Finding the best young strikers in Ligue 1 - data analysis statistics

The French league has achieved the fame of being a hub of exciting young players. It is usually the attacking players in this league that get most of the fame. There is a good reason for this as Ligue 1 has produced some very good strikers over the years. The most recent examples are the Arsenal duo, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, both forming themselves from a young age in Ligue 1. Recently this position has gained more fame with the appearance of Kylian Mbappé and him becoming the most expensive teenager of all time.

We have made this data analysis to focus on Ligue 1’s young striker prospects and to see the future that Ligue 1 has in this position. This report will focus on finding some of the best young strikers that are currently playing in Ligue 1. Because these findings are purely based on the certain important data and statistics and do not consider all the possible data, the report only serves as a starting point to identify promising strikers in Ligue 1. Detailed analysis of the players might be required in the future to understand their actual potential and style of play.

Selection criteria

Since this report is about finding young talents, we have only included players with a maximum age of 23 years. It is also important to know that every player in this analysis has played at least 1000 minutes of football in Ligue 1 this season. This criterion is important to create a fair comparison among the strikers since a player who has played a significantly fewer number of minutes than another player could have inflated statistics, but it does not necessarily make him a better player.

The final criterion is to consider only those players that have significantly served the team as a striker. Although it is impossible to find players that have only played in one position throughout a season due to the tactical flexibility of the modern managers, this report will only have strikers who have not deviated away from their position for too long.

Assists

Finding the best young strikers in Ligue 1 - data analysis statistics

Nowadays, it is preferred that a striker does other things apart from scoring goals. It is valued that he participates in the team’s plays and contributes to the build-up. This is why he should be able to assist goals as well as score them.

It is why we will look at the player’s expected assists per game (xA per 90) as well as their actual assists per game. We do this to check whether they really have as many assists that they deserve or are actually overperforming in this aspect.

From the start, Kylian Mbappé from PSG stands out. This was going to be normal seeing as PSG has such a talented attack meaning he has more chances to make assists and when he does, that his teammates turn them into a goal. He has 0.43 xA per game and 0.28 assists per game, so he is actually underperforming in assists.

The next striker is Victor Osimhen from Lille. He has 0.09 xA per game and 0.15 assists per game, meaning he is overperforming. Then comes Kasper Dolberg from Nice who has 0.06 xA per game and 0.09 assists per game, who is also overachieving.

Lastly, it is important to note Imran Louza from Nantes. He has 0.17 xA per game and 0.04 assists per game. This means that he is making good passes for his teammates to turn into goals but they are not taking advantage of them.

Taking chances

Finding the best young strikers in Ligue 1 - data analysis statistics

When a team looks for a striker, they value if they take their chances when they arrive. If they do, it means that whenever they are near the box or in the box, they try to shoot to maximise the goalscoring chances. If a striker does not shoot a lot, there is less chance for him to score.

This is why we will look at how many touches in the box they make per game as well as the shots per game.

Once again, Kylian Mbappé shines with his 9.85 touches in the box per game and 4.78 shots per 90. This is due to PSG being a team that controls games so they get closer to the opponent’s area more often.

Similarly, Osimhen is second in this list too. He makes 4.24 touches in the box per game and 2.95 shots per game. Moving on is Irvin Cardona, from Stade Brestois 29. He makes 4.37 touches in the box per game and 2.51 shots per game.

Then is Ibrahima Niane from FC Metz who makes 1.64 touches in the box per game and 2.42 shots per game. It means that when he shoots, it is usually from outside of the box.

Offensive duels

Finding the best young strikers in Ligue 1 - data analysis statistics

For a striker to be effective, he needs to win his offensive duels. An offensive duel is when a striker is trying to get past a defender in a 1 vs 1 situation or is guarding the ball. If a striker wins his offensive duels, it means he can create chances for himself and make better use of the ball in possession.

This is why we look at how many offensive duels he makes per game and his success rate in these. The better his success rate compared to how many offensive duels he makes means that the striker is able to be a threat to opponents as he retains the ball when going against defenders.

Mbappé is on the top-right quadrant with 14.46 offensive duels per game and a 44.23% success rate. Next is Niane who actually makes more offensive duels per game (14.94) but has a lower success rate (35.26%). After Niane is Stephy Mavididi from Montpellier who has the highest offensive duels per game (15.05) but wins less of these duels with a 29.84% success rate.

There are also two players who do not do as many offensive duels but have a higher success rate than most. The first one is Ignatius Ganago with 8.97 offensive duels per game and a 37.5% success rate. The other is Boulaye Dia from Stade de Reims, making 9.47 offensive duels per game with a 37% success rate.

