With the season coming to an end, many clubs in Europe will be planning signings for next season. Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many clubs will have a limited budget because of the loss of revenue from assets such as ticket sales. Many are sceptical about whether players’ prices may deflate because many clubs are likely to have a restricted budget this summer.
Players who have performed well in lower leagues this season may be in demand due to their low wages and their club’s need of funds to settle debts and reduce wage costs. This data analysis will provide statistical insight into the best performing strikers in Segunda Division. This is the Spanish second division and includes several teams who have succeeded in previous years in La Liga, including Malaga and Deportivo La Coruna, who have both struggled this season, showing the competitiveness in the division.
Strikers are generally judged on how many goals they score however a manager’s tactics also determines the type of striker signed. The strikers included have played at least 25% of their teams minutes this season and had predominantly played as a striker and this data
analysis will report which players could be signed by clubs in the top leagues this summer.
The demand for goals
Strikers often contribute the greatest number of goals, therefore it is important to analyse their shooting ability.
Non-penalty goals were compared with goal conversion rate (how often a striker scores from a shot.) This provides an insight into which strikers are most clinical and this is important for every team, particularly those who enjoy to counter attack and rely heavily on their strikers to score goals from the few chances that they create.
Sekou Gassama is a clinical finisher having scored 0.52 non-penalty goals per game and boasted the best goal conversion rate at 0.32, this is impressive considering he took 1.83 shots per 90 and the average shots of strikers in Segunda Division per 90 is 1.86. After the restart the Real Valladolid loanee secured Fuenlabrada six points, this showed that he can be relied on to win his team games.
Top goalscorer Christian Stuani, previously of the Premier League has excelled in Segunda division having scored 27 goals in 35 appearances. The data has shown that he took 2.52 shots per 90 with 50% of these on target and 29% of these shots converted to goals. He is nearing the end of his career at 33 years-old however 0.46 non-penalty goals per 90 makes for impressive viewing.
Ruben Castro and Christian Santos have also performed well in front of goal and a close eye will be kept on both in further analysis. Rafa Mir has scored 0.54 non-penalty goals per 90 and could force his way into Wolves’ team next season when he returns in the summer. However by analysing the statistics, Nuno Espirito Santo will look to improve his forward’s goal conversion rate having taken 3.06 shots per 90, 20.6% of these shots were converted to goals.
Not just about goals
Next strikers’ technical ability was looked at. Strikers usually involved in link-up play are more likely to make more passes and create more chances and here we look at assists per 90 and successful passes in the final third. If the striker is a strong passer of the ball he can help provide for his attacking players when deployed as a deep-lying forward. The striker’s ability to not lose the ball can also provide the team with another dimension, it can make them unpredictable in their build-up play.
Juan Munoz outperformed his fellow strikers having made 0.19 assists per 90 and produced 2.30 successful passes in the final third per 90 which shows that he is most suited to play in a deep-lying forward role. He appears to be creative having attempted to make 1.20 smart passes per 90, the most in the league and 1.25 through passes per 90, again the most in the league.
From the analysis Christian Herrera and Nino appeared to be reliable passers in the final third, both successfully complete more than two passes in the final third per 90 and this allows their team to be able to attack centrally knowing that if their strikers receive the ball, they are able to keep possession if they received the pass in a non-shooting position.
It is worth noting Christian Santos and Mamadou Kone who make 0.16 and 0.18 assists per 90. The limitation to the assist metric is that the leading striker for total assists in this data analysis is Juan Munoz and he has made four assists this season, therefore none of the strikers performs particularly high in assists.
Can they help the team transition?
This part will use statistics to find out who performed when travelling with the ball. This skill is vital for teams who like to counter attack and demand for their strikers to travel a long distance with the ball in order to transition from defence to attack. Additionally, teams who like to play short passing football within the widths of the 18-yard box need players that are skilled dribblers to create shooting opportunities.
Luis Suarez (not the Barcelona forward!) is most successful in the dribbling department having made 2.80 successful dribbles per 90 and 2.21 progressive runs per 90. He looks to be a great addition to the Watford team next season when he returns to England because they like for their attacking players to travel with the ball in order to transition into the final third and provide crosses to target man Troy Deeney.
Another stand-out player is Darwin Nunez who is currently contracted to Almeria. He has appeared as one of the most skilled strikers in the league, the statistics show he has made 1.60 successful dribbles per 90 and has great potential at the age of only 21. The data also reinforces the technical ability of Kone and Herrera who performed well in the previous graph.
Many strikers haven’t performed well in the technical aspect for the second and third tests. In general, strikers in Segunda Division are not so involved in build-up play, having fewer touches of the ball compared to other divisions. In La Liga, the average passes per 90 by a striker have been 20.30 whereas in Segunda Division it has been 15.70 passes per 90 which gives an indication that if these strikers were to play in La Liga they would need to improve their technical skills.
