Go Compare: Armstrong vs. McGinn

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Written by: Christian Wulff @ahellofabeating

Goalscoring

Stuart Armstrong has scored 0.43 goals per every 90 minutes played in the Premiership over the last two seasons, with his expected goals quite a bit lower on 0.28 xG per 90 - this will be partly due to Armstrong scoring a lot of long-range (i.e. low xG) attempts in the 2016/17 season. Regardless, these are very good scoring and chance stats, especially for a box-to-box midfielder like Armstrong.

John McGinn is a lot less of a goal threat, scoring 0.14 goals per 90 this season, which is still higher than his expected goal value of 0.09 (again, a couple of long range goals help to explain the difference). The main contrast between the two can be seen clearly in the graph above: Armstrong frequently gets a shot or header off in the penalty box over the last two seasons, while the vast majority of McGinn’s efforts are from outside the box (blue points). In general, Armstrong has almost twice as many attempts than McGinn per 90.

Playmaking

When it comes to creating chances, things are a lot more even. While Armstrong’s assist rate of 0.36 per 90 is way higher than McGinn’s 0.09, their expected assist value is a lot closer (0.26 to 0.22), with McGinn actually having slightly more key passes (the pass before a shot/header). The difference in assists will have a lot to do with Armstrong setting up chances for far better finishers at Celtic, but on average he also sets up a slighly higher quality of chance than McGinn.

Again, it’s worth noticing Armstrong’s far higher presence in the penalty box; he has set up 11 chances from inside that area the last two seasons, compared to McGinn’s one in 2017/18. Overall, as seen above on the graph, Armstrong creates chances (yellow points) from slightly higher up the pitch than McGinn (dark red points)

Conclusion  

The numbers underline Stuart Armstrong's development at Celtic; equally good at both getting to and creating chances. While playing in a superior and attacking Celtic side will help boost his stats, Armstrong's ability to make things happen from inside the penalty box is a great asset to his game, and something that John McGinn is unlikely to replicate.

That doesn’t mean he can’t be a good addition for Celtic; his playmaking skills, while usually from a deeper position,  are undoubtable and close to Armstrong statistically. Playing for a team like Celtic where he would be providing for better attackers would likely see McGinn’s numbers further improve both in terms of assists and chance creation.

Could John McGinn replicate what Stuart Armstrong gave Celtic in terms of goal scoring?

Highly unlikely.

Could he help add back some of the creativity lost by Armstrong’s departure?

Quite possibly.

McGinn would be a more deep-lying alternative to Armstrong, doing only parts of what the man with the silky hair contributed to Celtic. Brendan Rodgers would have to look elsewhere to replace Armstrong’s goal threat and attacking runs from the centre of midfield.

Notes:

For a more in-depth analysis of John McGinn's season, read this Modern Fitba article by Jamie Kilday