Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Post-Yekini: Comparing Super Eagles' Strikers.

After Emmanuel Emenike burst of goals during the 2013 Nations Cup, many began to put him on a pedestal with some of Nigeria's top strikers in recent time. But do the statistics confirm this? How about a similar case for Ikechukwu Uche and for Obafemi Martins?

What is not in dispute is that Rashidi Yekini and Thompson Usiyen are the top two strikers ever produced by Nigeria's national team. Though one must acknowledge that Elkanah Onyeali may well have a place in any dispute that may exist about the place of both Yekini and Usiyen in history. Though, Onyeali's place in history may be dimmed since his goal scoring achievements came during Nigeria's lean years and four of his goals arrived in a rather meaningless game against Dahomey (now Benin Republic) on November 28, 1959.

If we accept the above position, then what seems arguable is who among Nigeria's strikers, post-Yekini era, could stake the claim for being Nigeria's best. Is it Julius Aghahowa? Yakubu Aiyegbeni? Obafemi Martins? Ikechukwu Uche? or Emmanuel Emenike? After all, each of those strikers have had their moments in the limelight after Yekini's era.

This article takes a deep look at data to answer the question on who may reasonably claim the position of being the best since Yekini. We have derived various measures in attempt to answer that question. To do this, we compare career goals, goals per game, minutes per goal, goal scoring frequencies (consecutive goals scored and length of longest dry scoring period), and number of game winners scored. We use the dimensions of competitive and non-competitive games to view each player's performance.

Career Goal Scoring Data
Yakubu Aiyegbeni has the most goals among the selected strikers. With 21 goals, he is actually third in all time scoring for Nigeria (trailing only Rashidi Yekini and Segun Odegbami) but his goals per game in this comparison of five strikers is third when compared to Julius Aghahowa and Obafemi Martins. In terms of average number of minutes before scoring a goal, Julius Aghahowa has the best ratio which is a goal after every 152 minutes. It is a ratio that indicates about a goal in every two games.

Aiyegbeni and Ike Uche have the most game winners. A game winner is a goal that earn's victory for the team. It is not a goal scored when the game result is a draw or a loss. It is assigned under examples offered here:

1. Player scores the only goal in a 1-0 win.
2. Player scores the first goal in a 3-0 win.
3. Player scores the third goal in a 3-2 win.

As the examples above demonstrate, a game winner simply reflects the goal that determines victory.

It is notable that none of the compared strikers has scored a hat trick in a game for Nigeria but Obafemi Martins has scored multiple goals in more games than any other. Ike Uche has played the least number of consecutive games without scoring whereas Emenike has the longest streak without a goal. Emenike's streak is now at 15 games and still counting! However, he shares the Nigerian record of scoring in five consecutive games.

Scoring in Competitive Games
In this category, the idea is to compare the strikers in the most important games i.e. competitive ones. Here, Ike Uche has the best scoring ratio at a clip of 0.43 or 0.03 points above his career clip. The other players who have done better than their career clips are Aiyegbeni (0.02) and Emenike (0.04). Also, Uche has the best ratio of minutes per goal with 151 minutes. In fact, only Uche and Aiyegbeni improve their minutes per goal over their career ratios.

The data on game winners, penalty kick goals, games with multiple goals, consecutive games with goals and consecutive games without goals reflect similar data at the career level.

Scoring in Non-Competitive Games
The eye-popping statistic here is the goals per game recorded for Julius Aghahowa at 0.80. This is a very high statistic describing his four goals in five friendly internationals, by far the best ratio among compared strikers. This also shows in his minutes per goals which is only 79 minutes. However, Ikechukwu Uche has most goals in friendly internationals with six. Obafemi Martins has a goal scoring streak of three consecutive games which equals his streak in scoring in consecutive competitive games.

The overall reading of the data is that several of the strikers are closely matched. However, it is clear that Emmanuel Emenike is not on the same level as the other four strikers. His only shining moment is his Nigerian record of scoring in five consecutive games. Besides that, he has the longest scoring drought among all the strikers and his goal scoring per game is the weakest. Ikechukwu Uche and Obafemi Martins' productivity lead the pack. Julius Aghahowa is also high in productivity but a significant part of that comes from friendly internationals unlike Ike Uche who has produced at the highest level in competitive games.