Effective man management is imperative to producing a successful football team, maintaining belief that underperforming players will come good and flooding them with optimistic confidence. Trust and loyalty must eventually reach an end product and for Brighton and Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton, his patience invested in striker Tomer Hemed must be wearing thin.
The Israeli forward is Albion’s joint-top goalscorer but don’t let that title con you into thinking the 28-year-old has broken the goal net this season, he’s been far from prolific. With 12 goals shared equally between Hemed and cult hero Bobby Zamora, the tally seems fair but the finer details tell a whole different story.
Hemed’s six goals have come from 26 league appearances in Brighton colours, starting on 24 occasions and woefully finding the back of the net only once in his last 19 outings. He may have hit the ground running at the start of the season, scoring five goals in his opening seven games but since then the summer signing from Almeria has been disappointingly ineffective in front of goal.
Brought in by Hughton, Hemed was supposedly the strong target man the club lost in Leonardo Ulloa, who also arrived from Almeria before Albion cashed in for £8 million. A couple of weeks into the season, Hemed looked like the real deal and Hughton was hailed for his clever transfer business. Unfortunately, form is and was temporary and as Bobby Zamora’s stats show, class really is permanent.
Zamora’s six goal contribution has been produced via a different method, far less game time and precision in front of goal. The 35-year-old’s goal tally is equal to the number of times Hughton has named Zamora in the starting XI, with his 15 other appearances being a collection of short cameo’s from his pampered position on the bench.
With only ten shots this season, Zamora’s goal/shot ratio destroys Hemed’s record of six goals from 26 shots. The fans favourite has hit the target on nine occasions, meaning the frontman has scored a goal for every 1.5 shots taken on target. Hemed’s ratio works out at around 3.7, with 22 of his shots testing the keeper.
Where Hemed may find himself rather unlucky is the amount of times he has hit the goal frame this season, four times in comparison to Zamora’s single effort. Of course, this is a reflection of the significant difference in game time both players have enjoyed this season, also remembering that hitting the woodwork is a lesser achievement than shooting inside the target.
Zamora’s only string of consecutive starts produced influential results, as the once capped England international scored in all three appearances, earning a respectable draw away at Burnley before notching vital goals in wins over Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic.
All three of his other goals have secured victories for the Albion, in back to back games against Leeds United and Bristol City in October, before most recently ending Albion’s winless run at Blackburn Rovers.
Of course, with Zamora celebrating his 35th birthday last weekend, there’s no denying he is approaching the closing stages of his career and may lack the fitness levels that helped him rise from the English football’s fourth tier to the Europa League Final.
Zamora’s age has been Hemed’s biggest blessing but as the club approach the business end of the season, Hughton must either spend big in January or transfer his unrewarded belief into the trusted hands of Zamora.
Albion’s number 25 contributes more than his teammate on all levels, from holding the ball up to making himself a nuisance for defenders. His link up play with the rest of the team is noticeably more fluent than Hemed’s input and with crystal clear stats leaning in Zamora’s favour, it’s about time Hughton took a gamble on his fitness and started reaping the rewards that are clearly on offer.