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The Top 15 Strikers In The 2011/12 EPL

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Welcome one and all.

As the title of the post suggests this shall be a look at the very best strikers that played in the Premier League in 2011/12. From Rooney to Aguero, Holt to Cisse. All will be included and I shall show you how this elite bunch of strikers performed in comparison to each other.

Think of goals, assists, scoring %, minutes per shot on target and actual goals versus expected goals. These will be just be some of the stats that I shall be judging these strikers on.

Prepare some love for van Persie and some suspicions about Cisse.

2011/12 EPL Striker Statistics

Goals And Minutes Per Goal

Goals Mins per goal
van Persie 30 111
Rooney 27 105
Aguero 23 113
Adebayor 17 167
Yakubu 17 144
Dempsey 16 195
Demba Ba 15 170
Holt 15 149
Dzeko 14 106
Balotelli 13 106.6
Cisse 13 85.6
Fletcher 12 196
Graham 12 237
Defoe 11 117
Sturridge 11 206
Suarez 11 232

Here is the goal chart for the Top 15 striker in EPL. Why 15? Why not. But seriously, I needed a cut off point and I didn't want strikers who only had single digits in goals to be involved in what is a best of the best list.

We know who the best strikers were by the goals. We see a gap after the top three players. RVP, Rooney and Aguero are ahead of the pack in terms of goals, and most would argue, talent level as well.

We know the goals, so how about the assist totals?


Adebayor 11
van Persie 9
Aguero 8
Dempsey 6
Rooney 4
Dzeko 3
Sturridge 3
Suarez 3
Yakubu 2
Demba Ba 2
Holt 2
Fletcher 2
Graham 2
Balotelli 1
Cisse 1
Defoe 1

Assists is a relatively new stat in football and by it's definition an assist is 'the pass which immediately precedes the goal'

Adebayor and van Persie are the best two players in terms of assists, with Adebayor, a rare player in European football who had double figures in goals and assists in 2011/12.

Balotelli, Cisse and Defoe are three players who really didn't play an awful lot of minutes in 2011/12, all three playing just over 1000 minutes, which is around 11 or 12 full games of football.

All other players on this list, more or less, played a full-ish season of football.

% Of Team Goals Player Was Directly Involved In.

% of goals involved in
van Persie 55.4
Dempsey 47.9
Adebayor 42.4
Yakubu 40.4
Fletcher 35
Rooney 34.8
Aguero 33.3
Holt 32.6
Demba Ba 32.1
Graham 31.8
Suarez 29.8
Cisse 25
Sturridge 21.5
Dzeko 18.2
Defoe 18.1
Balotelli 15

This is essentially each players goals and assists totals added together and then divided by their own teams overall goals total. This sum gives us an overall contribution to their teams goal number.

Robin van Persie, who some Arsenal fans think won't be missed as much as some people say, was personally involved in 55.4% of Arsenal's EPL goals. A staggering number for a single player. He was the sole focus of Arsenal's attacking tactics, he played the most minutes of any striker on this list and was in top form for the majority of the season. He was the most important striker to his team of all the strikers we are looking at. He is also the most likely to leave, thus leaving Arsenal with a huge task to replace his creativity and goals.

The top 4 strikers in the chart above are all unlikely, if rumours are to be believed, to be at their respective clubs going into the 2012/12 season. Yakubu has already left, Adebayor's return to Spurs looking fraught at best at this moment. Dempsey is rumored to be Liverpool bound and RVP looks likely to leave having burnt his bridges.

The league average number for the % of team goals a top 15 striker was involved in was 34.2%. Knowing this number we can see which player falls below the average of his peers. The top 6 players in the list are above average, Aguero is the first player to fall below the average.

The above chart is purely there to show us a players importance to his teams goals total. Man City players may be held back a little by virtue of the team scoring a league leading 93 goals.

