It’s been a while since I bored you with numbers, so:
These are the numbers for the season to-date. What stands out?
Involvement: This is passes per minute on the pitch. It doesn’t mean anything but it’s a fair proxy for how much someone’s doing while they’re out there.
I confess that this whole exercise came about following the news that we’ll be without Danny Murphy for 3 months. This presumably means a promotion for Jonathan Greening, something that will frighten the masses but which I don’t think will be an issue. Greening has been as involved as anyone, more than anyone in fact (skewed by that 90 pass game against Villa), and has passed more accurately than anyone, too.
Again, this is not proof of anything, and we know that many of these passes have been of the safe, sideways variety. This said, I maintain that as long as someone in the side can make things happen then having a midfield pairing that is very careful with the ball is not necessarily a bad thing. So if Greening’s not going to unlock tight defences, at least he can be relied upon to put in a decent shift. This isn’t the numbers talking now, incidentally, but my eyes – I think he’s done okay since he signed for us.
Creating chances: so yes, we need someone to make things happen. Top chance creators (passes that lead to shots, I think) are Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff. This figures: Zamora’s the most advanced player and does tend to make opportunities for others. Gera has had a good season so far, and Duff has a unique (in this squad) ability to put balls into the box. Check his Chalkboard after any game and you’ll see Duff pinging balls into dangerous areas. Few other Fulham players do this. He’s a real asset.
Shooting: on Monday, either in my head or out loud (I can’t recall which), I mentioned that Duff seems to have a happy knack of shooting hard and on target. This is noted by the number men: Duff has hit the target with six of his eight shots. This is another feather in his cap, and at this point he looks like he could be a terrific attacking player who really does bring something different to the team. The much maligned Zamora has hit the target with over half of his shots, and has scored twice already (that’s eight goal a season pace!). The red flag in all this is our friend Dempsey, who’s shot twice as often as the next highest player (26, to Zamora’s 13), but hit the target only five times. Part of this is the type of shot he’s taking, of course.
Last year I studied shots on target and noted that everyone’s had declined on previous career levels. I shared this information with Ian Graham at The Times, who observed some differences in the numbers but broadly agreed with the pattern. He identified Danny Murphy as someone whose shooting accuracy had particularly suffered in 08/09, I noted Murphy’s deeper role, he checked back and found that, yes, Danny Murphy in 08/09 was shooting from an average of five yards per shot deeper than Murphy in 07/08. Numbers, numbers, numbers, but the point is clear: shoot from further away and you’re less likely to shoot on target. Which brings us back to Clint.
The goals of Clint Dempsey:
Villa away: left footed one on one with keeper
Spurs home: thumping header inside box
Wigan away: slots home left footed from close in
Reading home: bundled in from close range
Wigan home: stabbed in from 15 yards
Spurs away: bundled in from close range
Portsmouth home: rammed home from close in
Boro home: slots home when put clean through
Chelsea home: (1) flips home from close in; (2) headers in from corner
Blackburn home: one on one with keeper, scores
City away: (1) slots home after Zamora robbed; (2) nice finish after Zamora’s good work
You see the point don’t you? Yes, he did hit a screamer in the Europa League this season, but generally speaking Clint scores a certain type of goal, and this year he hasn’t been getting into the positions to do this. It’s early days and he’s been excitingly aggressive when we’re going forward, but perhaps it’s time to forget ideas of bursting the net and concentrate on those wonderfully timed runs that we know he’s so good at. It’s a fine line, as often Dempsey looks like the only player on the pitch who might make something from nothing, but with Duff playing so well and Zamora giving a ‘so-far-so-good’ account of himself there is room for Clint to… pick his spots. Maybe away from home we need these shots, but at home, with the full-backs and Duff sticking the ball into the area with fair regularity, we need him to get into the box and start scoring some ugly goals.