shooting.

Sergio Aguero‘s goal stats show he had far from his best season at Manchester City, while Antonio Di Natale continued to fire away with a superbly prolific 0.7 goals per game.

Mario Balotelli’s stats on the other hand are quite dramatically skewed by his move to AC Milan in January. He managed only 1 goal in his final 6 months at City, playing mostly from the bench, but as the main man in Milan he hit a staggering 12 goals in 12 starts, hinting at his immense development with the Rossoneri and his huge potential for goals if made the focal point of the team. City may live to regret letting him go so readily.

Let’s look now at these players’ all-round capabilities via passing and dribbling statistics:

best strikers in the world analysis Van Persie

For some players the pattern is completely different here. As we can see, Carlos Tevez showed average goal statistics but becomes a phenomenon in all-round play with 8 assists and 1.8 key passes per game, tied with Robin Van Persie, who proves what he adds not only in goals but also in overall contribution to the team.

Tevez’s average passes per game and pass completion % are also very high, the latter being the best of all 15 analysed, the former bettered only by Wayne Rooney who we’ll assess shortly.

Perhaps naturally, the out-and-out strikers do worst here. Dribbling is not exactly in the brief for Di Natale or Soldado.

Sergio Aguero shows his excellent ability on the ball here with 1.9 successful dribbles per game as does Balotelli, but the Italian’s 0 assists is a significant low point of his game and he’ll hope to improve that next season. The Milan star’s stats show however that he can be a clinical, goalscoring target man, but also has more to his game with a proven ability to dribble.

Di Natale’s pass completion rate is not great, but he has the lowest number of turnovers per game – way lower than the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Falcao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic even, as we’ll see.

Mario Mandzukic‘s fairly low successful dribbles and key passes per game stats perhaps hint at why Bayern are so keen to recruit Robert Lewandowski, though a goal every 4.46 shots is not to be sniffed at.

Conclusion

From these stats we learn the value of various players to their teams, which helps explain why they are not likely to be on the move this summer.

For example, many in the media described Robin Van Persie’s transfer to Manchester United as ‘good business’ by Arsenal. This is shown as simply not true when you consider what a fantastic contribution he makes to his team not just in goals but also all-round play. The Dutchman is a huge asset to any team, proven over many years now.

Carlos Tevez showed again that his workrate and hustle in attacking areas really is impressive, while Mario Balotelli at 22 could be about to explode as a genuine world class talent if he can add creativity (and discipline, some might argue) to an increasingly convincing goal ratio.

Roberto Soldado’s shot conversion % shows his class. Recently turned 28, the Spaniard could be a good signing for any major team looking to take advantage of Valencia’s financial problems (a fee of £15-18million could be very tempting for Los Che).

I’m actually quite disappointed by Sergio Aguero’s stats for last season, but the ability is still there. As is the case with Toto Di Natale, an excellent (and relatively overlooked) striker for a number of years now. He deserves credit.

Tomorrow we look at the some of the biggest names in world football many of whom, funnily enough, are the subject of serious interest from the world’s most renowned clubs. Follow us on Twitter to stay updated.

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8 Responses to “Best Strikers in the World Analysis Part I – From goal king Van Persie to master creator Tevez”

  1. srexr
    June 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Interesting reading, though its too easy for the stats to be skewed by forwards who take penalties. A fairer reflection so that apples are being compared to apples, is to deduct penalties scored, but include a stat for penalties earned. As presented, Balo for one, looks far better since his move simply because of the number of penalties awarded to his new team.

    • Jonathan F
      June 18, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

      Hi srexr,

      Valid point this. At the same time though what would you rather, remove the goals from his total completely? That wouldn’t be fair I don’t think, he still has the responsibility to score them and does so.

      An extra column to reflect how many penalties each took is fair though I agree…

  2. Indra
    June 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Might want to fix Roberto di Natale in the last paragraph to Antonio ;) He is overlooked perhaps because he doesn’t exist.

    • Jonathan F
      June 18, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      Doh! Thanks Indra, duly amended…

  3. nelson
    June 18, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Er, what constitutes a “BEST STRIKER in the WORLD” in your book? Er Neymar Bolatelli Tevez. You seriously need your bumps feeling. Lets not include Messing and Ronaldo because don’t play the striker position, you really have no idea do you. They do play as strikers the as the type of striker that you say they don’t. Stop treating real football fans as idiots with your idiotic facts and figures. Look around the world and remember is not the position you play that makes a great striker but the ability to put the ruddy ball in the net pal.

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