This fan post is being writing for a few reasons reasons, to find out if Higuain really is a wasteful striker (as many commentators claim), if Luis Suarez is the striker Madrid needs to buy as a replacement for Higuain and to show some interesting facts about the time our strikers spend offside.
Part I: Is Gonzalo Higuain one of the best strikers in Europe?
Ronaldo has 34 goals from 235 shots which gives him a 14.46% conversion rate (6.91 shots per goal).
Benzema has 11 goals from 64 shots which gives him a 17.18% conversion rate (5.81 shots per goal).
Higuain has 16 goals from 56 shots which gives him a 28.57% conversion rate (3.5 shots per goal).
As you can see here, Gonzalo Higuain is actually the most clinical striker at Madrid! How's that for a paradigm shift? Higuain scored 5 more goals than Benzema with 8 less shots. Both strikers played (almost) an equal amount of time, Higuain had 19 starts with 9 substitute appearances this season while Benzema had 19 starts and 11 substitute appearances (both started half the league games). One can claim that if Benzema was the undoubted starter, he'd score more goals than Higuain, but that same argument can be made for Higuain. In fact, that argument holds more weight for Higuain since he has the higher numbers. Lastly, Ronaldo's "bad numbers" need to be addressed. The reason for Ronaldo's poor conversion is not because his hair gel keeps dripping into his eyes at crucial moments of the game (contrary to what Barcelona fans may say), it's because he takes shots that no other striker can dream of. Ronaldo has the power, accuracy and audacity to shoot for goal from 40 yards away, find another striker who can do that. It would be very simple for Ronaldo to get a high conversion rate next season, just make him stop attempting to score wonder goals (but who wants that). Since he's the Cristiano Ronaldo, he can get a pass this time.
Now, let's compare our strikers with some others from top teams across Europe:
(10)Luis Suarez has 23 goals from 187 shots which gives him a 12.29% conversion rate (8.13 shots per goal) from 33 starts.
(7) Robin Van Persie has 26 goals from 141 shots which gives him a 18.43% conversion rate (5.42 shots per goal) from 35 starts, 3 substitute appearances.
(6) Edinson Cavani has 29 goals from 156 shots which gives him a 18.58% conversion rate (5.37 shots per goal) from 33 starts, 1 substitute appearance.
(5) Zlatan Ibrahimovich has 30 goals from 157 shots which gives him a 19.1% conversion rate (5.23 shots per goal) from 33 starts, 1 substitute appearance.
(4) David Villa has 10 goals from 45 shots which gives him a 22.22% conversion rate (4.5 shots per goal) from 17 starts, 11 substitute appearances.
(3) Robert Lewandowski has 24 goals from 98 shots which gives him a 24.48% conversion rate (4.08 shots per goal) from 29 starts, 2 substitute appearances.
(1) Mario Gomez has 11 goals from 38 shots which gives him a 28.94% conversion rate (3.45 shots per goal) from 9 starts, 12 substitute appearances.
Out of the 10 best strikers from the best teams across Europe, Gonzalo Higuain finishes second in terms of finishing ability. This is no small achievement, yet it is once that very few Madridista's seem to recognize. The fact is that we have one the most clinical strikers in Europe, but we want to sell him! Based on pure finishing, there are few options better than him yet the myth of him not being clinical continue to exist.
Part II: Why We Shouldn't Buy Luis Suarez
If you look at the data above, an interesting correlation occurs. Strikers who are more involved with build up play tend to have low conversion rates. This time the strikers are ranked (from least to greatest) according to the number of assists they have (with key passes as the tie breaker). The number in parenthesis is to show where they were in the first ranking.
(1) Mario Gomez: 1 assist and 6 key passes
(6) Edinson Cavani: 4 assists and 31 key passes
(4) David Villa: 5 assists and 15 key passes
(2) Higuain: 5 assists and 23 key passes
(3) Robert Lewandowski: 5 assists and 33 key passes
(10) Luis Suarez: 5 assists and 90 key passes
(5) Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 8 assists and 61 key passes
(7) Robin Van Persie: 8 assists and 69 key passes
(9) Ronaldo: 10 assists and 62 key passes
(8) Benzema: 11 assists and 41 key passes
The numbers don't lie; most of the clinical strikers have suddenly dropped to the bottom of the list while the "poor finishers" have risen to the top. All of the Top 5 finishers are in the bottom 5 for involvement in build up play. This is interesting because it means there might be a trade off made when purchasing strikers; buy a clinical finisher and lose involvement in midfield from them or purchase a good link-up player at the expense of finishing. Since Higuain is leaving, we need a replacement; many people want Suarez but is he the right man? It's already been shown Higuain is the second most clinical striker in Europe (at least in this model), so we need a striker who's a clinical finisher to replace what we'll lose. Unfortunately, Luis Suarez is NOT a striker who punishes teams for any mistake they make, he's more like Benzema in that he gets the entire team into the attack.
If we buy Suarez, we'll have two strikers who are too similar. Both are good at link up play, but not as well when they're in the box. To replace Higuain, the board should look for a striker who has a low shots to goal ratio; Mario Gomez, Lewandowski, Villa and Ibra are the top players in that regard. With Zlatan too expensive (and too old) to be a realistic buy and David Villa at our biggest rivals, it comes down to pick between Lewandowski and Gomez as the best players to replace Higuain. However, if the situation were reversed, with Benzema wanting a move with Higuain willing to stay, Suarez would then become a good replacement candidate.
Part III: Which Striker Spends the Most Time Offside? (Hint: It's not who you think).
If you guessed Higuain, sadly you are wrong. Out of the strikers in this article, Gonzalo Higuain actually falls in the bottom 5 for most offside calls. Ranked from least to greatest this is it (number inside parentheses is number of offside calls):
Mario Gomez (15), David Villa (22), Lewandowski (28), Higuain (31), Ronaldo (31), Cavani (32), Benzema (33), Luis Suarez (39), Van Persie (46), Ibrahimovic (53).
So what does this mean? Firstly, Higuain isn't offside as often as you think. If you don't like how much Higuain gets called for it, you should be pretty mad at Ronaldo as well since they have the same amount of calls. Second, Benzema is offsides more often than Higuain! Third, if we buy Suarez be prepared to chastise him because he had more offside calls than Higuain. Finally, it shows that the numbers can really surprise you.
If you get one thing out of reading this, I hope it's that you realise how wrong people on the internet can be. Don't fall into the trap of passing on statements made by other commentators simply because they appear to be right. When you take a good, long look at the numbers, the truth could be surprising.
*All statistics are domestic league only for consistency purposes. **All statistics are from whoscored.com