Goals

Finding the best young strikers in Ligue 1 - data analysis statistics

The final metric we will analyse is the striker’s goals. It is the only metric by which the majority of fans judge a striker. Even though it is very important that a striker scores goals, it is also very valuable that he contributes to the team’s play. The best example is Olivier Giroud from Chelsea. He was the starting striker for France in the 2018 World Cup and became world champion without scoring a goal.

Consequently, here we analyse the player’s expected goals per game (xG) and their actual non-penalty goals per game. We use non-penalty goals per game because if a striker scores the team’s penalties, it does not tell us whether he is successful when the ball is in play.

As expected, Mabppé leads this metric with a 0.8 xG per game and 1 non-penalty goal per game, meaning he is overachieving. Moving on is Osimhen from Lille with 0.57 xG per game and 0.41 non-penalty goals per game, therefore underachieving. Moussa Dembelé from Lyon appears for the first time with his 0.42 xG per game and 0.46 non-penalty goals per game, overachieving in this aspect.

Also worth noting is Cardona, who has 0.31 xG per game but 0.35 non-penalty goals per game. It means he is overachieving.

The shortlist

After this data analysis, we have found three strikers that stand out from the rest and are performing as the best young strikers in Ligue 1.

Kylian Mbappé

Unsurprisingly, his name appears in this analysis. The fast and talented winger has proven to be the best young striker in Ligue 1 with him being superior in every metric analysed. He does not do this just in Ligue 1 however, as in the UEFA Champions League he has five goals and four assists.

Joining his immense talent with having teammates such as Neymar or Mauro Icardi, Mbappé is playing very well and is helping his team with assists and goals.

He has led this analysis as he has been in top-right of every single graph analysed, with the rest of the players being far away from him in some cases. Rather than showing the lack of talent the other strikers have, it promotes Mbappé brilliance. Additionally, he is only 21 which means that hopefully, he will just keep getting better and better.

Victor Osimhen

The Nigerian striker has been one of the surprises of the season. In fact, at the time of writing, he is very close to joining Napoli in Serie A. If it does occur, we will see if he can perform at the next level of his playing ability.

Concerning this analysis, he was second-best in three of the four metrics analysed. For assists, he does well with 0.09 xA per game and 0.15 actual assists per game, showing he is actually underachieving in this factor.

When analysing whether the strikers took their chances when in the box, he was also second with his 4.24 touches in the box per game and 2.95 shots per game. It shows that he looks for goal as soon as he is in the box.

For goals, he also had very good statistics with 0.57 xG per game and 0.41 non-penalty goals per game. This means that he is expected to score one goal every two games which is amazing for any team.

Lastly, he does not do as many offensive duels as other strikers but has a decent success rate (33.18%) that reassures him in this metric.

Overall, being the second-best striker in a list topped by Mbappé is quite good seeing as it is very difficult to compete against his numbers. It is clear that Napoli is taking into account these numbers and is why they are prepared to offer big sums of money to acquire him.

Irvin Cardona

Here is the lesser-known striker in this shortlist. Cardona is a 22-year-old striker who plays for Stade Brestois 29 and is showing decent numbers. His statistics might be worth seeing for a club that is higher in the league than Stade Brestois 29.

He did best in his taking of chances, his offensive duels, and his goals. Concerning his ability to look for goal every time he is in the box, he was third behind Mbappé and Osimhen. Here he made 4.37 touches in the box and 2.51 shots per game.

For his offensive duels, he makes lower than average offensive duels (8.05) but his success rate is slightly higher than the average, with 34.78%. This could be due to how his team plays, because if he has to stay higher up being the striker, he will not get the ball as much.

Furthermore, he has decent goalscoring stats. He has 0.31 xG per game and 0.35 non-penalty goals per game. Even though he is underachieving, they are good numbers for a young striker.

Overall, his statistics are attractive for a club wanting to find a young, partially unknown striker as he does decently in three of the four metrics analysed.

Conclusion

This data analysis has shown us some useful metrics to measure strikers. Nowadays strikers are asked to contribute to the team’s plays as well as scoring so different types of metrics have to be used. Thus, it is more valuable in today’s age if a striker can help the team create at the same time as having good goalscoring statistics.

The data analysis also gave a good indication of the talented young striker that Ligue 1 has. With Mbappé, Osimhen, and Cardona, the French league possesses three very talented strikers under the age of 23 years.