Digging Through Data: Ep 7 – The Target Man

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Tempo Tactics

Filling the final position for our Moneyball team meant getting in a striker who fits with the qualities of those players around him. As much of the game will be focused around crossing and longer passes, having a target man who can compete in the air while grabbing plenty of goals was crucial.

Continuing our series, recruiting players on FM based on their underlying statistics, the final piece of the puzzle was the target man, which can be easy enough to identify through data analysis.

Finding our Target Man

The first metric to be analysed, naturally, was the number of headers won by the shortlisted attackers. This would give a clear indication of which players excelled aerially, and therefore gave them a good chance of winning headers in the box, and ideally score more goals.

From this graph, comparing headers won to goals scored, both per 90, there is a clear winner in this respect. Steve Mounie, while not performing quite as highly as a couple of others for headers won, is third in this respect, and is also the highest of all shortlisted for goals per 90. As the graph shows, for these two, key metrics, no one even comes close.

This is where data analysis, plus having a clear structure in your head for how you want your team to play, makes recruitment a much easier task. If I had simply focused on the basic stats – appearances, goals, assists, average rating – I wouldn’t have given Mounie a second thought. But when comparing him to his peers and seeing how far he stands out, he is the logical option for our team style.

The Mounieball Method

The only worry for a player like Mounie, or any target man, is whether or not they actually create enough chances for themselves through clever movement and getting in the right positions. The below graph outlines the number of shots on target from our selection of strikers.

Mounie ranks third for shots on target per 90, and roughly just below the average for shots on target %. While this indicates his finishing is slightly below where it needs to be, he is getting shots away, and as the previous graph shows, he is getting plenty of goals.

Of course, the number of minutes that he has played this season works against him and will also bump up a players’ stats per 90. The question, therefore, will be whether or not he can do this consistently, as he hasn’t been given a solid run of games during his season with Huddersfield.

What this does mean, however, is we are looking at a player who won’t be valued highly by his club, so can be picked up at minimal expense, but has proven that he can damage opponents when he plays.

I made a bid for the striker, accepted at his value of only £5.25m. While the Moneyball technique looks purely at data, headline writers would be keen to point out that this is a decent, Premier League goalscorer, moving for a negligible fee.

With the team complete, the next episode will finally see the team come together, and begin its path towards long-term success.