The PFA released their SPFL Premiership team of the year today as following:
Shay Logan, Alim Ozturk, Andrew Davies, Kiernan Tierney
Johnny Hayes, Kenny McClean, Graeme Shinnie
Kane Hemmings, Leigh Griffiths, Greg Stewart
First, props to the PFA for overthrowing the “YOU MUST PLAY TWO UP FRONT” overlords that currently rule Scotland, we stand united in this fight! Despite our unity in the fight again two striker systems, I have a few problems with the team that the players put together. I have no issue with Leigh Griffiths and Kane Hemmings inclusion in the team of the year, as I have been banging the drum for both and their fine campaigns this season. I must take issue with Greg Stewart’s inclusion both here and in the player of the year nomination the Dundee forward received.
Above we see the 20 players with the highest xG this season in the SPFL Premiership over their goals scored, with the size of their circle based on their xG per 90 minutes. Leigh Griffiths and Kane Hemmings position on the chart shows they are clearly deserving of this honor, but when we look down the chart we see that there are more deserving forwards for that third team of the year spot than Greg Stewart. Adam Rooney has missed the last portion of the season due to injury (and Milton Keys loanee Simon Church has done well to fill the Irishman’s shoes for the Dons), yet Rooney still is 3rd in the non-penalty goals scored and 4th in the league in total xG. For much of the year, Aberdeen were hot on the heels of Celtic for the title (heck they were above Celtic for a few weeks), and Rooney was a major factor for that (I also saw that Johnny Hayes won the Aberdeen Player of the Year, which isn’t a choice I have too much issue with, though I certainly think you could make the same argument for Rooney to win the Dons’ Player of the Year award). Louis Moult is also a worthy candidate, helping Motherwell earn a top 6 spot after being at the foot of the table at the beginning of the season and is 4th is non-penalty goals and 3rd in xG. Even Liam Boyce, who has seen his form drop a bit since a red-hot start to the season has a higher xG and goals scored than Stewart.
While one could make an argument for Adam Rooney’s inclusion in the team of the year, Aberdeen’s Kenny McLean was a choice that perplexed me. Like Stewart, McLean is a very good player who is young and I think has a bright future. However, I think there are more deserving midfielders who the PFA overlooked, perhaps even on McLean’s own team.
I have put Kenny McLean in the Goals and Assists per 90 minutes table I publish weekly, as he is nowhere close to being in the top 10. No. Where. Close. I’ve also added McLean to a chart of the top 10 G+A p 90 over minutes played. To be fair to McLean, most of the table and chart is made up of strikers, which stands to reason. Strikers score a lot. Strikers are around the box a lot and pass to players who are also in the box and then score. However, there are two midfielders who are amongst the top 10 in Goals and Assists per 90 minutes in the SPFL, namely Tom Rogic and McLean’s teammate Niall McGinn. In the chart, the size of each player’s circle is based on goals scored and the color based on the number of assists. We see Rogic in the middle of the pack of the league leaders in both goals and assists, which is an impressive place to be amongst out and out strikers, while playing amongst the fewest minutes in the league in the leaders in Goals and Assists. Niall McGinn has scored even more goals and assists than Rogic, leading the league in assists thus far this season, and far surpassing his teammate McLean in both categories and the combined metric. McLean has logged a lot of minutes for Aberdeen this season, appearing in every match for the Dons and has had a fine season with 5 goals and 3 assists this season, however McGinn and Rogic seem to be better choices for the team of year this season.
I understand this team is chosen by the players and they certainly have their finger on the pulse about the skill level of their colleagues. I also understand trying to explain some of these metrics to footballers might not be possible for some players (shout out to Kane Hemmings, Louis Moult, and Liam Boyce for the likes on twitter and the retweets), however metrics like expected goals and per 90 measurements help us quantify and visualize the contributions certain players are making to their clubs.