Monday, 8 February 2016

Let's talk about James Vaughan.

James Vaughan signed for Blues on loan 'til the end of the season with a permanent deal for a year afterwards after a successful loan spell - or at least a semi-successful one. Vaughan hasn't scored yet for Blues and this has led to a few concerns over his performance.

There seems to be a little bit of a confidence crisis for Vaughan at the moment and that penalty miss against Bournemouth will have done him no favours. That said, Vaughan's goalscoring record at Huddersfield was pretty decent and I expect that with a decent run of games he would score goals - though Blues are a side that don't create many chances for the striker (which I'll get into).

The striker in Blues' system is an unusual one that requires a lot more selfless work than say, Derby's. This means that you'd expect them to take less shots and maybe create a few more chances, though many of the chances Blues create are not a direct pass or piece of play from the forward. Often Donaldson's role is to lay off the ball early on in the move to a wide man or Jon Toral. Toral creates a lot of chances (as I spoke about in my Fabbrini article) and I think this is in a large part down to the work of Clayton Donaldson.

That's why people who complain about Donaldson's scoring record should review their stance - the reason he doesn't score many is because we don't create much for him. Whilst part of it is down to his movement and ability, a lot of it is because most of our shots come from elsewhere. In fact, of the players who have played most around him (Gray, Maghoma, Toral and Cotterill) have all taken more shots per 90 minutes than he has. Donaldson takes just 1.94 shots per 90 minutes, whereas Toral takes 2.82. Demarai Gray took a whopping 3.16 shots per 90 at his time at Blues. From inside the area, Donaldson takes 1.76 shots per 90, making him the second highest behind Toral. Unsurprisingly, it makes Donaldson the joint second most frequent scorer with Maghoma also scoring 0.22 times without penalties per 90 minutes.

That's a lot of numbers - and often people dismiss shot numbers - but it's the best indicator of future scoring. For more on why you should rate how many shots and importantly, the quality of shots, over just pure goals, check out Joel Salamon's fantastic video:

The reason I mention this is that actually, you'd expect James Vaughan to be scoring a few more. He's having about the same amount of shots from inside the area as Donaldson and a few more from outside the area. That is a good thing - not a bad thing as conventional logic might tell you. If he carries on taking shots with this frequency we can expect him to convert at a similar rate to Donaldson if not slightly better. Last year he took a similar amount of shots per 90 at Huddersfield as he is now and scored at a rate of 0.36 times per 90. Donaldson last year? 0.35.

So why is Vaughan not scoring goals? That is more down to conventional wisdoms, I'd wager. Confidence, natural swings in finishing, being comfortable in the team and just general bad luck. Vaughan is not a bad finisher - he scores at a slightly worse rate than £9m striker Jordan Rhodes given the same amount of chances (0.4 from 3.44 shots per 90 compared to Rhodes' 0.49 from 3.48) but is currently on a slump when it comes to finishing chances at present. 

One final thing on why Vaughan is actually pretty good - he's creating 1,6 chances per 90, which is over twice what it was last year at Huddersfield, which adds credence to the whole "has to do more selfless work" theory. Interestingly, it's 0.46 higher than Clayton Donaldson's chance creation numbers, so he has to be doing something right.

James Vaughan hasn't been finishing chances at the same rate he always has, but chances are, given a run of games, he would start finishing those chances again. We have to give him some time because I really think he will come good - and the numbers suggest he will too.

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