Van Persie looks extremely important to Arsenal, as does Dempsey and Adebayor to their respective clubs in 2011/12. Dzeko has a poor contribution % number here for relative full time player. Balotelli's number is even worse but we need to temper criticism as we know about his injuries and, more disappointingly, his lengthy bouts of suspension. Grant Holt who may be close to a transfer out of Norwich, will be a big loss for that squad. It's difficult to replace over 30% of a teams offensive output, as Arsenal may discover.

Let's look at the top 15 strikers by shots.

Shots On Target And Minutes Per Shot On Target

Shots on target mins per shot on target
van Persie 82 40.65
Rooney 70 40.5
Dempsey 58 57.3
Aguero 52 50
Adebayor 48 59.2
Suarez 48 53.2
Demba Ba 45 60.6
Graham 37 76.9
Dzeko 36 41.4
Holt 35 64.1
Balotelli 32 41.2
Sturridge 32 70.8
Yakubu 31 79
Fletcher 28 84
Defoe 26 49.5
Cisse 21 53

Robin van Persie, as we see above, is a high shot event striker. Although his league leading number of 82 shots on target he did play a lot of minutes. This is where the minutes per shot on target number has it's greatest value. It doesn't care how little or how many minutes a striker played just what that striker did with his minutes. RVP did a lot with his high number of minutes registering a shot on target every 40.65 minutes of game time.

Rooney with the second most shots on target had the least minutes required to get a shot on target. After RVP and Rooney, the shots on target numbers drop a little for the rest of the players.

Dempsey had a high number of shots on target and he played a lot of minutes too. Aguero ditto. Cisse had only 21 shots on target for Newcastle. He scored 13 goals, do we believe this is sustainable?

Danny Graham of Swansea, Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea, Steven Fletcher of Wolves and Yakubu, formerly of Blackburn Rovers had varying number of individual shots on target numbers, the common bond between them? There all require more than 70+ minutes per shot on target. We understand that for many players seventy minutes may be all they may play in a game before being substituted, especially for a striker who may not have scored in a given game. Those four players I listed above are averaging only one shot on target for each fixture they feature in for their respective clubs.

Scoring %

Scoring %

Cisse 61.9
Yakubu 54.8
Aguero 44.2
Fletcher 42.8
Holt 42.8
Defoe 42.3
Balotelli 40.6
Dzeko 38.8
Rooney 38.6
van Persie 36.5
Demba Ba 35.5
Adebayor 35.4
Sturridge 34.3
Graham 32.4
Dempsey 29.3
Suarez 22.9

Remember the question I posed about Cisse above? I asked whether we believe that his high goals total from a low shots on target total can be sustainable going into 2012/12, the above chart is why I asked this question. Cisse's 61.9% scoring rate is by far the highest in the EPL. If we take Cisse's goals per minute and do a little math we can work out that if he had continued his disturbingly good form over a full season he would have scored 39.9 goals in 38 games.

Do we believe he could have maintained this scoring % and minutes per goal rate over a full season? No. Will his scoring % regress toward the mean over time? Probably. He scored at a better clip than both Messi and Ronaldo did when scoring 50 and 42 goals respectively in the 2011/12 La Liga. Cisse's historical scoring % in Ligue 1 and 2 and the Bundesliga is a shade over 40%, so we know he can score.

I'll try and predict the future for Papiss Cisse. I will say he will score under 17.5 goals over the full 2012/13 season. I'll write a loving, glowing tribute to him if he exceeds this goal total. I'm convinced I won't need to write that piece!

Yakubu was very strong when looking at scoring %, quite what Blackburn's goal total would have looked like without Yakubu doesn't bear thinking about.

Aguero has the highest scoring % of the big 3 EPL strikers. It's a % that is so high that it falls under the territory of a regression case. Don't worry dear Blues his relatively low shots on goal total should improve in his 2nd EPL season as he becomes more accustomed to the league. This increase in volume of shots on target should make up for the expected drop in scoring %.

