THERE has been one major debate in terms of Premier League youngsters in recent months, and that is between Kelechi Iheanacho and Marcus Rashford. I’ll get this out of the way early, I am a Manchester United fan, and so there may be some slight bias in places, but I’ll try to keep it behind a wall of facts, statistics and performances.
Let’s get straight into this with the most important stats for a striker; Goals1. Since his debut in August 2015, Iheanacho has made 9 starts and 22 substitute appearances, with a total gameplay time of 938 minutes. In that time, Kelechi has scored 10 goals. In comparison, Rashford has started 14 times with only 2 substitute appearances, giving a total of 1,189 minutes, and in that time he has scored 8 goals. That gives the Man City man a better Minutes per Goal ratio, at a goal every 93.8 minutes compared to Rashford’s 148.6. So in terms of pure goals scored, Iheanacho is a fair way ahead of the United striker. So that’s one point to the Nigerian.
Finishing ability is a great way of comparing efficiency in front of goal, and this is what Iheanacho is known for. The 20 year old has had 37 shots, 15 of which were on target, with 10 off target and 12 blocked. That gives him a shot accuracy of around 41%, and from those 15 shots on target, he has scored a phenomenal 10 goals. That’s two thirds of his shots on target that hit the back of the net, an outstanding record. The only issue with this, is that Rashford’s shot accuracy is actually higher, at 46%, and with his 8 goals, also has scored with two thirds of his shots on target. So contrary to popular belief, Rashford is actually more efficient in front of goal than his City counterpart.
There is also another way to measure Finishing ability, and that’s through Expected Goals (xG)2. Using this to determine finishing ability, a higher average xG per goal is a show that a player’s chances are more difficult which will help separate the dead heat between the players in terms of Goal efficiency. Rashford’s goals come with a total xG of 4.247 over his 8 goals, giving an xG per goal of 0.553, while Iheanacho’s is 0.619 for every one of his ten goals. That makes Rashford’s goals came from statistically more difficult chances, giving him the slight edge over Iheanacho in terms of finishing ability.
In modern football, Striker’s aren’t just there to finish a move, they need to start them too. In terms of the most raw chance creation stat, assists, Iheanacho has the edge, with 4 assists compared to the Englishman’s 2. Key passes also goes Kelechi’s way, with 24 compared to Rashford’s 10. All that while playing less minutes, which is very impressive. Even when you bear in mind that Iheanacho is playing with better teammates, and in a more attacking system, it’s impossible to deny that Kelechi is far superior when it comes to creating opportunities for his teammates.
There are a few key aspects to playing as a striker in the modern game, and all of these take different aspects of skill and technique. The first is dribbling and beating a man, which goes the way of the Nigerian, with a 70% dribble success rate compared to Rashford’s fairly poor 29%. Kelechi also takes the Successful Take Ons stat by more than double. Rashford was well beaten in terms of playing the target man, winning only 7% of his aerial duels, a tiny figure in comparison to the 6’2 City striker, with 15%. So yet again, this round goes to the Nigerian.
It is only fair to mention that Rashford has played as a Winger this season, which is his more natural position, but he’s now more known as a striker, having plied his trade there towards the end of last season due to Rooney’s quick decline.
So in conclusion;
Iheanacho is statistically superior when it comes to goalscoring, chance creation and striker play, with Rashford taking a sole point with his finishing prowess. However, the man from the red side of Manchester has 2 years on his city counterpart, and his nationality could help or hinder his development, and although no-one can predict how either will turn out in ten years time, they have the potential to become a pair of great strikers. And that’s how this post will conclude. Inconclusive.
1 I’m using stats taken from Paul Riley (@FootballFactMan) and his xG maps. Expected Goals essentially tells us how likely a shot is to being a converted to a goal.
2 For this stat I am going to exclude European competitions, because of the difference between the competition in Champions League and Europa League