So much has made of Celtic’s ability to wrap up the Scottish Premiership title on…
In January Neil Lennon took something of a risk at Hibernian. Continually bothered by Anthony Stokes’ behaviour and the inconsistency of Simon Murray, the coach offloaded both of them to Apollon Smyrnis and Dundee respectively.
In the midsts of a league campaign that had the Easter Road side sitting fourth and some distance off Aberdeen and Rangers above them, Lennon then turned to two, new recruits in Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren. Two strikers that had never played in the Scottish Premiership before, let alone led the line for one of the country’s most ambitious clubs. Whether that would make or break their season was yet to be seen.
Fast forward three months later and things couldn’t be going better. Not only have both strikers settled in well at Hibs but they were both on show in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Celtic. Maclaren’s opening goal took the entire league by surprise, only for a Kamberi assist to then ruin any chances of Brendan Rodgers’ side staging a comeback.
So just how good is Kamberi?
First things first: Kamberi has wasted no time at all proving just how good a goalscorer he is at Hibs. Despite only picking up six goals in 41 senior appearances for Grasshopper, the Swiss striker has managed to rack up six goals and an assist in just 10 games for Lennon’s side.
That kind of strike rate has shot the 23-year-old forward near the top of the Premiership goalscoring charts. When we look at his goals per 90 minutes ratio it stands at 0.57. Which may still be slightly below Leigh Griffiths, Kris Boyd, Odsonne Edouard and even Alex Schalk, but it is better than Alfredo Morelos and Moussa Dembele’s records for this season.
As we can see in the graph above, which shows a selection of the Premiership’s goalscorers this season, Kamberi has not only settled in at Hibs remarkably well but is already performing as well as some of the best forwards in the division. Including his new teammate Maclaren.
What’s even more impressive is the manner in which Kamberi is scoring these goals. Unlike some strikers in the division, the Swiss forward doesn’t rack up his goals against lesser opposition or in large chunks and then go on barren streaks. Almost all of his six goals thus far have been vitally important.
In Kamberi’s league debut he got a goal in the 2-1 win over Motherwell. Then he bagged another two against Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. He then got all three in a 3-1 win over Hamilton. All before setting up Vykintas Slivka for Hibs’ second goal against Celtic on Saturday.
At this point, it’s certainly worth pointing out that not only has Kamberi found the net with relative ease, but he’s also done a remarkable job of linking up with fellow newcomer, Maclaren, to form an effective partnership up front for Hibs.
Since the Motherwell game at the end of January, the duo have started together in eight Premiership games scoring an impressive nine goals between them. And in each instance neither has scored in the same game as the other. So regardless of who ends up bundling the ball into the net, Lennon already knows that he has a striker partnership that gets the job done one way or another.
Of course, it’s all well and good having strikers that can score goals but what we really want to know is whether or not Kamberi is better than the players he replaced. Most notably Stokes and Murray.
Although 10 games isn’t exactly a huge range to rely upon, we can safely say that what we’ve seen thus far of Kamberi suggests that he is a much better fit than the aforementioned Hibs strikers.
As we can see in the graph above, which compares the three players in question plus Maclaren and Oli Shaw, Kamberi is currently averaging a much better goalscoring average than either Murray or Stokes this season. While the club’s young striker, Shaw, still holds an equally impressive return on his limited game-time this season.
Intriguingly, Shaw also comes out on top among the five strikers when we look at their goal conversion rate (how many goals per shots on target) with an impressive 29.4%. Yet for the purpose of this article it’s worth noting that Kamberi and Maclaren are both averaging an 18% return, which is far better than the 11.5% and 10.7% Murray and Stokes have racked up this season.
Earlier in the season, we noted that Hibs’ impressive midfield almost negated the need for reliable goalscorers up front, but as we’ve seen over the past three months both Kamberi and Maclaren have brought an extra dimension to Lennon’s team.
As the old saying goes, many hands make light work and in Lennon’s case he now has a tight defensive line, a midfield capable of winning games and two strikers that love scoring goals. Which would explain why many now have them pegged as favourites to claim second place next month.