Few even bothered raising an eyebrow when Eamonn Brophy moved to Kilmarnock on a three-year…
It’s says something about Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock that they can drop the Premiership’s top scorer from last season and still win games. Kris Boyd was integral to the Ayrshire side’s success in 2017/18 but there’s no doubt Killie’s reliance on the striker is diminishing. That’s thanks to a new blossoming strike partnership between Eamonn Brophy and Greg Stewart.
The former may have been an underrated star of Clarke’s side last term, but he’s fast becoming an MVP of this Kilmarnock team. Alongside, Stewart, the pair have started the season in impressive fashion and look a threat to any defence in the league. The on-loan Birmingham City forward is showing the kind of form many Aberdeen fans hoped he would produce at Pittodrie.
An intelligent player, Stewart adds that extra bit of quality to the frontline. Since he arrived he’s absolutely hit the ground running. This is a Killie attack that’s multi-dimensional and certainly can punish opposition defences. The two link up well with Brophy’s runs helping create space for his partner. Similarly, Stewart’s passing range means he’s able to pick Brophy out in dangerous areas.
It only feels like Stewart is just in the door but he’s certainly made his presence felt. He’s scored in three of his four league appearances including against former club Aberdeen. He fired in a screamer from outside the box against Hibs and produced an excellent individual goal after a long dribble against the Dons. Having a player like this can only be a good thing for Killie. If they were over-reliant on Boyd teams would have a decent idea of how to stop them. However, Stewart, twinned with Brophy, presents a new threat and one that teams are seemingly struggling to deal with.
Between them, the dynamic duo already have six goals – three each. This is a good return and promising at this early stage of the season. When we scratch the surface and look at expected goals (xG) we get a better idea of both player’s performances. Stewart’s xG is just 0.73 and is lowest out of the top ten goalscorers in the league. This backs up what we previously said. At least two of his goals were moments of individual brilliance rather than clear-cut chances he’d be expected to score. It means he’s taking half chances and is clinical when given the opportunity.
Conversely, the opposite is true with Brophy. Instead, his xG (3.23) is higher than his actual goals scored (3). This means he maybe misses the odd opportunity he should tuck away, but on the whole, he’s scoring any good chances that come his way. This also tells us that whilst Stewart scores the spectacular, Brophy is good at getting himself into goalscoring positions where he’s favourite to find the back of the net.
The goals per 90 metric tells us how effective they are in front of goal. Both of the Killie strikers perform well here with Stewart’s rate of 0.84 one of the best in the league. Similarly, Brophy’s 0.64 goals per 90 still puts him firmly in the top ten in all of the Premiership. In essence, both players don’t have to be on the field too long to find the back of the net.
Stewart has had an excellent start to his Kilmarnock career, but young Brophy is leading from the front. The 22-year-old has been integral to their success this season and has all the attributes to have a successful career. He’s not only strong but has pace and an eye for goal. But more than that he’s intelligent and tactically astute. What’s also impressive is his sheer grit and determination and how hard he works for his team. Sure, in Brophy Kilmarnock have a goal scorer, but they also have a top player.
By looking at shots taken this season you get an idea of his tenacity to succeed as well the confidence he must have in his own ability. Before we get to the graph, no player has taken more shots in the league this season than Brophy. It shows he’s fearless, direct and always has an eye on the goal. He’s second when it comes to shots per 90 (4.94) taking just under five on average.
This is the more than the likes of Griffiths, Lafferty and Ikpeazu. Moreover, these aren’t wayward punts, when Brophy shoots, more often than not then go on target. Just under 50% of his attempts make the goalkeeper work. That’s not a bad return at all. In fact out of the top ten players in the shots per 90 metric only Griffiths (53.33), Lafferty (57.14) and Olivier Ntcham (60) have better accuracy. Even more impressive when you consider he averages more shots per game than all three.
Brophy and Stewart are a pairing that are paying dividends for Clarke and Kilmarnock. They are a whole new prospect up top from last season but just as effective. Furthermore, who’s to say Boyd still won’t get his chance this campaign? And let’s be frank when teams are tiring it’s nice to be able to look to your bench and be able to bring on one of the best six-yard box players in SPFL history.