Friday, 5 August 2016

Ross McCormack, a £12 Million Gamble.

Aston Villa's descent into the Championship was one of the few certainties of the 2015/16 Premier League season.

Four points from a final possible 45, each gained against fellow relegated teams, mirrored Derby's meek, second half of the season collapse nine years earlier.

Villa's problems were extensive and wide ranging, but you had to return to Derby's debacle before you came across a relegated side who scored fewer goals than Villa did last term.

Relegated teams on average improve their goal scoring in the Championship, but even the most optimistic of projections would still likely leave Villa as one of the weakest Premiership attacks undertaking Championship duties.

Therefore, on a superficial level their acquisition of Ross McCormack from Fulham who scored 19 non penalty goals in just over 4,000 minutes of play, appears a sensible move.

However, McCormack turns 30 two weeks into the new season, typically an age when outfield attacking players have begun an aged related decline in output. A £12 million price tag also appears excessive.

Unless Villa are rewarded with an immediate or near immediate return to the top flight, they will be left with a rapidly depreciating asset.

McCormack has spent the majority of his time in England playing at Championship level, initially with Cardiff, then Leeds and latterly Fulham, without tempting a Premier league suitor, even in his prime.

Further alarm bells may ring when we look at the expected goals, based on shot location and type.

During McCormack's two most recent seasons at Fulham he has maintained an impressive volume of goal attempts.

He took slightly fewer shots per 90 in 2015/16, but from slightly better positions and once time played was factored in he was involved in trying to finish chances that were worth 0.25 expected goals per 90 in 2014/15 and 0.28 as season later.

However, his actual total non penalty goals scored rose from 13 to 19 a year later.

An over performance whereby 13 goals are scored from a cumulative expected goals total of 9.9 shouldn't surprise, an average player would achieve this through random chance around 20% of the time.

But 2015/16's efforts where 19 goals are scored compared to an expected 12, which no doubt contributed greatly to his price tag and sparked a bidding war between the relegated Premier League sides, is more difficult to dismiss as mere random fluctuation.

An average player, given McCormack's 2015/16 opportunities would score 19 or more goals just 3% of the time. So have Villa bought that rare commodity, a lethal finisher?

If we first imagine each of the 24 Championship teams has a striker who could have a small chance of over performing to the levels seen in McCormack's figures during a season.

Such an event that may have just a 3% chance of occurring for an individual will be more likely if we examine a larger group of players.

In short, if you had 24 players attempting McCormack's chances each season, you would expect at least one to produce his inflated return of 19 compared to the likely average of 12 goals around every other season, simply through chance.

Villa may hope they have bought a player who was capable of scoring 19 non penalty goals for Fulham last season, but erring on the side of caution, it may be better they assume they have bough a striker who is more likely a 12 NP goal a season purchase.

The good news for Villa fans is that McCormack was also a frequently involved creative influence in supplying chances for his teammates, He setup nine such goals in each of his seasons at Fulham.

On these occasions there were no major disconnects between expectation and reality. In both seasons you would expect an average player to score around 11 goals from the chances McCormack created.

Notwithstanding the possible difference in the quality of teammates in 2016/17, Villa's new buy will be unlikely to over perform to such heights in converting his West Midlands chances, but fans will hope he provides an all round contribution that goes some way to justifying the risk/reward from a £12 million outlay.

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