He fired Swindon to Wembley but Swindon’s number 17 has only scored 8 times this season from 30 appearances. But does Alan Connell offer more than goals? By Alex Cooke.
Alan Connell is the perfect centre forward. He might not always look like one but if you read through the statistics behind the striker’s performance against Wigan it is hard to see how it could be improved. Against a Premier League defence, he managed to win 88.8% of headers during his 76 minutes on the field. He also made sure that of those 18 headers and chest traps, 56.3% of those were; brought under control; scored; or reached another Swindon player.
His passing statistics are similarly impressive: 75% of his 12 passes were to another red shirt – a ratio which is comparable with many of the finest forwards in the world, including Robin Van Persie who recently averaged 77.6% and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at 79.7% over the season.
His famed work rate and commitment to the cause is also highlighted by the fact that he won 75% of his tackles in the same FA Cup tie and even made one interception. He also provides excellence positional discipline and effort, making the ball stick even when virtually playing up front alone, as he did against Huddersfield. And despite all the running involved in closing down the Wigan defence when the ball was lost, he was still back in position when the counter-attacks came.
But there is another statistic which hints at why Paolo Di Canio has spent most of the season with Connell on the bench or on the cusp of being replaced by a new ‘nastier’ striker – shots on target: 1 (goal), shots off target: 1. That performance against Wigan reflected his season so far with just 32 shots from his 30 appearances, including 47% on target.
It isn’t that Alan Connell simply doesn’t shoot often enough, he doesn’t get into the positions and he doesn’t score anywhere near often enough. It is probably why Paolo Di Canio has so often overlooked the former Bournemouth man, leaving him on the bench or looking to bring in replacements from Leon Clarke to James Constable.
But it has been the same throughout Connell’s career, bar one season with Grimsby – he has never been that prolific. His career league goals-to-games-ratio of 0.25 compares badly against Paul Benson’s career total of 0.39 and even those of Medihi Kerrouche (0.46) and Raffa De Vita (0.26) albeit from much shorter league careers. Even Billy Bodin has scored 6 goals this season, giving him a 0.25 average – in an arguably weaker team and from a wide position.
Since January, the contrast has become even greater for Benson is scoring at a rate of 0.43 goals-per-game. During the Wigan game he proved that he can perform the same role- leading the line – completing 88.9% of his passes, winning 87.5% of his headers and making sure 50% of those reached a teammate. His movement is also excellent, his link-up play intelligent and his effort is obvious. The only mark against him is that his only had one shot – the match-winning deflection – he also missed a headed chance.
Watching Alan Connell closely it is easy to see why he, unlike Benson, doesn’t fashion or finish that many chances. He attacks the ball well but his movement can be limited as he seems to prefer work across the line rather than go behind the defender. Also he isn’t very quick, as shown against Macclesfield, where their high line left plenty of room behind the defence but only his partner Benson was able to slip through.
So the question has to be can Swindon accept that Alan Connell doesn’t score goals and instead look at his other talents? Is his holding up the ball, linking up the play and winning headers enough to keep him ahead of the energetic Ronan Murray or the talented Billy Bodin. Or, when to loan market opens will Di Canio still look bring in another, ‘nastier’ forward? You can have your say below…