Grading centre backs will always be much more of a challenge than grading attackers. They…
If you’ve been following Scottish football on Twitter this week you’d be forgiven for thinking the SPFL had announced its support for Donald Trump and confirmed that it would be dressing each referee and linesman in outfits depicting the British flag or Irish tricolour next season.
Such was the outrage over a rather straightforward tweet that depicted who some of the league’s media team had decided would feature in this season’s Scottish Premiership team of the year. These things are always subjective, but of course some people take great offence to the idea of John McGinn starting over Callum McGregor or James Tavernier being picked ahead of, eh, Steven Whittaker (seriously, it happened).
However, aside from some fair complaints one of the most interesting aspects of the team debate was the decision to start Kris Boyd up front. What about Alfredo Morelos? Moussa Dembele? Florian Kamberi? But surely Steve Clarke’s reliable talisman deserves the award of Premiership striker of the season? Let’s take a look.
⚽️ Check out our @Ladbrokes Premiership Team of the Season!
— SPFL (@spfl) May 24, 2018
The quickest and easiest way to rank forwards in any competition is by breaking down their total game time and the amount of goals they have scored. After some quick maths you then get a figure that tells you how many goals said striker scores per 90 minutes (i.e per game).
This isn’t always the most accurate way of comparing one striker to the next but for the sake of argument let’s begin here. And while we’re at it let’s take the top goalscorers by such a metric and then also add on their shots per 90 minutes (which is calculated in a similar fashion). The graph below is what we end up with.
The initial green dot to the left shows each striker’s goals per 90 figure, while the red dot shows the corresponding shots per 90 figure too. And the number to the far right of the graph shows the difference between the two – i.e how many more shots each striker takes compared to the amount of goals they tend to score per match. Basically, how many shots they take before they score a goal.
Using this metric we can see that Boyd sits fifth among the top 10 goalscorers (by goals per 90) in the league this season. Which isn’t bad at all considering that three of the four strikers above him have played considerably less game time than the Killie talisman.
Kamberi and Jamie MacLaren have certainly been outstanding for Hibs since they both joined in January but their averages are across a much smaller period of time. Similarly, Odsonne Edouard has shown a real eye for goal in the past league campaign but large chunks of that form has come from the bench. Basically, Boyd deserves credit for holding an average of 0.64 goals per 90 minutes for as long as he has.
Indeed, an often overlooked aspect of Boyd’s season is just how much football he has played for Kilmarnock over the past 10 months or so. At 34 years of age the striker was openly talking about packing it all in before Clarke showed up at Rugby Park, yet since then he has been a shining example of just how useful older players can be when worked in to a proper system.
We just looked at the wide spectrum of goalscorers within this season’s Premiership but when we narrow that view down to the forwards that played over 50% of the available game time (i.e around 1700 league minutes) we really begin to see where Boyd thrives.
The graph above shows the goals per 90 minutes of the 11 strikers that played over 1700 minutes of league football for their club this season. And as previously noted, Boyd is by far the most consistent goalscorer at this level. Sure, Alex Shalk and Alfredo Morelos aren’t far behind him, but it’s pretty clear from this graph as to why the likes of Dembele, Kyle Lafferty or Leigh Griffiths haven’t matched the achievements of the Kilmarnock striker.
The final aspect of Boyd’s season that’s worth considering is just how much of a role he played for Kilmarnock as they marched to an incredible fifth place in the league table. It’s all well and good comparing strikers against one another within a vacuum, but in the real world each striker (like any player) is ultimately judged on what he brings to his team.
To figure this out we took the players within the Premiership that had the highest tally of goals and assists and then calculated how many of those goals (either through their own goalscoring or key passing) made up their team’s total for the league campaign. Once again Boyd passes this test with flying colours.
Over the course of 38 league games Kilmarnock scored 49 goals. Boyd’s goals or assists accounted for 20 of those – the highest tally in the league – which translates to around 41% of his team’s total goals. As we can see in the graph above that’s the highest share for any individual player in the Premiership.
While fans of the bigger clubs may argue that this inherently discriminates against their players since they have so many talented goalscorers (Rangers have no less than four players in the top 10) one could refute the point by simply stating that that is the downside to being a big club. Morelos or Sinclair will never be the sole provider of goals in their team but at the same time they profit from being part of a much more functional group of players.
Alas, it’s clear to see that although we could argue all summer long about which defender, goalkeeper or defensive midfielder deserves to play over the other, the role of the lone goalscorer was one that that Boyd grasped on to and never let go of until the league campaign was done. Kilmarnock’s senior goalscorer was the very best striker in the Premiership this season.