Unlike most clubs that win promotion to the Scottish Premiership, St Mirren have been front…
John McGinn’s departure from Scottish football has hit everyone hard. Hibs fans are upset at losing their midfield talisman, Celtic are disappointed to miss out on a top transfer target and the neutral fan is gutted one of Scotland’s brightest prospects no longer plays in the Premiership. Conversely, amongst the sadness, some jubilation can be found. Where exactly? In Paisley, as St Mirren received a handsome sum of cash as a consequence of the Hibs midfielder moving to Aston Villa.
The money, believed to be around £900,000, represents the largest transfer fee in the Saints’ history. It’s a great bit of business from St Mirren and, although it’s unlikely Alan Stubbs will see all of that money for transfers, even a portion of it could be significant in allowing him to bolster his squad.
The Buddies made the perfect start on their return to the Premiership by winning their opening day clash against Dundee. It was hardly a classic, but Alan Stubbs’ side got their first three points of the campaign. It does feel like the Paisley side have had to hold off on signing some players until the McGinn deal went through, so Stubbs will be hoping they can now get the rest of the players they’re targetting.
That appeared to start yesterday with the signing of striker Nicolai Brock-Madsen on a six-month loan deal from Birmingham City. So, why do we think they need sign another striker? Well, to put it simply, they are still pretty light on forwards and could perhaps do with someone who is more accustomed to Premiership level.
Of course, there are other areas that Stubbs wants and needs to strengthen, as Stefan Bienkowski pointed out in his season preview for the Buddies. Their midfield actually looked decent against Dundee with Stephen McGinn occupying the anchor position of a midfield diamond and Kyle Magennis and Matty Willock providing plenty of energy in the middle of the park. Similarly, in Craig Samson Stubbs has a solid keeper that he can rely on. They also could do with strengthening the defence and signing a centre-back as well as a full-back.
At the other end, they have some decent players but could really do with bolstering their attacking options. Not only did the Paisley side lose manager Jack Ross they also lost two of the most important players from their Championship title-winning campaign; Lewis Morgan and Gavin Reilly.
The number don’t lie. Of the 63 goals St Mirren scored last season, 25 of them either came from Morgan or Reilly. As the graph highlights, they’ve lost two players who contributed 40% of their goals last season. That would negatively affect any team so it’s vital that St Mirren do their best to replace them or at very least plug the gap left by them.
If you’re a poor side that’s likely to be battling it out at the bottom end the table, but have a striker that can score a decent amount of goal it can be the difference between league safety and you finishing in the relegation spots. Not that St Mirren are a poor team, but it’s likely no matter what happens they will have a fight on their hands this season and knowing they have a goalscorer they can sometimes rely on when the going gets tough would be a huge plus.
A good example of this is David Templeton last season at Hamilton. There’s no doubt the Lanarkshire side would’ve struggled significantly without him last season. He made a huge difference in helping them retain their Premiership status and stood out in a team that didn’t have much quality. Whether Accies will be able to survive this term without him remains to be seen.
There’s no point focusing too heavily on the past. Morgan and Reilly have gone and St Mirren are now in a different division. As previously mentioned they’ve just added to their frontline by bringing in Danish striker Brock-Madsen. However, young Ross Stewart, who played both in the League cup and Premiership-opener against Dundee, has moved the opposite way to Ross County in the Championship.
In essence, this leaves Alan Stubbs with Danny Mullen, Brock-Madsen, Cammy Smith and Cody Cooke. So far this season we’ve seen Cammy Smith deployed rather effectively at the tip of the midfield diamond as a number ten. If that were to continue it would mean that the Saints boss would only really have Mullen, Brock-Madsen and Cooke to choose from when it comes to striking options.
Cammy Smith (10) and Danny Mullen (7) scored a decent number of goals last season. It should be noted that Mullen scored four of his goals for Livingston in the first half of last season. Moreover, on the graph above we included Brock-Madsen’s numbers from the 2017/18 where he played 11 games for Polish side Cracovia Kraków. Of course all five players we’ve looked at enjoyed differing amounts of game time, therefore, it’s the goals per 90 (G/90) metric may give us the best idea about their goalscoring records.
Last campaign, Reilly and Morgan came out on top here with 0.42 and 0.40 respectively. Mullen and Smith both scored 0.32 goals per 90 on average which isn’t too bad a return. However, Brock-Madsen’s rate is slightly lower at 0.25; of course, he was playing in the top tier in Poland so perhaps that impacts his stats. The bottom line is, none of Mullen, Smith and Brock-Madsen were near the average goals per game of Morgan and Reilly. Of course, both of the latter will be hard to replace but it suggests that St Mirren perhaps need another striker who’s a proven goalscorer at Premiership level or who can at least chip in with more goals.
When we look at xG per 90, there’s some good news for St Mirren fans. Brock-Madsen performs much better in this category at 0.31. Given this is higher than his actually G/90 it suggests that at the very least he’s getting into scoring positions and just missing opportunities. In essence, if his finishing was to improve slightly he could score more goals whilst in Scotland. Conversely, Danny Mullen and Cammy Smith’s xG rates are lower than their actually G/90 meaning they took chances they’d be forgiven for taking.
Brock-Madsen is a target man who will be used by Stubbs to hold up the ball and be a general nuisance for defenders. Having that physicality up front could be a huge boost for St Mirren and if he is able to find his scoring touch it could prove to be a good bit of business for St Mirren. A couple of seasons ago he did have a decent season at PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands so it’ll be interesting to see if he can find his scoring touch in Scotland.
Mullen showed at the weekend against Dundee that he could be the kind of player that seamlessly makes the transition from being a Championship to a Premiership talent. He took his first goal very well and scored another – thanks to sizeable assists from Jack Hamilton in the Dundee goal. It may prove that he and Brock-Madsen could be a good fit.
However, what St Mirren and Stubbs need, at the very least, are options and competition for places. Cody Cooke is relatively unproven and the Buddies could really do with using the money from McGinn’s transfer to try and bring in a goalscorer. Much easier said than done, but they should at least try. Although, what about bringing Lawrence Shankland back to Paisley? He could right the wrongs of his first spell at the club and be the striker that helps St Mirren remain a Premiership club next season.