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At What Age Are A Forwards Peak Years?

Remember that time when I posted the Top 45 Premier league forwards in 2012/13? How about Forwards: The age count? Well, I have been mighty busy posting articles on the information I had collected on Forwards from 2008 to 2013. Most of it is here at Statsbomb and now is the time to wrap this topic up with a huge post on what we have learned.

We are going to be looking at age, the percentage of minutes that each age group of players played, shots, goals and a few percentages.

First up, the count.

Age Count


Chart 1 tells us how many forwards featured in the Premier League from 2008 to 2013. The peak seems to be ages 26 and 27 with a gradual decline thereafter, save for what appears to be a random spike at age 31. This is most likely some survivor bias, with experienced forwards on lesser clubs and outstanding, but aging, forwards hanging in for one last season.

Time on Pitch %


Remember the player count from Chart 1? This is the percentage of available minutes that each age group of player actually played.

Peak is 24 to 27 and yet again we see a late, almost anomalous, spike; this time at age 29. This could well be some form of power forward effect, whereby the big strong traditional target men play heavy minutes at this experienced age.

If your club has a forward on it's books who is over the age of 30, it's likely he won't play much. Careers fade fast, most forwards rely on speed, if that speed has faded the players minutes played will likely fade along with it.

Goals Per 90


Some odd numbers here. It is to be expected that some of the variance in the mid 20's age groups may be due to scoring% effects, or small groups of outliers affecting the data.

Age 23 has the best goals per 90 number and this bucket has featured Rooney, Bale, Torres and Aguero to name but a few. Age 23 is, curiously, also the scoring peak in hockey.

Ages 27 and 28 post relatively low goals per 90 numbers.

Again, I have focused on forwards from the age of 30. Goals per 90 hovers around 0.31 and then falls off badly after age 32. Once again, you really aren't going to see the average 30 year old forward score at a higher rate than an early to mid 20's forward. Drogba was an outlier when into is his 30's, United fans will hope RvP can succeed in a similar fashion to Chelsea's warhorse.

Shots And Shots On Target


Shots and shots on target are, in all likelihood, the most repeatable element of a forwards counting stats. The rate at which forwards convert at can be liable to fluctuation for a number of reasons. Shots will fluctuate too, but I would trust a forwards past performance in getting shots on goal far more than i would that players goal tally or scoring%.

Some fluctuating information for players in their early 20's gives way to peak at around ages 23 to 26. A four year peak where after shots 90 declines permanently save for that pesky age 32 bucket.

Shots on target on the other hand has the same peak years as shots per 90 but as we move into the age 29 and 30 buckets we see a separation between shots and SoT per 90. Is this an anomaly, talented outliers leading the data a merry dance? Or, maybe, this separation in SoT ability could be telling us something about experienced forwards. Are these experienced forwards displaying better shot discipline and better accuracy, and is this an age dependent trait?

I don't know the answer. I'd probably lean toward outliers driving that number rather than experienced player displaying an observed talent for better shooting accuracy.

Shooting Accuracy And Scoring% With Age


This chart features the same information that I had just talked about, just in a different format.

Shooting Accuracy% declines from age 26 for the rest of a players career - save for that 2 year spike at ages 29-30.

How about scoring%? Is that an age dependent skill, do older players shoot from better location, are the older players more accurate with their placement? It certainly doesn't appear so. The scoring% (goals/Shots on target) line is just noise. Peak followed by relative trough. That line is a mountain range, and I don't think it tells us too much apart from what we already knew. Scoring% is luck driven, it regresses a lot, it varies a lot. Scoring% is not a good way to measure forwards ability.

This was a very quick run down of some of the important numbers behind this investigation into 5 years of Premier League strikers. If there are any questions, or if you would like to take a look at the data, then please let me know.

Now for the fun bonus!


Goals and Shots on Target Per 90

Here we have every PL forward who scored a goal in the last 5 years. x is goals per 90, y is shots on target per 90. the trend line is mean scoring%. Inside the black box are the sub-par forwards in both goals and SoT per90. That chart shows just how wide the spread is in scoring% among the players who registered a high SoT per90 or a high goals per90.

It's fun to pick out the names: Klasnic, formerly of Bolton, looked like a value forward to me. he played a non-full time roll with Bolton but posted some crooked numbers in the process. He is now in Germany, I think.

There is a small group of players along the bottom right of this chart, these are the lucky bastards who scored goals from nearly everything they hit on target. Alas, it's a small group, for that kind of performance is not repeatable.


Shots Per 90 And Shots On Target Per 90

This chart is, in essence, shooting accuracy%.


Again, the black box features the sub-par forwards from 2008-13. The ellipse in the top right hand corner highlights the elite player in both shots on target and shots per 90. See the trend line in red? That is expected shooting accuracy% and it shows us that Suarez in 2012/13, despite shot efficiency and discipline issues was clear of the expecting shooting accuracy%. Now, this doesn't correct for shot location, it is merely the expected shooting% of some 20k shots from all locations in all circumstances and defensive pressures.

Suarez's shooting accuracy % was pretty good when we factor in the expected bleed that happens with such a volume of shots. Oh, and so was Bale. Ba not so much.

Note the spread in chart 1 is far bigger than in chart 2. You can probably draw your own conclusions as to what the spreads of Scoring% (chart 1) and shooting accuracy (chart 2) may mean.

Final thought: #prayforKenwyneJones (bottom left).