In need of a target man?
For the penultimate test aerial ability of the strikers was analysed and this sort of ability is essential for clubs playing with target men which allow for a fast and direct transition from defence to attack. The offensive duels won per 90 were also looked at because this gives an indication of the physicality and aggressiveness of the striker to keep the ball when challenged.
There seems to be no outstanding performers however Gassama and Hirginio Marin look to be the most suited to the target man role. Marin won 4.28 aerial duels per 90 and 3.70 offensive duels per 90 while Gassama won 4.60 aerial duels per 90 and 3.60 offensive duels per 90. It is worth noting Alfredo Ortuno, Jose Carrillo, Anthony Lozano and Yacine Qasmi.
Alex Alegria and Leonardo Ulloa seemed to be the greatest aerial threats this season with Alegria winning 8.49 aerial duels per 90 and Ulloa winning 7.12 aerial duels per 90 which would make them great assets for teams who like to cross, half of Alegria’s goals have been headers. It is difficult to determine how aggressive they are having fallen below average in offensive duels won per 90 but their aerial ability may well make up for this.
Are they up to the press?
It is becoming increasingly popular for managers to incorporate high block tactics which instruct attacking players to press the opposition defence very high up the pitch. Interceptions per 90 and defensive duels won per 90 were analysed to understand how effective each striker is in winning the ball from the opposition. This type of striker can be seen in all leagues however Segunda Division managers appear to demand this work rate with the average passes per defensive action being 8.65 this season. Many strikers are ready to play this role, shown by the negative skew towards more defensive duels and interceptions, per 90.
Seven players perform above average on both metrics and many players are close to performing above average on both. A few players have been mentioned earlier in the piece such as Kone and Suarez. Marin, Ortuna, Qasmi and Ulloa all performed well on the previous test and all appear to be great defensive assets to a team. It is no surprise that Qasmi and Ulloa both play for Real Vallecano, a side that defends aggressively and intensely and enjoy a direct attack when in the final attacking third.
Marcos Andre made 2.35 interceptions per 90 and successfully won 1.60 defensive duels per 90 this season and performed above average on the previous test, Real Valladolid only make 12.16 PPDA which indicates he could be on the move if his pressing style doesn’t compliment their style of play.
This aim of the data analysis was to find players that could be on the move, therefore, shortlisted players are only those that were not on loan this season because it is not known if the parent club wishes to sell the players they sent out on loan from this season. Three players are analysed further in this shortlist.
The Uruguayan has performed exceptionally well this season, his G-xG value is at +3.36 which reiterates the fact that his shooting ability is well above the level in Spain’s Segunda Division. He looks to be a great fit in Spain having scored 40 goals in 65 appearances in La Liga before Girona were relegated.
Barcelona have been linked with him before and could be in for him again given their lack of striking options, however, he is nearing the end of his career and if his ambition is to play as many games as possible he may be a potential signing for lower half teams such as Eibar who only score 0.07 goals per shot, Stuani’s clinical finishing could help to improve that, if he were to leave Girona.
Another Uruguayan who could be playing at a higher level next season is David Nunez who is only 21-years old and looks to be a future star. Having scored 15 goals this season, his conversion rate and goals to game ratio look impressive given his age and his shooting ability will only improve. He plays like Sergio Aguero, having successfully made 10.69 passes per 90 in the final third and having 4.40 touches in the opposition box per 90. His technical skills also allow him to keep possession of the ball when challenged having won 2.82 of his offensive duels per 90.
His dynamic style could force him a move to the Premier League where clubs such as Wolves and Sheffield United could look to sign him given that they play with more than one forward and Nunez would make a great partner for an aggressive target man striker that he can play off of.
Numancia have struggled in Segunda Division this season however Hirginio Marin has performed well, having scored 22% of his team’s goals. His shooting accuracy may not compete with the likes of Stuani or Nunez however his aerial ability is far superior. Five of Marin’s 10 goals this season have been headers, this explains why Numancia have been playing longer passes this season with Marin contesting 10.16 aerial duels per 90.
He could provide managers with a plan B and an ideal striker for Manuel Pellegrini at Real Betis. Having made 1.79 interceptions per 90 and won 1.46 defensive duels per 90, his defensive contribution could fit Pellegrini’s style of play and his aerial ability and physicality is similar to previous players Pellegrini has signed in Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo.
This data analysis highlighted the finishing ability of many players in the league with 11 players scoring 10 or more goals this season. The goal conversion metric proved to be a great metric to differentiate different types of strikers and was used ahead of the expected goals metric because this is influenced heavily by the creativity of their teammates.
The players highlighted above are all are at different stages at their career however have the potential of playing for a team in a higher division. Mamadou Kone, Luis Suarez, Rafa Mir and Sekou Gassama all return to their loan clubs and would have all made the shortlist if they had they not been on loan. They may interest other clubs if their parent club is willing to sell.