Finding the best centre-forwards from the Primeira Liga – data analysis
In this data analysis piece, we will be identifying centre-forwards (strikers) to be scouted that are currently playing in the Primeira Liga. Strikers in the modern game have evolved a lot. No longer do we see them as target men, being very tall in the air and bulldozing defenders. The roles of false-9, and wide forwards have started to change as to how teams in Premier League, La Liga, etc deploy their strikers and use them. We also see very short players playing in these positions that have had great success like Sergio Aguero, Lorenzo Insigne, etc.
In our analysis, we will be looking into the major attributes that are key for a striker to have. We will be looking at players who have registered at least 800 minutes of football in the league so far this season and also Darwin Nunez is excluded from this analysis since he has already made his move to Liverpool. We will shortlist the top options according to the statistics and data analysis. Let’s get into the analysis.
The first thing we’re looking at is the goal contributions (goals and assists combined). In the graph below, we have the expected goal contributions per 90 on the x-axis and goal contributions per 90 on the y-axis. The colour of the dots represents the xG per game. It is an important metric when it comes to rating or comparing forwards with each other as they are pretty much judged based on their ability to contribute goals to their team.
Mahedi Taremi – The 29-year-old forward from Porto. The Iranian has played more of a centre-forward this season but has also played some important minutes as a winger and as an attacking midfielder. He has recorded 0.75 xG per game and 0.69 actual goals per game from 3.2 shots per 90 where his xG suggests he is very good at scoring goals at a regular level but slightly underperforming in terms of finishing. In total, he scored 20 goals for his team.
Óscar Eduardo Estupiñán – The 25-year-old forward from Vitoria. He has averaged 0.58 xG per game and 0.59 actual goals from 2.6 shots per game which shows that he has a sustainable level of performance. In total, he scored 15 goals for his team.
Evanilson – The 22-year-old forward from Porto. He has averaged 0.57 xG per game and 0.58 actual goals from 2.44 shots per game which shows that he too has a sustainable level of performance. In total, he scored 14 goals for his team.
Bruno Duarte – The 26-year-old forward from Vitoria. He has averaged 0.52 xG per game and 0.53 actual goals from 2.21 shots per game where his underlying numbers are pretty good as well. In total, he scored 7 goals for his team from 1180 league minutes.
Fran Navarro – The 24-year-old forward from Gil Vicente. He has averaged 0.47 xG per game and 0.52 actual goals from 2.14 shots per game where his underlying numbers are pretty good as well. In total, he scored 16 goals for his team in the league last season.
Activity in the box
In this section of the analysis, we’ll assess how active the players in the box are. We have shots per 90 in the x-axis and touches in the box per 90 on the y-axis. The colour shows the xG per shot showing the quality of the shots that the player prefers to take. Strikers specializing in finishing and poaching goals like PSG’s Icardi are expected to have a higher percentage of shots.
Mahedi Taremi – The Porto centre-forward recorded 3.2 shots per game and 5.46 touches in the box per game both of which are highest in the league among the strikers. He also has a very good xG per shot value of 0.23 showing that he takes shots from very valuable zones in the box and where there is a high chance of a goal going in. His profile also matches exactly that of a poacher who is good at pouncing on chances that arrive in the box.
Oday Dabbagh – The 24-year-old centre-forward from Arouca. He recorded 2.86 shots per game and 4.62 touches in the box per game. He also has a very good xG per shot value of 0.18 which is well above the average value for a CF.
Goncalo Ramos – The 20-year-old centre-forward from Benfica. He averaged 2.49 shots per game and 4.92 touches in the box per game. He also has an xG per shot value of 0.16 which is again a decent value for a centre-forward.
Evanilson – The Porto youngster recorded 2.44 shots per game and 5.08 touches in the box per game, which is amongst the most in the league. He also has an xG per shot value of 0.21 which is amongst the highest amongst the forwards in the league.
Óscar Eduardo Estupiñán – The Vitoria forward has averaged 2.67 shots per game and 3.97 touches in the box per game. He also has an xG per shot value of 0.21 which shows his ability to take shots from zones that has a higher probability of resulting in goals.
An interesting character in a forward is his ability to be an effective target man and receive direct passes. To assess this, we have aerial duels per 90 on the y-axis and the success rate in those duels on the x-axis. To complement this information, the colour shows the number of long passes received by each player.
Andre Luis – The 28-year-old striker who plays for Moreirense. He recorded 14.17 aerial duels per game, the most in the league among forwards, with an accuracy of 51.45%. He has also received 1.7 long passes per game on average.
Safira – The 27-year-old striker who plays for Moreirense. He averaged 10.02 aerial duels per game with an accuracy of 48.11%. He has also received 1.48 long passes per game on average.
