Is £3m a steal for the SPFL Premiership's top scoring midfielder?

Written by: Jamie Kilday @FitbaInScotland

Considering he is only twenty-four and has three years left on his contract it seems a bit odd to start an article by saying that a players days at a club maybe numbered but in the case of Josh Windass it could well be the case.

The former Accrington Stanley (who are they?) only signed a new deal in February 2018 and many thought that a new deal would mean that his £3m release clause was taken out of his contract also;

According to his father… apparently not.

Josh Windass certainly splits the Rangers support, some acknowledging his contribution whilst others would be more than happy to pay the taxi fare to get him out of the Ibrox club. Is the criticism justified or is £3m actually a steal for the highest scoring midfielder in the SPFL last season?

Going Forward

Windass didn’t really have a fixed position last season, with Caixinha preferring him wide on the left and Murty playing him more central, flitting between a number 10 and a secondary striker role behind Alfredo Morelos.

After scoring 13 goals last season, it’s fair to say that Windass is a goal scorer, finishing the 3rd top scorer in the league. He was not only 10th for goals per 90 minutes amongst players who had played over 900 mins but the top scoring midfielder in the league, in total and per 90. Compared to some of the other players in the league who play in a similar position behind the striker you can see that he stands out.

 All stats per 90

All stats per 90

Windass’s outperformed his xG and his xConversion% (the number of expected goals per shot) which suggests that he is unlikely to score at a similar rate next season but interestingly he underperformed his xShooting% (Expected shots on target per shot - for more on this I recommend @TheGersReports article) so potentially his shooting accuracy could increase to meet his expected shooting rate next season meaning the drop off in goals might not be so severe.

Two players that have been linked with Rangers and could be seen as direct competition for Windass are Kilmarnock’s Jordon Jones and former Hibernian loanee Brandon Barker, who is now at his parent club Manchester City. Both have had great seasons for their respective clubs yet neither of which look terribly impressive by comparison when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.

A factor in Windass’s play that makes him a cut above his midfield contemporaries are his shot locations.

 Josh Windass Shot Map - Rangers 2017/18 - Source: InStat

Josh Windass Shot Map - Rangers 2017/18 - Source: InStat

43% of his shots coming from within the Danger Zone (The area from the goal line to the 18 yard line between the width of the 6 yard box). This is just below the league average and would not be a remarkable figure for a poacher or a target man but for an attacking midfielder it is pretty impressive. If he is used as a secondary striker more then you probably expect this to increase.

A common criticism often aimed at Windass by some sections of the support are that he has scored most of his goals against weaker opposition, I find this to be a touch unfair when the only league teams Windass failed to score past were; Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Ross County.

Build Up Play

An element of Windass’s game that probably needs some work is his build up play. Again I’ll use the same players as a comparison.

 All stats per 90

All stats per 90

If you consider that Rangers were the top scoring side in the league and scored 60 goals with Josh Windass on the park you would be forgiven for  expecting him to have assisted a few more, especially considering his advanced position. Granted he was directly involved in almost a third of them goals; scoring almost a quarter of them and assisting 10% but he failed to register a single secondary assist (the pass before the assist). His secondary key pass per 90 (the pass before a key pass) of 0.61 would suggest he may have been a little unlucky not to get one at all but it’s still quite low.

Now, I wouldn’t normally use assists as a measure of a player’s contribution. It seems unfair to quantify a players ability based on his colleagues ability to score but an xA/90 of 0.17 alongside an A/90 of 0.2 shows that his low assist rate is actually an over-performance and we could see a decline in his assists next season.

His attacking passing overall is quite interesting, a lot of his unsuccessful attacking passes are intercepted rather than wayward suggesting that he is trying passes that simply aren’t on. It’s almost as if he is good as spotting a runner but not so good at noticing the defenders in the way. 

His xA/KP (Expected Assist per Key Pass - in laymans terms this is the likelyhood his key pass will become an assist) is quite high which indicates that his key passes are good when they are successful. 

If he can be coached to be a bit more selective with his attacking passing and try not to be so cute with it then his playmaking statistics could see an increase.

Dribbling is another area of development for Windass with only a 40% success rate. It would appear from watching him that he thinks he has more pace than he possibly possess.

He does have a tendency to try and knock the ball round a player which is invariably, either blocked by the opposition player or knocked into a position where the defending player can easily recover it. Much like with his passing, his decision making needs work.

Summary

Overall Windass isn’t a bad player for this level and is at an age where he can still develop and work on his game. Its unclear what sort of system Gerrard will operate but with Jamie Murphy making the left hand side his own I wouldn’t expect Windass to oust him from that position so it all depends on how the rest of the midfield and the front line shape up as to whether Windass has a future at Ibrox.

There has been plenty of speculation over the last 6 months surrounding his future, with Cardiff being the latest side linked with a move. It’s unclear as to whether the £3m release clause has come from the player or the club but considering the amount of money that gets thrown around south of the border you can see why the media are speculating that it’s a tempting sum for the newly promoted Premier League side. It maybe also be similarly tempting for an attack minded Championship side to take a punt on too.


This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.