Clint Dempsey had a low scoring %, but questions abound as to whether he is a true out and out striker. Suarez's scoring % is disastrous 22.9 %. Liverpool scoring percentage was the main reason for their lower than expected points totals in the EPL. I am not sure if Suarez will be a consistently high scoring striker or if he will be a brilliant tri-quartista who contributes more in attacking play and creativity than goal totals. Either way I expect Suarez to score at a higher clip than he did in 2011/12.

Actual Goals versus Expected Goals

Goals expected goals Difference
van Persie 30 32.4 -2.4
Rooney 27 27.7 -0.7
Aguero 23 20.6 2.4
Adebayor 17 18.9 -1.9
Yakubu 17 12.2 4.8
Dempsey 16 22.9 -6.9
Demba Ba 15 17.8 -2.8
Holt 15 13.8 1.2
Dzeko 14 14.2 -0.2
Balotelli 13 12.6 0.4
Cisse 13 8.3 4.7
Fletcher 12 11 1.0
Graham 12 14.6 -2.6
Defoe 11 10.2 0.8
Sturridge 11 12.6 -1.6
Suarez 11 18.9 -7.9

How did we get to the expected goals total?

The fairest way I could think of creating an expected goals total was to take the average top 15 strikers shooting % and multiplying it by their actual shots on target total.

Why shooting %?

Knowing that getting the shot on target is probably the biggest test of skill of all the above stats I decided to use that as my base point. Also, we can say that scoring % can be, at times, luck driven. Scoring % tends to regress toward the mean over time, scoring % is also dependent on running into an inform goalkeeper, or taking low % shots at goal.

We know that Cisse's high number will come down and Suarez's low number will come back up. So, why not assume that all strikers had the same element of luck and level of goalkeeper competition for every shot they managed to get on target.

An example

RVP 82 shots on target 30 goals 36.5% scoring %.

Let's assume he had had the top 15 strikers average scoring % which was 39.58.

39.58 x 82 shots on target = 32.4 expected goals

Actual Goals v Expected Goals and +/- Differential

Goals expected goals Difference
van Persie 30 32.4 -2.4
Rooney 27 27.7 -0.7
Aguero 23 20.6 2.4
Adebayor 17 18.9 -1.9
Yakubu 17 12.2 4.8
Dempsey 16 22.9 -6.9
Demba Ba 15 17.8 -2.8
Holt 15 13.8 1.2
Dzeko 14 14.2 -0.2
Balotelli 13 12.6 0.4
Cisse 13 8.3 4.7
Fletcher 12 11 1.0
Graham 12 14.6 -2.6
Defoe 11 10.2 0.8
Sturridge 11 12.6 -1.6
Suarez 11 18.9 -7.9

If scoring % was equal for all, if luck was shared equally these would be the expected goals totals.

Suarez is the biggest loser in actual v expectancy along with Dempsey.

Aguero, Yakubu and Cisse overachieve by a margin. These are the three players I would expect to regress back toward the mean in terms of scoring % next year

Now for something completely different.

Failed Strikers

I shall keep this short and sweet. I quickly want to show you, the reader, three examples of maligned strikers in last years EPL. Torres, Drogba and Andy Carroll.

Goals Minutes per goal Shots on target Minutes per shot on target

Torres 6 317 20 95.2
Carroll 4 501 27 74.2
Drogba 5 296 21 70.4

And some more..

Assists Scoring % Mins played % played of available mins

Torres 4 30 1904 52.7
Carroll 2 14.8 2005 57.3
Drogba 1 23.8 1480 40.9

Most of these numbers are just horrible.

Carroll had an average minutes per shot on target number but only posted a goal every 501 minutes. Why? Scoring %. Carroll's was the lowest scoring % I have ever seen for a striker. Is this low quality of chances, outstanding goalkeeping (think of Joe Hart away at Anfield), bad luck or a lack of skill? Either way he will score more next year.

Torres took over 90 minutes for every shot on target he produced. This is why he didn't score, it wasn't luck as his scoring %, despite being low, isn't terrible.

Drogba is pretty poor in most categories, but the legendary striker was aging, but we will remember him fondly for rolling back the years in the big games of this years Champions League.