Fabricio – The 27-year-old striker who plays for Moreirense. He recorded 8.82 aerial duels per game with an accuracy of 53.15%. He has also received 1.23 long passes per game on average.
Óscar Eduardo Estupiñán – The Vitoria forward had averaged 11.52 aerial duels per game with an accuracy of 38.91%. He has also received 1.3 long passes per game on average.
Petar Musa – The 24-year-old Boavista forward had averaged 9.09 aerial duels per game with an accuracy of 45.31%. He has also received 1.42 long passes per game on average.
Moving more into second-line players, the ability to produce goals is a key one. In this section of the data analysis, we look at expected assists (xA) per 90 on the y-axis and key passes per 90 on the x-axis. The colour of the dots shows the number of secondary assists per 90, which helps us understand how the players help in also facilitating creation.
Mahedi Taremi – The Porto centre-forward has recorded 0.96 key passes per game along with an xA of 0.22 per game, both league-highs for a forward. He also averaged 1.34 shot-assists per 90 which is again the highest among the forwards in the league.
Roman Olehovych Yaremchuk – The 26-year-old forward from Benfica has averaged 0.7 key passes per game along with an xA of 0.13 per game, both of which are the 2nd best in the league following Taremi. He also averaged 0.93 shot-assists per 90.
Oday Dabbagh – The 24-year-old centre-forward averaged 0.66 key passes per game along with an xA of 0.11 per game, showing his ability to create chances for his teammates on a few occasions. He also averaged 1.1 shot-assists per 90.
Kanya Fujimoto – The 22-year-old forward from Gil Vicente. He averaged 0.46 key passes per game along with an xA of 0.12 per game, showing his ability to create chances for his teammates on a few occasions. He also averaged 1.27 shot-assists per 90, which is amongst the highest in the centre-forwards.
Abel Ruiz – The 22-year-old forward from Sporting Braga. He averaged 0.64 key passes per game along with an xA of 0.1 per game. He also averaged 0.88 shot-assists per 90.
Finally, we have a look at the players’ ability to get past rivals and create things by themselves. On the x-axis, we have completed dribbles per 90 and on the y-axis, progressive runs per 90 (a continuous ball control by one player attempting to draw the team significantly closer to the opponent’s goal). The colour shows offensive duels won per 90.
Vitinha – The 22-year-old forward from Sporting Braga. He has averaged 2.72 successful dribbles per game and 2.21 progressive runs per game, both of which are the highest amongst the forwards in the league. He also averaged 5.45 offensive duels won per game.
Welinton Junior – The 28-year-old forward from Portimonense. He had also played as a left-winger and attacking midfielder for his side last season. He has averaged 2.16 successful dribbles per game and 1.88 progressive runs per game. He also averaged 3.46 offensive duels won per game.
Yusupha Njie – The 28-year-old forward from Boavista. He had also played as a left-winger for them last season. He averaged 2.3 successful dribbles per game and 1.36 progressive runs per game. He also averaged 5.08 offensive duels won per game.
Mahedi Taremi – The Porto talisman recorded 1.82 successful dribbles per game and 1.34 progressive runs per game. He also averages 3 offensive duels won per game.
Shortlisting the best options
We have seen some very fine youngsters being discussed statistically in the previous sections. Based on that we would be shortlisting the top 3 options among them.
The Porto youngster has been a great prospect and has been one of their key forwards while being a brilliant deputy to Taremi. He has also shown his ability and flashes of his talent where his strengths lie in getting into good zones to take shots and showing good off-ball movement. He even has a decent ability to assist his teammates if not at the level of his partner. He has also shown good underlying numbers in terms of taking shots and has won a good amount of offensive duels as well. He can benefit from learning a lot from Taremi to become a more complete forward.
The Sporting Braga youngster is only featured in one section in this analysis which is in the dribbling as it shows where his strengths lie. Although he doesn’t appear in the other section amongst the four to five best players, he still is very good in the other areas like creating chances and being active in the box as well. He takes a lot of shots from outside the box which reduces his ability to score goals with higher probability. He can definitely improve his movements in the box and also show a good ability to strike it hard enough.
Another good player who is playing for a non-Porto, Benfica club. Dabbagh was among the best players outside the top ten teams in the league and probably the best as well. Helped his team attain safety and another season of guaranteed stay in the top flight. Pretty much excels in goal scoring, assisting his teammates by creating chances as well. If he can improve his ability to consistently make runs and beat his man in 1v1 situations he could be a top forward. He is also very good in the air and can be used as a good outlet and presence further up the pitch.
The Primeira Liga possess some very good forwards having great ability to play for top clubs in Europe. We also shortlisted some hot prospects who might be followed by many clubs across the top five European leagues which was the case with Darwin Nunez when he made his big-money transfer to Liverpool where even Manchester United placed their interests. It will be very interesting to see the progress of these young players and how well they shape their future.