On Saturday, Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side will come up against a Rangers team distracted by…
It’s fair to say Alfredo Morelos has flown somewhat under the radar in this season’s Scottish Premiership.
The Colombian was signed by Pedro Caixinha in the summer and at the league’s halfway stage, Morelos tops the scoring charts with 10 goals: one more than his closest challenger Kris Boyd.
Rangers fans will point out that Morelos has had a similar level of impact that Moussa Dembele had during his first six months in Glasgow, yet doesn’t generate as much excitement as the young Frenchman. Here at TheTwoPointOne, we thought we’d take a look at the two forwards and see who’s better found their feet in Scotland.
First thing’s first. As strikers, both Morelos and Dembele will always be primarily judged on how many goals they score. As the graph above demonstrates, Morelos has found the net on 10 occasions in the league this season after 20 appearances – at the same point last season, Dembele had played as many games but only managed nine. Crucially, however, Dembele played fewer minutes during this period so has a slightly better scoring rate than Morelos.
Dembele also provided more assists than Morelos has during his first 20 games; the French striker set up teammates on five occasions, compared to Morelos’ three. So far, then, Dembele’s impact can be seen to be greater but only by a narrow margin.
An examination of the shots the strikers have been taking reveals slight differences too. Morelos has slightly more attempts per match, yet more of Dembele’s efforts are on target.
Analysis shows that 53% of the former HJK Helsinki forward’s shots are struck centrally (resulting in a lower chance of scoring as that’s normally where the goalkeeper is); whereas for Dembele, that figure is around 45%. By attempting to place the ball in different areas of the goal, Dembele gives himself a better chance of scoring.
Of course, shots on goal aren’t the only yardstick to measure forwards by – aerial presence is a factor that cannot afford to be overlooked. Morelos attempts slightly fewer headed shots than Dembele over 90 minutes on average, yet his headers are 9% more likely to be on target.
Part of the reason for this is where Morelos is attempting headed shots from – almost all of his efforts have been from inside the six-yard box (where there is a greater chance of scoring), whereas the former Fulham striker is more adventurous with his headers.
It seems as though both players have their strengths and weaknesses, without one entirely outperforming the other. When we look at the number of attacking duels per 90 minutes, Dembele edges ahead of Morelos, attempting 0.4 more on average. However, Morelos’ 75% success rate is notably superior to Dembele’s 63%. Off the ball, it’s fair to say Dembele is probably more effective: the 21-year-old averages 0.7 more interceptions per game than Morelos.
The reason Dembele is probably more widely-appreciated than Morelos is in no small part down to his Champions League exposure. Scoring three goals in two games against Pep Guardiola’s Man City was certain to catch the attention of scouts across Europe – with Rangers crashing out of the preliminary rounds of the Europa League, Morelos hasn’t had the chance to test himself fully on the European stage.
It’s also fair to point out that while yes, Dembele’s scoring rate during his first six months is superior to Morelos’, the Frenchman had the luxury of playing in a team that only dropped eight points all season. Morelos has hit similar heights at an inferior team which only reflects favourably on the 21-year-old Colombian.
It’s too soon to say, then, whether Morelos can match Dembele’s first season in Scottish football, but the two strikers continue to impress for their respective halves of the Old Firm nonetheless. It’s Dembele just now who’s constantly linked with a big money move away from the Premiership; if Morelos continues in this fashion, it could be his turn in a year or two.