On Sunday, we started another of our ‘Talking Numbers’ series. However, this time we will be taking a look at Manchester United’s academy product – Marcus Rashford. We will compare his 2017-18 season to the last term. Be aware, judging players solely on numbers is never a good thing. However, doing so alongside the usual football-watching and observing, there are some very interesting things to be found out.
Rashford has already played 916 minutes in Premier League and Champions League, scoring five goals and adding four assists. The improvement is obvious right there – Rashford had three assists for the whole of last season. He is also only two goals from reaching the last season tally and he will most definitely get there.
What has helped the Englishman to make these improvements? First of all, he is more important part of the starting XI than last term. Rashford has already played 37% of the minutes he played last season. He is generally more important to this side and he holds greater responsibility.
Marcus Rashford Can Still Improve
In plain numbers, we see that through the amount of shots Rashford is making. Last season, the England international was making 2.29 shots per 90 minutes played. This season he shoots 3.43 times over the same period. More shots logically means more goals scored. However, there is slight problem here. Rashford is not making shots from the positions he has been making last term. His average expected goals per shot (xG/shot) stood at 0.14, while this season it is 0.09.
We can see that through his shot-maps, as Rashford made only five shots in the Premier League this season from central parts of the penalty area, the area where you have the best chance of scoring. He scored three goals from those five shots, yet almost 40 per cent of his shots came from outside of the box (11 out of 28 Premier League shots).
Marcus Rashford’s 2017-18 Premier League Shot Map: green dots – goals; blue dots – saved, blocked, woodwork; red dots – off target
Rashford should really pay attention to where he is shooting from. It is true that he is slightly over-scoring his xG (2.54, Rashford scored three goals), yet that is only marginal. He should be getting closer to central areas of the box when doing so. After all, all but one of his Premier League goals Rashford had scored from 12 yards or closer.
He Is More Creative
This is where we can see real improvements. With four assists from 916 minutes (equals to 10.18 full 90-minute matches), Rashford is on the brink of getting into top five percent of footballers from Top5 leagues in that category. He is making 0.39 assists per 90 minutes (0.40 is top 5%) and even better is that he is doing better than expected â€“ Rashford’s expected assists (xA) amount to 0.32.
And that is just the beginning. We could see that Rashford is more direct than he was last season, making runs and taking on opposing defenders. He is making 2.45 successful dribbles per 90 (last season – 1.97) and he is also trying to get his players into good positions. Rashford is making more throughballs for his teammates (0.39 compared to 0.11 per 90 last season) and key passes as well. Key passes lead to shots, which means the more key passes, the likelier is he will record an assist.
The experience he got from last season is obvious in another important category, especially for a winger – number of times he was dispossessed. Last season that number was quite high (2.33 per 90 minutes), but this season it is almost two times smaller (1.18 per 90).
So, Rashford is making more shots per 90 minutes, but from slightly worse positions. He is much more creative in making chances for his teammates and getting past opposition players. He is seldom losing the ball and his goal conversion ration also grew – 11.11% last season, so far this season 14.28% of his shots end up as goals.
There are some things he must improve, but this is only a representation of that through numbers. With more time spent on the pitch, we will have a better picture about Rashford’s ability, but one thing is for sure – he is better than he was last season. The numbers only confirm what we all have seen.