De Zestien: “Vitesse could be even better without Wilfried Bony”

How good is Wilfried Bony? @SimonGleave, @11tegen11 and @michieldehoog put Bony’s record of 29 goals in 26 games in perspective.

Wilfried Bony scored again at the weekend, this time twice against NAC. The Vitesse striker is one of the success stories of the season. Should Vitesse fail to become champions, there is one question, which will undoubtedly spring to mind among the Arnhem faithful: What if Daddy Cool had not played in the Africa Cup of Nations?

How good is Wilfried Bony? He does not just score goals ; he also operates as a target man and sometimes even as a playmaker but it’s his goalscoring, which stands out. Bony is one of only fourteen Eredivisie players who have scored 29 times after 29 league games. It says a lot: Coen Dillen, Marco van Basten, Ruud van Nistelrooij and Johan Cruijff are all in that select group but it doesn’t say everything: Mateja Kezman, Nikos Machlas and Afonso Alves are there as well.

We must therefore ask: What is Bony? A van Nistelrooij or a Kezman? One of the top strikers in Europe or a Mickey Mouse goalscorer?

Top scorers in the Eredivisie after 29 rounds
Goals Player Club Season
36 Henk Groot Ajax 1960/1961
35 Coen Dillen PSV 1956/1957
35 Marco van Basten Ajax 1985/1986
32 Ruud Geels Ajax 1976/1977
31 Kees Kist AZ’ 67 1978/1979
31 Mateja Kezman PSV 2002/2003
31 Nikos Machlas Vitesse 1997/1998
30 Wim Kieft Ajax 1981/1982
29 Dick van Dijk FC Twente 1968/1969
29 Johan Cruijff Ajax 1966/1967
29 Ruud van Nistelrooij PSV 1999/2000
29 Leo Canjels NAC 1958/1959
29 Luis Suárez Ajax 2009/2010
29 Wilfried Bony Vitesse 2012/2013
Data courtesy of the Infostrada Sports Group
Wilfried Bony is spearheading Vitesse's championship charge.

Wilfried Bony is spearheading Vitesse’s championship charge.

As we wrote before, one of the hallmarks of the best strikers in the Netherlands is that they have more than 100 shots per season. Bony has had 104 shots this season and needs just 3.6 shots on average per goal. Impressive but he cannot maintain this average over a greater number of matches. Even Lionel Messi needs more shots (4.25 per goal).

Bony is therefore probably quite lucky but that doesn’t mean he is a flash in the pan or an also-ran. The best finishers need around 3 shots on target to score a goal (N.B. There is a difference between shots and shots on target). Over the last eight years, Bony has the best ratio of shots on target to goals (29 goals from 47 shots on target = 1.6 shots per goal) – with the minimum qualification being 100 shots. He will most likely be unable to maintain this but even if those numbers fall away considerably, it’s still averagely impressive.

This makes Bony an interesting player for bigger clubs. What these clubs will also notice is that Bony is often in the right place – an underrated quality. That said, in a stronger league Bony will have less chances and will need more shots in order to score a goal.

Another warning for potential buyers – or rather, two warnings: Mateja Kezman and Afonso Alves. Alves had similar statistics back in 2006-07 to Bony’s now. Middlesbrough were quick to buy Alves for £15 million and that just about the last we heard from him. Alves is now playing for Al Gharafa in Qatar and we wish him all the best. (A small crumb of comfort for Middlesbrough: the current Oranje coach was also ready to shell out a considerable sum for the Brazilian).


Afonso Alves was a big hit in Heerenveen but flopped in England with Middlesbrough. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Finally we look at Bony from another angle. He has scored 29 goals so far, a considerable amount. Vitesse on the other hand have scored just 60. It’s not a bad total but it’s nothing special and quite low for potential champions (especially by Eredivisie standards). These figures are rather telling as far as Bony is concerned. If he was such a class act, you would expect that his contribution would mean more goals for Vitesse but the proportion of 29 goals from 60 proves that he is in effect a cannibal. Bony’s goals come at the expense of his teammates who play entirely for his benefit.

Set against that background, the achievements of Ajax and PSV stand out even more. They both score considerably more goals and that without a genuinely prolific leading scorer and equally without the same media hype. The leading scorers will receive a lot of attention but they don’t necessarily have to bring added value to the team. Here’s a statistic to support our premise: In the last 10 Eredivisie seasons, only once did the top scorer play for the champions – Mounir El Hamdaoui from AZ. (And what is he doing now?)

What does all that make Bony then? We don’t know for sure but if we have to choose: a Mickey Mouse goalscorer.

Of course in theory, Bony could keep up his high shots-to-goals ratio and he is most certainly a more complete player than Alves, Kezman and Machlas. Maybe the last two had a good degree of bad luck in their post-Eredivisie careers, which mean they are not a good guide for how Bony may fare. Is Bony currently overrated? Absolutely, like many top scorers.

Vitesse would be ill-advised not to sell Bony as soon as possible while they can get a sizeable transfer fee for him.

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