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Analysis: Goals, aerial dominance, skill and physicality – What Jay Emmanuel-Thomas would bring to Aberdeen

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scores to make it 1-0 Livingston during a Scottish Cup against Aberdeen.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scores to make it 1-0 Livingston during a Scottish Cup against Aberdeen.

Aberdeen are closing in on a deal to sign Livingston striker Jay Emmanuel-Thomas – but what would the former Arsenal striker bring to Pittodrie?

Would he bring the goals and presence in attack the Dons were lacking throughout the  season?

In losing 4-0 to Rangers at the weekend, Aberdeen matched an unwanted club record in scoring the least amount of league goals in a league season – just 36.

After slumping to the worst league goals return in the club’s 118-year history, a major revamp of the misfiring attack is needed in the summer.

Aberdeen boss Stephen Glass has a clean slate available to change his attack as no senior strikers are signed for the 2021-22 campaign.

Glass is set to make Emmanuel-Thomas his fourth signing following the capture of Celtic captain Scott Brown, Motherwell’s Scotland international defender Declan Gallagher and Oldham keeper Gary Woods.

Livingston boss David Martindale has confirmed talks are ongoing between his club and Aberdeen regarding the 30-year-old.

Emmanuel-Thomas had looked set to secure a lucrative move to Asia this summer, but Martindale now expects the striker to stay in Scotland with Aberdeen.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas celebrates his goal to make it 1-0 during a Scottish Cup tie against Aberdeen.

Aberdeen supporters will be well aware of the potency of Emmanuel-Thomas, also know as JET, as he scored three times in Livingston’s previous two games against the Dons.

He netted a double, and converted his spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out, in Livingstons’s Scottish Cup loss to Aberdeen on April 17.

The former Ipswich Town and Bristol City attacker then netted a sublime right-footed volley in the 2-1 loss to the Dons on May 1.

This season he netted nine goals in 31 appearances and, on drilling down into the stats, it becomes clear how he could potentially strengthen Aberdeen next season.

Comparison of Emmanuel-Thomas with Aberdeen’s strikers. Supplied by Opta

In comparing the Premiership statistics for JET and Aberdeen’s strikers for the season, the Livingston striker had the highest conversion rate of chances at 15.63% and the highest expected goals – and also goals scored.

Expected goals (xG) measures the quality of an effort at goal based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal.

Emmanuel-Thomas scored more Premiership goals than he should have according to the level of the chances he had.

On-loan St Johnstone striker Callum Hendry was the best of the Dons strikers with a 15.38% shot conversion rate during his loan spell at Pittodrie.

Callum Hendry is congratulated after his first Aberdeen goal.

His xG is 2.57 and the 23-year-old scored twice in the Premiership, so he has netted marginally less than expected when based on the standard of  his goal opportunities.

The other loan strikers, Florian Kamberi (St Gallen) and Fraser Hornby (Stade de Reims), failed to score in the Premiership and were behind their xG, with Kamberi’s 0.9 and Hornby’s 1.91.

Hornby’s opportunity in front of goal at the weekend Rangers was a clear opportunity- but he pushed it wide.

Glass has tabled the offer of a contract extension to Bruce Anderson, who is out of contract at Pittodrie this summer.

Hamilton’s Bruce Anderson celebrates his equaliser against St Mirren on February 25.

Anderson spent the second half of the season on loan at relegated Hamilton and he, like Emmanuel-Thomas, exceeded the expected goal return on standard of chances offered.

His xG was 1.8 and Anderson, in a team battling relegation, hit two goals.

In terms of delivering crosses and assists, however, Emmanuel-Thomas is way behind Kamberi, despite both playing out wide for their respective teams in recent games.

JET pitched in with three crosses, with one of them successful, while Kamberi delivered 12 – although crucially only one of the Albanian international’s led to a goal.

Analysis of passing and assists of Emmanuel-Thomas and the Aberdeen strikers. Supplied by Opta

Towering in at six-foot-three inches and powerfully built, it is no surprise Emmanuel-Thomas was way ahead of all the Aberdeen strikers in terms of winning aerial battles in the Premiership this season.

He won more than double any Dons player with 117 aerial battles won.

The closest to JET was Hendry on 45 when also taking into account his games with St Johnstone in the first half of the campaign.

It is clear Emmanuel-Thomas would bring a strong aerial and physical presence to the Aberdeen attack if, as expected, Glass’ move to sign him works out.

Statistical analysis of Emmanuel-Thomas and Aberdeen strikers duels. Supplied by Opta

JET signed for Livingston in October last year on a short-term deal until the summer.

The former England youth international had previously played for PTT Rayong in the Thai top flight.

Livingston boss Martindale admitted it was only the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on overseas travel which allowed him to secure the striker.

