As you know, we’re in for Tom Hopper. In truth, we know nothing now that we didn’t know on Monday night, but some outlets are wanting your clicks by continually posting articles about developments they know little of.
Seriously, I’ve read about three updates on the situation and each one says the same thing. Wider media are as bad, I read an article today on there being a cash penalty for Tyler Walker if he’s recalled. Wow. That’s not new news but someone out there will repackage it that way for you.
What there is often a lack of is something new, something with one foot in the realm of actual interest. Since we’ve got rid of the adverts and gone to the Patreon system, we have no need to try to get your clicks. Instead, I want to produce content that is a little bit informative.
For those who don’t know, I’ve been doing some live videos on Facebook on my morning dog walk and yesterday’s was on Tom Hopper, as you can see below.
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Anyway, I wanted to have a look at Tom Hopper and see what he might bring to us. I covered his background here if you missed it and the one point I flagged up was his injury at Southend. For those who don’t know, we’ve been after him for a while, both under the previous manager and this one. We wanted him in the January window of 2018 and I understand at the time a deal was almost sorted, then he bagged two in two games for the Iron and it sank.
At the end of the season, he left Scunthorpe and was involved in talks with us again. Again, I was led to believe at the time a deal was achingly close, only for Southend to come in at last minute and offer League One football. Our manager at the time told me he admired Hopper’s decision to reject us as it showed he had the ambition to play at a higher level. The choice seemed to work out for him; he hit seven goals before injury struck.
This season he’s back from injury and hasn’t been as prolific but, for those who can see the Facebook video I did, that might be because Southend are not functioning as a unit this season. They’re creating less and that means he’s seeing less of the ball; or does it?
I decided to compare Tom’s start last season to his input this season, trying to see if it looks like injury has affected him, or their form. I suppose my worry is the ‘Big John syndrome’. John Akinde was a lethal finisher at Barnet but with the greatest respect hasn’t done that for us. His long-term injury at Underhill affected him to some degree in my eyes and I wonder if Tom is the same.
Tom has played 16 times this season, 14 in League One and twice in cup competitions, whilst he played 14 times in the league last season but not at all in the cup. Wyscout’s stats are worked out by minutes on the field, so the obvious ‘seven goals in 14 games’ doesn’t mean a goal every 0.50 – it considers when he as not on the pitch too. At the start of last season, he was prolific though, scoring one every two games. That’s Tyler Walker territory and if we got that Tom Hopper, we’d be overjoyed.
This season he hasn’t hit the same heights, but he is playing for the worst team in the division. He’s scored three in matches and it works out to around 0.23 per game, or around one in four. Again, considering he’s coming back from an injury that’s not terrible, it puts him in Shay McCartan territory and I think we all rated McCartan’s input.
His shots on target has sunk and that’s as much a reflection on the injury as anything I think. He had an average of 42.3% on target last season, but that’s dropped to 35.5% this season. When you consider the sharp drop in goals it looks interesting; the two have not fallen at the same rate. Are his shots this season on target, but not as effective? Has he come up against better keepers? Or is he simply finding that sharpness he had last time out?
Interestingly, he’s won more of his aerial duels this season than he did last time out. That has to be a reflection of their style as much as anything. Southend are in a tough position and are likely playing a more direct style now, by necessity, than they did under Chris Powell. Both figures are decent for a centre forward, the defender is usually going to win 60% or more by virtue of the fact he’s coming onto the ball, not waiting for it to drop, and they’re usually bigger too. Winning 50% at this level for a striker is decent. We won’t be going direct, but Hopper will give us an edge when we do have to go long instead of playing out from the back. MA did say this week that he felt we weren’t very good at trying to win the loose ball in the final third, perhaps this is a step towards sorting that issue.
I’ll skip xG for fear of offending people. Again, I would guess this is linked to Southend not creating as many chances which in turn reflects on Hooper as a whole. What is worth noting is his goals to xG ratio is about right this season, whereas he slightly outperformed himself last season.
Finally, touches in the box. This is a great stats because to me it shows off a degree of positional awareness. You’d be surprised at how few touches in the box strikers average over a season. Tyler, this season, gets 3.48 touches in the box per game. That’s in a creative team and as a lone striker. Tom had 3.19 at the beginning of last season, which reflects well on him given the number of goals he scored. This season that has dropped, again perhaps because of Southend’s form.
The numbers suggest to me that he’s lacking sharpness, but hasn’t been majorly affected by his lay off. The drop seems to be across the board, indicating to me that it’s as related to their form as anything. If the injury had seriously affected him we’d see a drastic drop in accuracy I feel, which we’ve seen, but not to a huge degree. My gut feeling is with the right training and atmosphere, Tom Hopper could be a big asset to us. Do I think he’s a 20-goal-a-season striker? No. Do I think he’ll complement a young, energetic forward on loan from a bigger club? Absolutely.
Now, best go check to see if the negotiations are continuing, doubtless an outlet somewhere will have the same information repackaged for us.