We know that the favoured formation isn’t going to change any time soon, so it seems useful to find out which of them is the most productive. From the figures, it seems that Kike is the obvious choice; he has scored a goal every 247 minutes for Boro, while Nugent averages 334 minutes. Kike has got 0.47 goals per start for the club, against 0.28 for Nugent.
But the role of the number 9 isn’t just about how many they score. Their job is to make a nuisance of themselves, to hang on to the ball and bring the three attacking players in. The Mark Viduka role. How do we measure their success at doing that?
To try to get a better picture, I’ve looked at the total number of goals Boro have scored with each player on the pitch. If their ultimate job is to increase the overall attacking effectiveness of the team, this should be a fairly good metric. And, wouldn’t you know, it reverses the picture.
Kike has had 852 minutes on the pitch this season, during which time Boro have scored 11 goals. That’s 0.013 goals per minute, or 1.16 goals per full game equivalent. Nugent, meanwhile, has played for 1581 minutes, and Boro have scored 27 goals in that time, at 1.54 goals per full game equivalent.
(In case 0.38 goals per game doesn’t sound like much, it’s the difference between 53 and 71 goals per season. Last year, with Patrick Bamford in place, Boro scored 68.)
Looking at the detailed data, it’s also noticeable that the team has only scored more than once in a game with Kike on the pitch twice (Bolton and Brighton), whereas with Nugent in play it’s ten times.
The graph above also shows that the whole thing is much closer now than it was in October, helped by the big win at Brighton. And in terms of points won where each player has played more than 45 minutes, there’s not much in it: 2.00 per appearance for Kike (20 points from 10 games) versus 2.06 for Nugent (35 from 17).
We all agreed at the end of last season that the difference between going up and messing around in the play-offs was the number of goals scored. It seems that David Nugent has been the better bet for achieving that – perhaps (given the differences between the individual and team goals) through a more unselfish approach than his colleague?