Ivan Toney is expected to leave Peterborough whether they go up or not at the end of the extended League One season. Nevertheless, the club is ready to offer the biggest contract in the club’s history if they get promoted to the Championship to try and persuade him to stay. With the high speculation of Toney leaving, this data analysis with the assistance of tactical analysis we will look to find the best-suited player to fill his boots. Before we get into the recruitment analysis we will overview Toney’s play-style and see what attributes have helped him to become League One’s top goalscorer this season.
In the image below, Toney’s player radar the data tells us that Toney is a traditional striker who likes to get in amongst the box to score. As we can see a low score in his progressive runs and crosses, with relatively average dribbles but he tallies high touches in the box and high shots.
However, Toney is a more complete player than just scoring goals. When looking at the footage, Toney is a striker who likes to link the play up. This is also evident in his heatmap below, as we can see him mainly get in the opponents’ box but there are also signs of him dropping between the lines.
In the footage this is backed up as we can see Toney drop in between the opponents’ midfield and defence, this allows Peterborough to transition through the thirds by having Toney to link through. This is why we can’t just focus on replacing Toney’s immense goal threat that has made him success during this campaign as he has other qualities that go unnoticed.
Initial data check
For my data, I will be keeping the theme on trying to find a player between the bracket of the age of 17-26 for recruitment purposes, to find an upcoming player who is going to peak their career whilst at Peterborough. This also fits The Posh’s transfer market requirements as they have often found young talents and sell them on for a profit. I will keep the data purely in League One due to the limited money for Peterborough and there is uncertainty with the leagues so they might not be promoted and not get an influx of money by going up. This also keeps the data consistent and reliable to compare each player we find from the data.
The first data we put the players through was their goal conversion percentage combined with their shots total statistics. This one key asset to Toney’s game as he is taking a high amount of shots but equally he still has a high goal conversion rate. From the results, Toney leads the way but in the second tier below him, Kieran Sadlier fills in at second place for most shots and some notable averages from Jonson Clarke-Harris, Tyler Walker and Toney’s teammate Mohamed Eisa. It will be key for the new striker to have a high intake in shots to goal ratio as Peterborough are joint-highest scorers with Manchester City with 68 goals so they are effective scorers who convert a high amount of their chances. The data also shows teammate, Eisa who also has a high conversion rate.
Similarly, in the image below, I looked at their xG combined with their total goals to see if the players were scoring their chances and to find if any players were even outperforming their xG. In the image, Toney leads the way and we can see Walker, Eisa and Clarke-Harris in the second tier, they all outperform their xG just like Toney.
The next part of the data looked into headed goals. As we can see in the image below, this season Toney has shown versatility in his goal-scoring as he leads the way for the most headed goals in League One, this has been a big part of his game due to him getting in the box for his goals and being an aerial threat. In the data, we see similar players to the last graph as Sadlier, Clarke-Harris and Eisa all show up again below Toney. This will be another important factor to take into account when finding a replacement.
As we stated earlier Toney is also involved in dropping deep and creating for his team. For strikers in this age range, Toney ranks second for xA in League One with 5.16 this season, this is an important part as we showed earlier in the play-style that he likes to drop deep and link up the play. It is important to take this into account when assessing for a new player. From the data, we can see Toney ranks just behind Sadlier (5.22) but Walker, Clarke-Harris and teammates Eisa do not show this time around.
From the data, we can see Toney this season is a level well above the rest and it will be hard to replicate what he has done. Nevertheless, I have found players with similar attributes that have consistently shown in the data results that can fill the boots of Toney if he departs. The two players are Walker and Sadlier. I will now use the footage to tactically analyse the players selected so we can gain context on their play-style as data can only tell us so much information.
The first option that came out of the data was Walker who is the youngest out of the two options at 23-years-old. At Lincoln Walker was a pivotal player as he scored 32% of their goals this season, even with him returning back to Nottingham Forest from his loan spell at the start of February. From the data, Walker is a great finisher as he has the highest goal total (14) out of the three along with the best goal conversion rate (23.72%) and xG (12.2).
Finishing is certainly Walker’s strong point to his game. As he is the lone striker for Lincoln he stays on the shoulder of the defenders and he will use his speed and strength to go through on goal. Walker will keep his positioning in between the centre-backs to split them and this stops him from being tightly marked. In the image below, Walker keeps his central role in between the two centre-backs and he gets played through on goal, he uses his pace to lose the opponents and then Walker slots it past the goalkeeper.
In the image below, we see Walker stays on the last line of defence. He will allow his teammates to carry the ball from midfield then play him through on goal. He will rarely drop deep due to him being the only striker for Lincoln.
Toney has been playing in between the lines for Peterborough and this is something Walker hasn’t been doing due to their formation. At Peterborough, they play with two upfront in a 4-3-1-2 but they still have a central attacking midfielder so he would be accustomed to someone operating in this role behind him.
As Walker plays in a 4-2-3-1 formation as the lone striker so his role isn’t to link up play due to him being upfront by himself. From the footage as we highlighted above Walker is always looking to stay on the centre-backs shoulders and his link-up play which Toney does by coming into a deeper position at times, yet, isn’t necessarily a part of Walker’s game. In the image above, this is a rare time that Walker has dropped deep and as we can see that he doesn’t have many options unless his teammates make runs beyond him. This could change if he got moved into a front two but we are yet to see Walker play with this style of play, however, no one can take anything away from his goal-scoring ability which could fill the void of Toney.
The second option that came out of the data is Sadlier. The 25-year-old Doncaster attacker could be the perfect replacement for Peterborough as he was the only player to outperform Toney in xA (5.22) and as we analysed earlier this is an unnoticed part to his game.
Sadlier is great at getting in between the lines of the opposition’s defence and midfield. This allows him to link the play between the thirds which Toney also does. In the image below, Sadlier has dropped deep and he picks up the ball. In this situation, he is able to drive at the defence or play through his teammate. Statically speaking, he is dribbling 4.8 times per 90 with a success rate of 48.97%.
Sadlier is also a goal threat from range. If the opponents don’t opt to close him down, he has space and time to utilise this. In the image below, Sadlier drops in the hole in front of the defence due to the opposition sitting deep; this allows him to take a dribble forward then shot at goal and in this play he finds the back of the net.
It isn’t just his ability to link up play from deep that is impressive. Sadlier is a player with quick pace and he is able to use this to get in behind the opponents’ lines. In the image below, Sadlier receives a through ball where he goes beyond the defenders then calmly slots it away.
As we said he isn’t robust to one form of attacking, inside the area he comes alive. Sadlier has scored 11 goals this season with nine coming in the area. Inside the box to many it is a packed area and it can be daunting at times but Sadlier thrives in this situation, he uses double movements and zig-zag runs to lose his marker. In the image below, Sadlier has performed a quick double movement to get away from his marker and he excelling scores from a first-time volley.
As we can see Sadlier is a well-rounded player who has the ability to not only score goals but to be a playmaker, plus, he possesses great dribbling skills which is an added bonus to his game. The footage has somewhat been similar to Toney’s play-style and if Peterborough lose their talisman this could be an ideal replacement.
To conclude our thoughts, as reports come out and it looks evident Toney is on his way to the Championship as Nottingham Forest are preparing a bid. To replace him we know Sadlier is the better option due to his style of play as he drops deep and we are unsure if Walker possesses this quality, however, Walker is a better finisher overall. If Peterborough are looking for a sole striker whose strength is their finishing and getting in behind, Walker is the right man for the job. However, if they want a similar player to Toney then Sadlier is the suitable option due to his all-around ability.