Tomer Hemed began the 2017/18 season as Brighton & Hove Albion’s first-choice centre-forward in their maiden foray into the Premier League, but a recent suspension has opened the door to veteran striker Glenn Murray.
Hemed scored the only goal of Brighton’s win over Newcastle United in September, but was the subject of retrospective action after the game for a stamp on DeAndre Yedlin, receiving a three-match suspension for his indiscretion.
And that moment of madness from the 30-year-old Israel international might have cost him his place in the side for longer than the trio of matches covered by the ban.
Murray, Brighton’s top scorer last term with 23 goals as the Seagulls finished runners-up in the Championship, has capitalised on his chance to lead the line for Chris Hughton’s men, scoring three goals in his last two outings.
The 34-year-old former Crystal Palace striker had only one Premier League start to his name before Hemed got himself suspended, and was goalless in five total appearances.
But the statistics suggest that, despite being available having served his suspension, Hemed should not walk straight back into the side, as Murray, at this time, represents the better striking option for Hughton.
In terms of being a goal threat and making the most of the chances that falls his way, Murray has shown himself to be more clinical than his positional rival this season.
As the above graphic shows, the former Carlisle United and Bournemouth man has been more efficient with his chances, boasting a better goals-per-minutes average, shot accuracy and conversion rate than Hemed.
But it’s not just in front of goal where Murray stands above Hemed statistically, he has also shown himself to be a more well-rounded centre-forward, boasting favourable statistics when it comes to his involvement in his side’s build-up play and creativity.
Above you can see that Murray attempts more passes per game at a higher completion rate. The pair are even when it comes to the key passes they produce per 90 minutes in the Premier League, but the expected assists (xA) numbers give Murray the advantage.
Although it hasn’t crept into football analysis on a wide basis as yet, the xA metric is particularly useful when measuring a player’s creativity as it places a value on the quality of chances they produce.
To do this, the subsequent shot position of each chance is judged on its likelihood to lead to a goal based on historical data of shots from the same part of the pitch.
Where a simple chances-created figure only counts a pass that leads to a shot, regardless of where it takes place on the pitch, xA roughly shows how close to goal each opportunity takes the team in question. So, for example, a five-yard pass to a player who then scores a 40-yard screamer has a lower xA value than a defence-splitting through-ball that puts a striker in on goal, despite the fact both would go down as one assist.
Therefore, although Hemed has one assist to his name this term while Murray has none, Murray’s return of 0.6 xA to Hemed’s 0.2 shows the general quality of chances the Englishman has created is higher.
So, as the stats show, Murray has done more than enough to deserve a run in the Brighton line-up, regardless of Hemed’s return from suspension.