A statistical breakdown of Bongi Ntuli’s PSL season so far

This article was produced by Laduma Analytics for Extra Time Media.

When you look at the list of players who are top scorers in the PSL this season, you cannot help but wonder about some of the names that stick out. For instance, in between Mhango (Orlando Pirates – 14), Bradley Grobler (SuperSport United – 12) and Samir Nurkovic (Kaizer Chiefs – 11) sits AmaZulu forward Bongi Ntuli on 12 goals.

This is a decent scoring statistic. Yet, what makes them even more outstanding for Ntuli is that he has scored 86% of AmaZulu’s (12/14) goals this season. The other two coming from Butholezwe Ncube and Siyethemba Sithebe.

Ntuli, who is single-handedly keeping AmaZulu in contention for PSL football next season has done so through clever thinking and killer instinct. The below heatmap shows us where Ntuli touches the ball. This gives us an overview of a) how active he is during the game in terms of contribution on the ball and b) more importantly, where he looks for the ball.

The left heatmap shows an overall view of where Ntuli receives the ball in play. As the visual shows, most of his touches of the ball come in the opposition half towards the right-wing area. Upon further examination, the right-hand chart, breaks the touches down further by areas on a pitch, more specifically the wings, the half-spaces and the central areas of the pitch. For a centre forward, this is not an ideal position to be in unless you play a big part in your team’s build-up play. Whilst he averages 18 passes per game and a passing success rate of 73%, he is just not a big name among forwards in the PSL for passing numbers nor is he within AmaZulu’s ball progression play. The players within AmaZulu we have profiled as the highest involvement in play scenarios (who have played at least 1,000 minutes) are team-mates Siyethemba Sithebe & Butholezwe Ncube.

What Ntuli lacks in so-called build-up play, he makes up through his intense pace and tricky feet. As such, among PSL forwards, he ranks above average in our dribble success measure, as shown in the graph below.

His best attribute this season has been the ability to score goal from a variety of chances. In terms of where his shots have come from, the profile below is exactly what you would be looking for from your target man. He has taken most of his shots inside the box in an area that is often referred to as the ‘Danger Zone’ whilst a few attempts have also come from outside the box. It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this piece that research has shown, this is where most goals are scored from.

Whilst Ntuli may have the pace and dribbling ability this season, he has also shown clear knowledge of how to score vital goals for AmaZulu. Yet, there is one part that requires further examination. Is this goal-scoring form he is currently on, in any shape or form sustainable? To examine that, let’s examine the table below where we have broken down his shooting statistics over the last few seasons.

Player Name Season Shots Shots per game Goals scored Goal Conversion%
Bongi Ntuli 2019/20* 41 1.77 12 29%
Bongi Ntuli 2018/19 42 1.75 8 19%
Bongi Ntuli 2017/18 38 1.73 5 13%

  S: Shots taken; SG: Shots per game; G: Goals scored; G%: Goal conversion rate;

  *season still underway

As is clearly noticeable, Ntuli’s conversion rate has sky-rocketed this season and while AmaZulu have profited from this form of goal scoring, the club and its fans should be worried for several reasons.

  1. Most notably, he is what we would classify as a low volume shooter. This means whilst his volume of shots has stayed consistent, he has somehow managed to score more goals than the previous seasons. Because of this, his ability to convert shots into goals has dramatically increased while he has taken the same amount of shots.
  2. Thanks to Danny Page’s simulation tool, we can classify based on the quantity & quality of shots that Ntuli has taken, how many goals should he really have scored.

What the graph above tells us is that Bongi Ntuli scored 12 goals (green bar). Yet based on all the chances he has had this season, we would have expected him to score approximately 9 goals rather than 12. This would also align closer to how he has performed in previous seasons.

Conclusions

While we have examined how Ntuli’s goal scoring ability could most likely be impacted, the more potent question should be addressed to the AmaZulu board? Having read this piece of analysis, I would raise serious questions as to how AmaZulu are going  about addressing this problem.

While the question of relegation is a serious concern, do they

  1. Accept the situation and run with this performance of Ntuli going forward?
  2. Change their approach and rely on others to contribute to the goal scoring issue?
  3. Look into replacement options for Ntuli, who also is not the youngest striker anymore.
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Laduma Analytics
Our story began a month before the 2018 FIFA World Cup from a coffee shop. Our aim was to enhance the conversation of soccer in South Africa through the use of data analysis. We specialise in any of the following areas: game analysis, opposition analysis, team/player profiling & recruitment analysis of potential new recruits. We tell a story with the data.