Often Partisan

Goalscorers

If there is one thing that has been a bugbear for Blues fans for as long as I can remember, it’s been the lack of a goalscorer. In the last decade, with the exception of that magical season Mikael Forssell had on loan with us, I cannot remember a season where all of our strikers struggled at times to hit the back of the net. We’ve started this season in much the same vein as previous ones, with an average of just over a goal a game for the first fourteen games of the season.

I’ve heard grumbles on the net and down the ground over the last month or so over the potency of our strikers, and these have intensified recently over our record signing, Nikola Zigic. I’ve seen people express that the Serb, signed for £6million in the summer from Valencia, is not worth anything like the money we paid for him and we should get rid in January. Of course, most Blues fans aren’t as reactionary as this, but there does seem to be some grumbles about a lack of goals from our lanky hitman.

I thought I would look at things from a statistical point of view, to try and get across some perspective to people about just how hard it is to find a consistent clinical finisher in the Premier League. First of all, I looked at the players who were in the top ten goalscorers for each of the Premier League seasons for the last three years. With there being six players tied for sixth place in the 08-09 season, this yields 31 positions, and a total of 21 players filling them. Of those 21 players, I would charitably place two in the position that we could have afforded them when they signed for their clubs – Santa Cruz when he signed for Blackburn for £3.5million in 2007, and maybe Kevin Davies, who got 12 for Bolton in 2008/09 (and even then we weren’t in the top flight). I have ignored from the list of potential signings Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew as I believe neither would sign for us in a million years.

Okay, you might say. But times have changed; we’ve got a shedload of Chinese Yuan backing us now – and a chairman boasting of putting £40million plus into the transfer kitty. If we really wanted to, we could splash out for someone. The thing is, even spending huge sums of money doesn’t necessarily guarantee goals. From this list of players, only twelve players got more than fifteen league goals in a season (two of them twice, Fernando Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo), and only ten of them got more than twenty league goals in a season (none of them more than once). What that says to me is that a regular twenty goal a season striker is rarer than rocking horse poop; and even if we were to leather out money like Manchester City we’d struggle to get one. The only player who doesn’t play for the “big five” of Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea is Darren Bent – and at £16.5million looks to be a very astute purchase for Steve Bruce and Sunderland.

Okay you say, what about a player who can get ten goals a Premier League season. The answer to that is we have one – Cameron Jerome got eleven last season and is statistically on course for a total not much less than that this season. People have laid into Nikola Zigic for his goalscoring prowess, but in twenty fewer appearances than Christian Benitez he’s got one fewer goal; and people wanted us to keep Benitez.

I think people need to realise that a winning team is more than just a prolific goalscorer. Sure, it helps for the team to have a hitman banging the goals in, but again statistics show that last season the team who got the highest league finish for fifty years scored eight fewer goals than the one that got relegated two seasons previously. I keep saying this, but the fans need to put some trust into McLeish – it’s obvious to me that he’s working to a bigger plan, and that he is trying to build a squad capable of doing better things each year; building step by step and bit by bit. I’m a big believer we as fans can help that by getting behind the team, and that rather looking for reasons to shoot players down we can find positives in their play. Strikers thrive on confidence; let’s give them it.

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