Motherwell became the first Scottish Premiership victims of the January transfer window when they announced…
As recently as the 2012/2013 season, Motherwell were qualifying for European competition and finishing in second in the Scottish Premiership. However, the last few seasons have not been as enjoyable.
Two of the past three seasons, the Steelmen finished in the bottom half of the league, including finishing second bottom in 2014-15, forced to ensure their top flight status in Scotland through a playoff win over Rangers. Yet, Motherwell have won two of their first four matches this season and supporters can feel some hope that they will see an improvement over last season’s ninth place finish. Most of that hope is down to the fact that Louis Moult remains on the books at Fir Park.
There is no debate over the profound impact the English striker has made for Motherwell since his arrival from Wrexham in 2015. Moult has led Motherwell in scoring in the league in each of his two seasons at Fir Park. The striker also contributed seven assists last season and five assists the year before. These numbers give Moult a Goals/ Assists per 90 minutes of 0.51 in 2015/2016 and an even better Goals/Assists per 90 minutes of 0.63 in 2016/2017.
Moult has made a habit of knocking in the goals for Motherwell and his underlying stats suggest that this is no fluke. In 2015/2016, Moult had an xG total of 11.02, which was third among all players in the SPFL – 0.33 xG per 90, and a very impressive 0.19 xG per shot. Last season he had similar numbers, with an xG total of 10.74 in the league – 0.35 xG per 90 and 0.15 xG per shot.
This was the fifth highest xG total in the Premiership, with only Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele, Liam Boyce, and Kris Doolan boasting a higher xG total in the top flight in Scotland last season. Moult also had an expected assist total of 5.02 last year, which was fifth highest among strikers in the league. Moult’s numbers suggest he is able to sustain his goalscoring and can help set up his teammates as well.
While Moult’s numbers are among the top half of Premiership players, looking at Motherwell’s bottom half finish last season, one could imagine what type of trouble they would have been without him. You could play out hypothetical scenarios in your mind of a Moult-less Steelmen and where they would finish, but perhaps a more scientific approach would be to compare how much of Motherwell’s attack comes from Moult. We can do this by looking at the percentage of Motherwell’s attacking stats Moult accounts for.
In 2015/2016, Motherwell scored 47 goals. Moult knocked in 15 of those, which equated to 31.9% of Motherwell’s total. This was over 10% more than any other Motherwell player’s goal contribution that season. Last season Moult’s contribution was equally as vital for his club, with Motherwell scoring 46, with Moult claiming 15 of those in the league. This accounted for over 32% of Motherwell’s goal total, over 13% more than anyone else at Fir Park that year.
When we look at the proportion of expected goals Moult contributed compared to the rest of the Motherwell squad, we see a similar story. Motherwell had an expected goal total of 41.75 in 2015/2016, which was the eighth highest in the league that year. Of that, Moult’s 11.02 xG was 26.4% of Motherwell’s xG total, easily the highest proportion any Motherwell player contributed that season.
Last season, Moult had a bit of help on the attack in fellow striker Scott McDonald. Motherwell had an xG total of 56.09 and Moult again had the highest proportion of that, with his 10.74 xG making up 19.15% of Motherwell’s xG numbers – again the highest at the club. McDonald helped with some of the attacking burden, with his xG total of 9.92 making up 17.69% of Motherwell’s xG.
However, no other Motherwell player had even a double-digit percentage of the share of Motherwell’s xG numbers last season. In fact, Moult was the third highest contributor to his team’s xG total last season, with only Boyce and Doolan contributing more to their respective club’s xG total. You could make a very convincing argument that without Moult last season, Motherwell could have very easily been relegated.
Moult has continued his fine form through the first four matches this season. He has scored two goals so far, even if one of them was a penalty. He has a non-penalty xG of 1.52 and 0.48 per 90, which is a higher per 90 total than the last two seasons, albeit a small sample. So far, Moult has accounted for 28.9% of Motherwell’s xG total.
However, most of the hope that Motherwell can finish higher than last season comes from the fact that Moult seems to have more help on attack this season. Chris Cadden is among the leaders in xA in the SPFL, while Alex Fisher and Ryan Bowman have shown promise on being potential good partners with Moult thus far. The numbers show that we can expect another good season from Moult, but for Motherwell to look towards the top six this season, he will need others to contribute as well.