Old Man Eto’o – Do the numbers still add up?

Original image used with permission of Will Sliney

So Everton has followed up the 28m capture of Lukaku by securing Eto’o on a 2 year deal. Not only are Evertonians surprised – the rest of football is too. Eto’o has been a genuine superstar in his time and is probably the biggest name the club has ever signed.

Putting aside issues about age and cost, the simple question is this: “Has he still got it?” The numbers suggest he has. Here’s the Premier League shot map for Eto’o. As usual yellow=goals, blue=saved attempts and black=off target/blocked:

Eto Dots copyEto’o was getting just over 4 shots per 90 mins off last season in the league. This is very good news and puts him in a bracket of strikers not far off the shot volume elite of Suarez, Messi and Ronnie. Even better news is that he took the majority of these shots inside the box and a good chunk centrally in front of goal too. Put simply, this is how strikers maintain good goal scoring records.

It doesn’t end there. Eto’o scored 9 goals in the minutes equivalent of about 14.5 games. This more or less matched the 8.37 expected goals tally for the shots he took. There is no huge sustainability issue around finishing skills here. I ran the simulation for these shots and you’re looking at a 48% chance that the average PL finisher could match the performance given the same shots. Compare that to say a Suarez type season where there’s only a 5% chance of replicating that performance. The distribution for Eto’o’s shots shows that a poor goal return is fairly unlikely:

SE SimNot only does Eto’o get in good areas to shoot, he doesn’t mess about when getting shots off either. One of my fave pieces this summer was by Colin Trainor over at Statsbomb covering how far strikers carry the ball before having a pop at goal. Colin found that last season Eto’o needed only a short amount of time to get a shot off. He carried the ball just 1.63m on average before doing so. This is evident in the good ol’ youtube reel. If it’s not hit first time, it only needs one touch to get the ball out of his feet:

A heatmap of Eto’o’s attacking touches reveal that he generally only played the width of the penalty area last season. I’d love to see him do the same at Everton with Mirallas on the left and Lukaku taking up the right sided role he’s been so effective in against Arsenal in recent times. In fact, all are comfortable in wider roles and all three interchanging at times is more than feasible. Three mobile forwards who all like a shot sounds good to me.

Now. Enough of the good news. Of slight concern is when you compare the types and volume of chances that Chelsea and Everton created in the box last season:

EFC CFC CCs Compared copyChelsea created lots of its penalty box chances from inside the box itself and also from through balls while Everton created more of its opportunities from wide areas. Suddenly you’re left wondering if Eto’o will see enough ball and enough of the right kind of opportunities to keep that shot volume up.

Profiling footballers to fit clubs eh? Tricky business. Follow me @footballfactman on twitter.


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