Grading centre backs will always be much more of a challenge than grading attackers. They…
It’s been a memorable season for Motherwell. Sure, it looks like they’ll narrowly miss out on a top-six finish but they ran Celtic close in the League Cup final and still have the chance to clinch a place in the Scottish Cup final.
This is made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that they lost talismanic striker Louis Moult in January. The latter’s impact on the Fir Park side cannot be underplayed. The Englishman found the back of the net 14 times in 29 outings for the Steelmen. Moreover, his red-hot form in the League Cup played a huge part in Motherwell’s road to Hampden. The striker bagged impressive braces against both Aberdeen and Rangers as they defied the odds to reach the final.
With their main man departed the Fir Park outfit could have perhaps been forgiven for struggling to maintain their impressive level of performance. And whilst they’ve not been able to sustain their early season form they’ve hardly tapered off. Make no bones about it, this has been a successful season for Motherwell.
So how exactly have they coped in attack since Moult’s departure? Now that a enough games have passed since his exit we decided to delve into the numbers to find out.
The first thing Robinson and Motherwell did was bring in attacking reinforcements. These came in the shape of Curtis Main and Nadir Ciftci. It wasn’t a bad idea given the likelihood of sourcing a direct replacement for someone so prolific as Moult was small. They joined the other two main strikers at the club; Ryan Bowman and Craig Tanner.
Main was a relative unknown when he arrived in Scotland, unlike his new strike partner Ciftci. Despite the latter being a Celtic player and having extensive experience in Scottish football, it is Main who has hit the ground running. The Englishman’s physical attributes have served him well in the Premiership thus far. And it’s reflected in the numbers as the table below shows.
The numbers above highlight how Motherwell’s strikers are faring compared to Moult. When it comes to goals per 90 minutes, the latter stills comes out on top (0.54). That said, Main isn’t too far behind with a rate of 0.46 goals a match. Tanner currently sits at 0.31 with Bowman (0.28) and Ciftci (0.20) further back. Although nobody is matching Moult’s rate it’s still encouraging for Motherwell that some of their strikers are stepping up.
Main has scored four league goals since arriving which is a good return. Similarly, Tanner has scored four of his six goals since Moult made his last appearance for the club. Simply put, they’ve delivered since their teammate’s departure.
Furthermore, when looking at the expected goals (xG) for each striker we see that Main (0.5) and Tanner (0.4) are topping the charts. This means Motherwell have a striker in Main who is matching Moult’s level when it comes to getting himself into the position to have quality chances. Tanner’s performance in this metric is also nothing to be sniffed at.
Main also has impressive shooting statistics. Not only is he taking more shots than any other striker (3.2), including Moult (3.1), he’s also first when it comes to shots on target per 90 minutes (1.6). In essence, Main is effective in getting himself into attacking positions and is confident enough to take a pop at goal. In addition to this, he is able to find the target at a decent rate.
Ciftci maybe hasn’t had as much luck in front of goal as many would have hoped but he’s still brought plenty to Robinson’s side.
The table above shows the assists per 90 minutes which is topped by the on-loan Celtic man (0.20). That’s the second best out of the whole Motherwell squad. Of course, the Fir Park faithful would rather he starts banging in the goals, but if his performance helps others to find the back of the net then surely it isn’t a bad thing? Similarly, both Tanner (0.12), Main (0.12) and Bowman (0.11) have decent assist rates per match compared to Moult (0.08).
So what else does Ciftci do? When we look at the metric of key passes he is in pole position. He’s made eight so far this season which equates to 1.61 per game. Only Elliott Frear and Stephen Hendrie have a better average. Simply put, Motherwell have three attackers who are outperforming Moult when it comes to assists and key passes.
Have they replaced Moult? No, but have they plugged the hole? Certainly. It was always going to be a huge ask to find someone of Moult’s quality at short notice and on a shoestring budget. Instead, Motherwell have taken a different approach. No longer are they as heavily reliant on one player to score the majority of their goals. Instead, they have a number of less prolific strikers who form an effective attacking unit.
Main, in particular, has proven that he has the ability to score at this level. Add in a decent return from Tanner and the odd goals from Bowman and Ciftci then Motherwell appear to be in good shape. Moreover, when this trio also can be relied on to provide assists and key passes it means there is a good balance to Robinson’s team.
Going forward this might be a positive as the Steelmen know that an injury to one striker is not as catastrophic as it might have been before Moult’s departure.