In October 2016, with St Mirren on a downward spiral and looking like they had…
It’s a good time to be a St Mirren fan. The weekend saw Jack Ross’ team parade through Paisley in an open-top bus as they celebrated their Championship title victory. The Saints have been impressive this season with many excited to see what they can do in the Premiership with Ross at the helm. Although the young manager has played a significant role in this achievement, it’s fair to say St Mirren also have a talisman in Lewis Morgan.
The on-loan Celtic winger has been instrumental in the Buddies promotion to the top flight. It’s no surprise he turned heads, including that of Brendan Rodgers, and earned himself a move to Parkhead. If the opportunity is there then St Mirren must do everything in their power to try and get Morgan back for their Premiership return.
There’s no guarantee he’d see much first-team action at Celtic currently. Now, that situation may change if Celtic were to lose some attacking personnel in the summer, but if they don’t, then loaning Morgan back to the Paisley club could be beneficial for all involved. Just look at Ryan Christie. He’s benefitted from regular first team football and has developed as a result. Moreover, Aberdeen have gained a player that has arguably been their best this season. And finally, Celtic will now have a player returning to Parkhead who is better than when he left.
With that mind, Ross’ priority should be trying to re-sign Morgan. Why? Well, let us delve into the numbers and show you just how influential the 21-year-old has been for this St Mirren side.
Simply put, Morgan is an attacking threat. That’s hardly a hot take, granted, but it cannot be understated how much he contributed to the Saints in the final third this season. They scored a total of 63 goals in the Championship this campaign and a significant amount of these have come from or involved Morgan.
The graph above emphasises just how vital Morgan has been for St Mirren’s attack. Just to be clear, when the graph points out that the winger is involved in 32% of the Saints overall goal tally, this is through scoring or providing an assist. That’s a remarkable return. Of the 63 goals scored, 20 have either been provided or scored by Morgan. Imagine taking those goals and assists away from St Mirren and you begin to realise just how vital he is to Ross’ side.
It’s perhaps, therefore, no surprise that with 14 goals he is the club’s top goalscorer. Similarly, he has also provided more assists than any other player in a black and white St Mirren jersey. What is impressive is that a winger who has an extremely impressive scoring rate can still pop up and provide a high number of assists. In essence, it’s truly a testament to how excellent a season the 21-year-old is having.
The graph above provides further context of Morgan’s impressive numbers. He and Stephen Dobbie come out on top when it comes to the number of goals and assists in the Championship this season. The winger is joint-first in the league when it comes to both goals and assists. Simply put, his absence would be heavily felt by St Mirren were they not have him in the Premiership.
It’s not just goals and assists that Morgan brings to this Saints side. He’s so much more. He’s often their first point of attack and leads by example. Moreover, the 21-year-old is the kind of direct winger that managers dream of having in their team. He’s not scared to take on his man and also knows how to pick a pass. The fact he’s able to find the back of the net is almost something of an added bonus.
The tables above make for quite startling reading. There’s a massive gap between Morgan and the rest of his St Mirren teammates when it comes to shots and 1v1 dribbles. Let’s start with shots, Morgan has taken 123 this season and the nearest after that is Cammy Smith with 67. This can potentially tell us a couple of things. Firstly, that Morgan is the best player St Mirren has at getting himself into shooting opportunities. And, that he’s the type of player who is always looking to get a shot off. In fact, only Dobbie has taken more shots in the Championship this season than the St Mirren star.
Morgan’s dribbling stats highlight how he’s not scared to take on an opponent. He’s a winger that is direct and will try beat his man. He’s been involved in 438 1v1 dribbles this campaign, which is more than Smith (163), Danny Mullen (120) and Kyle Magennis (108) put together. It’s pretty obvious that St Mirren don’t currently have someone that could plug the gap left by Morgan. No player gets on the ball and tries to attack as much as the on-loan Celtic starlet. He’s not just miles ahead of his teammates, his numbers are also significantly higher than anyone else in the league.
We’ve already pointed out that Morgan is St Mirren’s top assist maker. However, it’s only when you dig deeper that you see the full extent of this. When it comes to delivering crosses and key passes that lead to goalscoring opportunities, the winger is again the player that shines for the Buddies.
The stats above drive home the point that Morgan is St Mirren’s main creative outlet when it comes to creating chances. He plays significantly more crosses than anyone else. His 163 crosses dwarf that of Liam Smith (90) behind him and also Cammy Smith (76). This shows that although he is proficient at finding the back of the net, he’s still very dangerous out wide.
It’s a credit to Morgan that he’s provided more crosses than any other Championship player this campaign. That’s no mean feat when you consider he’s scored 14 goals himself. He’s a winger that’s able to chip in with an impressive amount of goals whilst also still doing his job of creating chances for others.
Similarly, another metric in which the mercurial winger comes out on top is key passes. Simply put, these are passes which lead to a shot on goal. Morgan has provided 13 of these so far this season. Again this isn’t just an impressive return in comparison to his Saints teammates but in the league as a whole. Only Kallum Higginbotham of Dunfermline has provided more.
Whether signing Morgan on loan is an option for St Mirren remains to be seen. Ross and his team face a vital summer of recruitment if they are to attempt to replace a player that has been so crucial for them. That said, if it’s a financially viable option then they’d be mad not to try and bring him back to St Mirren Park.