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What Is It About El Kaabi?




“The Worst 30-Goal Striker”

“For every goal he misses three sitters”

“Can score bicycles but not the one in front of goal”

“Great work rate”

“Horrible Touch”

“Always Finds Himself In Scoring Position”

 

This is barely a fraction of the things said by Olympiacos fans about Ayoub El Kaabi. For anyone that has not watched Olympiacos this season, it almost feels unthinkable that anyone would complain about a striker on track for 30 goals in a single season. If you have watched Olympiacos play, then you understand every single one of the quotes above. So how can we get to the bottom of the profile that is El Kaabi? How can a player that seems to miss so many quality opportunities be one of the best value strikers we have had at this club in the modern era? For me, I put my trust in numbers. Now let’s have a look at some courtesy of our old friend, Wyscout.


El Kaabi has registered 26 goals so far this season in 38 appearances totalling 2,651 minutes across all competitions. This tally represents an overperformance compared to his season long xG of 20.99. The Morocco international has netted these 26 goals from 79 shots overall. This represents a season long goal conversion rate of 32.91%. This conversion rate is massively improved since the 30-year-old returned from the Africa Cup of Nations. Prior to AFCON his goal conversion rate was below 30%, but since Copa Africa his goal conversion rate has been near 40%. I know I’ve just thrown a ton of numbers at you. They may sound good alone, but how do they stack up when we compare to other top centre-forwards? Let’s have a look at El Kaabi compared to the other top 5 strikers in comparing goals scored in all competitions in club football.


  • Fotis Ioannidis (Panathinaikos) – 21 Goals in 38 appearances totalling 2,681 minutes

  • Loren Moron (Aris) – 16 Goals in 37 appearances totalling 3,112 minutes

  • Kiril Despodov(Paok) – 17 Goals in 49 appearances totalling 3,391 minutes

  • Levi Garcia(AEK) – 14 Goals in 22 appearances totalling 1,524 minutes


Let’s take this a step further as a measure of goal frequency:


Goal Frequency

Ayoub El Kaabi – 102 Minutes per Goal

Fotis Ioannidis – 128 Minutes per Goal

Loren Moron – 194.5 Minutes per Goal

Kiril Despodov – 199.5 Minutes per Goal

Levi Garcia – 108 Minutes per Goal

 

So of the top goalscorers in the Greek Superleague, El Kaabi represents not only the most goals overall, but the most frequent goalscorer. Unfortunately, this still does not address the concerns so many people have about his wasted opportunities. Let’s dive a little bit deeper and compare goal conversion rates among the top scorers.


Goal Conversion %( Goals/Total Shots)

Ayoub El Kaabi – 32.91%

Fotis Ioannidis – 23.6%

Loren Moron – 17.2%

Kiril Despodov – 21.05%

Levi Garcia – 23.73%

 

After looking at goals scored as a function of total shots and not just total time played, it just makes Olympiacos fans seem even more illogical. As you can see El Kaabi has the highest goal conversion rate among the top scorers in the Super League. So, all we have managed to conclude so far is that the Moroccan is the most frequent scorer in Greece and the top in converting his chances. What makes this even crazier is if we look at his Shot On Target percentage. Of El Kaabi’s 79 shots, 46 were on target. So, this means the striker converts almost 57% of his shots into goals as long as he keeps them on target.

So is there a way to quantify the complaints that so many red-and-white fans have about El Kaabi? Well, we’ve looked at scoring frequency, goal conversion, and on target percentages. Let’s now have a look at goals based on total touches in the penalty area.

 

Touches in Penalty Area

Ayoub El Kaabi – 127, Conversion Rate: 20.47%

Fotis Ioannidis – 139, Conversion Rate: 15.1%

Loren Moron – 99, Conversion Rate: 16.16%

Kiril Despodov – 120, Conversion Rate: 14.16%

Levi Garcia – 84, Conversion Rate: 16.67%

 

Even when we look at goals scored as a measure of total touch volume inside the penalty area, El Kaabi still shows himself to be a class above the rest in terms of efficiency converting his chances. While all we have managed to do is make our Olympiacos fans feel a little worse about their opinions, there is still something we have not compared yet. Perhaps it is the nostalgia of prime Youssef El Arabi that many of our red-and-white brothers are holding onto. Let’s compare the best of El Arabi to El Kaabi using the benchmarks above.


Goals by Appearance

El Arabi 19/20 – 27 goals in 51 appearances, 2,955 minutes

El Arabi 20/21 – 28 goals in 49 appearances, 3,565 minutes

El Arabi 21/22 – 23 goals in 49 appearances, 3,173 minutes

 

Goal Frequency

El Arabi 19/20 – 109.4 Minutes per Goal

El Arabi 20/21 – 127.3 Minutes per Goal

El Arabi 21/22 – 138 Minutes per Goal

 

Even in El Arabi’s best seasons he did not have the same goal frequency that El Kaabi currently has (102 Minutes per Goal)

 

Goal Conversion

El Arabi 19/20 – 26.47%

El Arabi 20/21 – 28%

El Arabi 21/22 – 25.84%

 

We call El Arabi the killer and one of the best goalscorers in the club’s history, yet El Kaabi has a significantly higher goal conversion rate than El Arabi at his best!

 

Touches in Penalty Area

El Arabi 19/20 – 154, Conversion Rate: 17.53%

El Arabi 20/21 – 162, Conversion Rate: 17.28%

El Arabi 21/22 – 163, Conversion Rate: 14.11%

 

There you have it. There is no metric that any other top Greek scorer nor El Arabi can match when it comes to finishing. Not only is El Kaabi the best finisher in Greece, but he’s also a better pure finisher than prime El Arabi. It does not matter whether we are talking overall stats, frequency, accuracy, our via total touch volume. El Kaabi is in the clear in all categories.

 

The Proper Arguments Against El Kaabi

While we have shown that El Kaabi is the best pure finisher in Greece and Olympiacos in recent seasons, there are still plenty of arguments against him. First and foremost, there is one thing El Kaabi does not have in common with El Arabi or the other top scorers in Greece. The difference we are talking about is assists. El Kaabi has 0 assists while players like Kiril Despodov have double-digit assists. Even El Arabi was good for close to 10 assists per season. In this respect, Moroccan legend had more overall goal contributions than El Kaabi, as do some of the other top scorers. In this respect, El Kaabi loses out to the other top scorers in Greece. There is almost 0 potential for build-up or creation with him. He is an outlet and a workhorse off of the ball. This in and of itself is not necessarily a problem as long as the club maintains options like Stevan Jovetic that offer a different dimension to the attack.


Context is the most important thing when it comes to building and maintaining a roster. This club has needed a finisher since the decline of El Arabi. El Kaabi will never be able to create or do to defenders what El Arabi did for us in his prime. At this point, though, we do not need El Kaabi to be another El Arabi. We just need El Kaabi to put away the chances that are in front of him more often than not. Most importantly, we need to renew him for next season.

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