Following the cup loss to Aberdeen last month, Martindale said: “To be honest, we shouldn’t have a player of that calibre because he can go elsewhere and make a lot more money.”

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas celebrates his goal to make it 1-0 during a Scottish Cup tie against Aberdeen.

It is in the games against Aberdeen where JET surely caught the attention of Pittodrie boss Glass, with goals rounding off impressive performances.

He was influential in Livingston’s penalty shoot-out loss to Aberdeen with a brace and followed that up soon after with another goal in the 2-1 league loss.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas stats against Aberdeen in Livingston’s 2-1 Premiership loss. Supplied by Opta

In that game against the Dons, Martindale played Emmanuel-Thomas in a wide right role, but he still had 10 shots inside Aberdeen’s penalty area.

His touch and heat maps indicate he was highly effective and influential on the right flank and also posed a threat when lurking at the periphery of the penalty area.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas heat map in 2-1 loss to Aberdeen. Supplied by Opta

Despite his undoubted physical presence, Emmanuel-Thomas also reads the game superbly as was shown in his goal against the Dons when he drifted away from the defenders to become completely unmarked inside the box.

He displayed composure and lethal finishing ability when then running on to a cross to volley in from 10 yards with his right foot.

For an indication of what JET can bring to Pittodrie, there is no better optic than his last performance against Aberdeen, where he scored that late volley.

In an analysis of Emmanuel-Thomas, who was played on the right, and Aberdeen’s Callum Hendry and Florian Kamberi, it emerges the Livi attacker had almost double the touches in the opposition box as the two Dons strikers combined.

Emmanuel-Thomas mustered 10 touches in the 18-yard area with three shots at goal, two blocked and one goal.

He was also highly influential in the danger area on the edge of penalty box.

Touch map for Jay-Emmanuel Thomas in 2-1 loss to Aberdeen. Supplied by Opta

In contrast, Kamberi – who was playing on the left flank predominantly – had only two touches inside Livingston’s 18-yard box and also had far less play around the outside edges of the penalty area.

In that match, Kamberi had one shot, which was on target, and pitched in with an assist for Ryan Hedges’ goal.

Florian Kamberi touch-map in Aberdeen’s 2-1 win at Livingston. Supplied by Opta

Hendry was the busiest of the Dons attacker’s against Livi in the opposition half with four touches.

Crucially all four of those touches were shots at goal, with Hendry scoring the opener.

He had two shots on target and one blocked by a defender.

Callum Hendry touch map – Livingston 1 Aberdeen 2. Aberdeen. Supplied by Opta

When directly comparing Emmanuel-Thomas and Hendry, who both scored, in that recent match at the Tony Macaroni Arena, the on-loan Dons striker had more shots on and off target.

However, the Livi attacker created three additional chances.

Analysis of performances of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Callum Hendry in Aberdeen’s 2-1 defeat of Livingston. Supplied by Opta

On-loan St Gallen striker Kamberi also had more shots on target in Aberdeen’s 2-1 defeat – but it was Emmanuel-Thomas who made his count with his superb volley.


Stat analysis of Florian Kamberi and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in Aberdeen’s 2-1 win. Supplied by Opta.

Both started out wide in that match and it was Kamberi who delivered more crosses into the box, with two.

Team line-up for Livingston v Aberdeen. Supplied by Opta

Emmanuel-Thomas was played on the right of an attacking three against Aberdeen with Majej Poplatnick leading the line.

He made six successful passes with right-back Nicky Devlin on the right and also fed in Slovenian Poplatnick three times.

Emmanuel-Thomas called time on his Livingston career at the weekend when again starting on the right in the 0-0 draw at Scottish Cup finalists St Johnstone.

Team line-up for St Johnstone 0 Livingston 0. Supplied by Opta

Against St Johnstone, he was not as restricted to the right flank as when facing Aberdeen and constantly switched across the midfield three.

He was also influential in a central role in support of Plopatnick and also featured on the left flank.

That versatility could certainly fit into the style of attacking, fast play Glass aims to bring to Aberdeen next season.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas heat map in 0-0 draw at St Johnstone. Supplied by Opta
A versatile attacker, who can clearly play on either flank, in a No.10 role or as a centre-forward leading the line, Emmanuel-Thomas could be a strong signing for Aberdeen.

Dominant in the air, he also has the skill and game awareness to make him a key addition.

Although JET netted nine goals, he did not start the campaign until October and took time to get up to speed after months without a game prior to signing at Livingston.

With a full pre-season behind him, Emmanuel-Thomas is a player who could deliver double figures for the Dons next season.

However, manager Glass will need more than one attacker to get between 10 to 20 goals next season if there is to be a concerted push for success.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.