How valuable is a goalscorer? It’s the age old question that managers have tried to adjust their resources to, sacrificing other players, work-rate and other areas of the team for a forward that ‘has goal’ as they say in Spain.
Increasingly, as football becomes a game of more rounded skillsets and more versatile positions, the pure striker becomes an increasingly rare breed. Those who do survive tend to be called on to add other duties to their workload too.
Yet a look at the La Liga xG statistics shows that regardless of how well or badly your team performs, a clinical forward is a necessity. Naturally Real Madrid (2.33) and Barcelona (2.33) top the xG charts for La Liga, having scored 31 and 33 respectively. Robert Lewandowski’s finishing has been worth its weight in gold already.
The two teams below them make for interesting discussion. Athletic Club average an xG of 2.06, while Valencia have a mean XG of 1.81. Athletic are underperforming their XG by a figure of two and while it is an oversimplification to say that is the reason, it is notable that they are two points behind Real Sociedad, who are third in the table.
Los Che meanwhile are underperforming their numbers with by just over four goals. Their inability to get over the line in games most fans will have felt justified to take points from has cost them greatly and it is not hard to draw a link to the absence of Edinson Cavani as a major factor. The Uruguayan has only been fit in fits and starts so far. Despite their clear ability to create chances, Valencia have the eighth best attack in the division.
At the other end of the expected goals table, Getafe, Cadiz and Elche are all in the bottom three for xG and all underperforming their figures in terms of goals. It is not surprise that they form two of the bottom three in the league and three of the bottom six.
Getafe, the best performing of the three, have the better goalscorer in Enes Unal, who is on four goals so far. Meanwhile Cadiz’s top scorer Alex Fernandez has just two to his name, and Elche’s Pere Milla, just three, some of the lowest top scorers in the division.
Even if it is a small sample size, and we have barely made it a third of the way through the season, the clubs with identifiable goalscorers appear to be reaping the rewards that their play demands. The stark difference between the clubs that fall one way or another may inspire a few transfer moves.