It’s been a fairly low-key summer at Fir Park so far. Five new players have…
When Conor Sammon’s name is doing the rounds it’s usually because a certain photo of him holding a pizza has resurfaced. However, this time the striker was in the headlines for on-field matters as he found a new club for the 2018/19 season. The Hearts forward sealed a loan move to Stephen Robinson’s Motherwell.
It’s hardly the kind of signing that will spread huge excitement amongst the Fir Park terraces, but the acquisition of Sammon is an interesting one. He will add experience to the Motherwell frontline and at glance looks like the kind of player that will comfortably slot into Robinson’s plans.
My colleague James Cairney looked at whether the Steelmen’s business in the transfer window would help them break into the top six. He pointed out that attack is the main area Motherwell need to improve with a third of their attempts on goal last season ending up off-target. This was the highest of any club in the Premiership. Robinson has also brought in Danny Johnson from English National League side Gateshead, but Sammon is more proven at this level. Will he significantly improve the Fir Park club’s frontline? Let’s take a closer look.
We’ll start with the bread and butter for any striker and that’s goalscoring. Motherwell lost a talismanic figure when Louis Moult left in January, but Curtis Main stepped up to replace him. Moreover, Ryan Bowman and Craig Tanner were also effective last season in the final third. The question is, can Sammon add to this?
We get a clearer picture of how all four strikers performed last campaign in the graph above. The first main point to note is that Sammon more than holds his own in terms of goalscoring. The 31-year-old scored seven times in the league last season, matching Bowman and bettering Tanner (six) and Main (five). That said there are a couple of important points to note here. Firstly, that Main only joined Motherwell in January meaning his goal tally is nearly matching his teammates despite only being in Scotland half a season.
Conversely, you could say Sammon’s scoring record is even more impressive given he was playing in a Partick Thistle team which struggled to find the back of the net on a weekly basis. Perhaps if he had been in this Motherwell side he would’ve scored more? When we look at goals per 90 (G/90), there’s not much in it. Tanner is the top performer in this metric (0.34), closely followed by Main (0.32), Sammon (0.30) and Bowman (0.28).
When we move our focus to expected goals (xG) it becomes a bit more enlightening. Sammon’s overall xG is 9.92, which tells us he’s missing opportunities he should be scoring given his actual goal tally is only seven. There’s two way of looking at this. It’s a positive that he’s getting into these positions and creating opportunities, however, the fact he’s not finding the back of the net when he’s expected to is not so good.
Main is in a similar boat, his xG of 6.52 is higher than his actual goals scored (five). It’s actually pretty staggering that he could have been even more effective in front of goal given that he only arrived in Lanarkshire at the turn of the year. Both Main and Sammon also have higher xG/90 than G/90 rates. However, with Tanner and Bowman, we have the opposite scenario. Both players have lower xG than their actual goal tallies meaning they are taking chances they’d be forgiven for missing. Again it’s a similar situation in the xG/90 metric where both Bowman (0.28) and Tanner (0.34) are slightly below their G/90 metric with 0.25 and 0.33 respectively.
Another element to consider is assists. Of course, if a striker is able to chip in and set up his teammates it’s a bonus, but it’s important nonetheless. Sammon matches Main with just two assists last campaign. On the contrary, Bowman and Tanner both produced four assists. Tanner does play as more of a secondary striker so perhaps that is to be expected. Furthermore, Sammon is a player who thrives inside the box and is a predatory forward. He was never signed by Robinson for his ability to produce assists.
In essence, Motherwell have signed a player in Sammon that knows how to score at Premiership level. However, he’s someone who could perform slightly better in front of goal in terms of taking the chances presented to him. Although, if the Fir Park side believe they’ve captured a forward who can score in the big games, they might be disappointed.
Of his seven league goals last season just one of Sammon’s was against top six opposition. That was a penalty against Celtic, while the rest were against the so-called lesser teams. If Motherwell are wanting to break into the top six, and defeat teams who they will be directly competing with for those spots, then they’ll need strikers who can score against the bigger teams.
That’s not to say the Irishman can’t find the back of the net during these matches for the Steelmen in the upcoming campaign. He will be playing in an undoubtedly better team than he was last season and with that, you’d expect him to be presented with significantly more goalscoring opportunities.
There’s a reason that the title of this article is rather optimistic. Sammon has been much-maligned in the past and more recently has become known as more of a meme than a formidable striking force. However, the way Robinson sets up his side and Sammon’s style of play could be the perfect match. Sammon is a fox in the box who scores the majority of his goals in the area or from the penalty spot. Simply put, there’s definitely the potential for this move to be beneficial for both player and club.
Motherwell are a highly physical side and depend a lot on crosses in order to find success in the final third. It’s, therefore, no surprise they have lots of height in their team and Sammon will fit in just fine being six foot one. They may have been criticised for how they play, but the Steelman are effective in their approach and extremely well drilled.
They scored a whopping 35% (15) of their goals from crosses last season. That in itself is impressive, but when you consider another 26% (11) came from corners and indirect free-kicks you see there’s a common theme in the way the Steelmen find the back of the net. This could serve Sammon very well given he mostly scores in the box. With deliveries coming in from either side you’d think the 31-year-old will be spoiled for opportunities compared to last campaign.
The Steelmen have acquired a striker that could fit well into this Stephen Robinson side. He’s strong and physical and at the very least will provide another option in attack; competition for places can surely only be a good thing. The set up at Fir Park looks to suit the Irishman and if he can hit the ground running we could see him thrive in Lanarkshire.