With no Ladbrokes Premiership matches last weekend, Craig Cairns crunches some numbers from the top-flight season so far.
Aberdeen reliant on Niall McGinn’s deliveries from set-pieces
Aberdeen may have won nine of their 14 league matches but they have done so by scoring a modest 21 goals. In fact, the Dons have only scored more than two goals in a league match on one occasion – their 3-1 victory at Tynecastle in September.
This is the same as Inverness CT and Partick Thistle, while Hamilton Accies (three occasions), Ross County and Dundee (both two) have all broken the two-goal barrier more than once. Their closest competitors, Celtic and Hearts, have done it seven and three times respectively.
Not conceding much at the other end has been the key to Aberdeen’s success. They have lost 16 goals, though this figure is skewed by the fact they conceded half of these over two matches – St Johnstone (1-5) and Celtic (1-3).
Of their 21 goals scored, all but one has been converted within the 18-yard box. The exception is Niall McGinn’s goal against Motherwell - a cross that missed everyone before flying into the net.
Derek McInnes’s side have scored seven league goals from set-pieces while Kenny McLean’s header at Dundee United on the opening weekend came immediately after one. Niall McGinn’s deliveries have been vital to these - he has seven assists so far, six from set-pieces.
All this means that Aberdeen have relied heavily on headers for goals. Nine have come via this method - Adam Rooney is the runaway top scorer with nine and centre-back Ash Taylor is next with three. Ironically, one of Aberdeen’s vulnerabilities seems to be defending set-pieces. A quarter of their goals against have been from corners and free-kicks – the same amount have come from headers.
The Dons also seem to be vulnerable at the start of halves. Four of their 16 conceded goals have come in the first 10 minutes of matches and a further four have come in the 10 minutes after half-time. They seem to be stronger defensively as the match progress, however, conceding just one goal beyond the 60th minute – Scott McDonald’s equaliser at Pittodrie.
Most goals in Dundee’s matches have come in the second half
Like Dundee, Greg Stewart made a blistering start to the season but has faded a little in recent weeks. Stewart scored five goals in his first nine starts and has since been overtaken by strike partner Rory Loy, who has finally shaken off injury to take his total to six.
Add Kane Hemmings’ four goals into the mix, as well as Rhys Healey’s one, and Dundee have seen strikers score 16 of the 20 goals – even if Stewart’s have come predominantly from his wide-right position.
Dundee’s four other goals have come from defenders – James McPake and Kevin Holt (two each) – meaning not a single goal has come from midfield. Defenders have also played their part in assists. Eight in total have come from the defence, five from right-back Paul McGinn.
In terms of method, Dundee are one of several sides who like to create from wide areas. Just over a third of their goals (six) from open play have come from crosses. No matter how they are scored (or conceded), for one reason or another, the majority are in the second half. Of the 23 conceded, 16 have come in the second period, while 14 of the 20 goals scored have also been after the break.
Four of those scored in the second 45 minutes have been equalisers and on two occasions they have come from two goals down to earn a point – against Dundee United (2-2) and Ross County (3-3).
Goals and assists from all over the pitch at Tynecastle
Since Igor Rossi was moved to the centre of defence at half-time against Aberdeen, Hearts have conceded one goal in 585 minutes of league football. The Brazilian was initially brought in as back-up to Alim Ozturk and BÃ¯Â¿Â½,aÃ…Â¼ej Augustyn, and started at left-back while the club waited for clearance for Juwon Oshaniwa before his services were required in the centre. Since then, Hearts have recorded five clean sheets – including one at Parkhead – taking their total to seven, one more than Celtic and Aberdeen.
At the other end, scoring goals hasn’t been an issue. Robbie Neilson’s side are the third-highest scorers in the Ladbrokes Premiership with 26. The key is that the goals have been coming from all over the park. The strikers are weighing in with their fair share – Juanma has seven, Osman Sow five – while eight goals have come from midfielders and five from defence.
It’s a similar picture regarding assists, with five players contributing three or more - Sam Nicholson and Sow have four; Juanma, Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson all have three each. All in all, five have come from defence, 10 from midfield and eight from the strikers.
Inverness still keep the ball on the ground but late goals are costing them
After no wins in their first six Ladbrokes Premiership matches, the Scottish Cup holders plucked yet another gem from the English lower leagues. Miles Storey arrived on loan from Swindon, scoring on his debut in a 2-0 victory over Hearts - their first win of the season. Storey went on to score in two of his next three league matches, including finishing off an excellent team goal against rivals Ross County.
We know this is a game of fine margins at times and had it not been for conceding late goals, Inverness’ league position would be very different right now. John Hughes’ side have shipped four injury-time goals, and conceded another in the final minute of a match. This has cost them seven points which, if added to their total, would put them in fourth spot with 24 points.
Losing so much attacking talent from their cup-winning side forced Hughes into a more defensive approach and this is evidenced by the fact that, despite sitting eighth, they have the fourth-best defensive record in the division.
The result has been a more counter-attacking side – their victories over Ross County and Aberdeen being perfect examples – though Hughes doesn’t appear to have abandoned their approach of keeping the ball on the ground. Of the 10 goals from open play, three have come from wide areas, yet have been low crosses, while the rest have been assisted via low through balls or short passes.
At the centre of these assists has been Ryan Christie, who has filled out physically and taken on the mantle of the club’s talisman. He has scored three and assisted six of Caley Thistle’s 15 goals so far this season. Unfortunately, he is currently at Celtic Park receiving specialist treatment for an injury and may be there permanently come January if they exercise their option to recall him.