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Merry Chris-mas or Jingle Boyles? Top Premiership goal-getters analysed ahead of tonight’s Hibs v Aberdeen clash

It's Aberdeen's Christian Ramirez v Hibs' Martin Boyle - and it's Christmas
It's Aberdeen's Christian Ramirez v Hibs' Martin Boyle - and it's Christmas

One is a Northfield-raised attacker who knocked his hometown team back in the summer to extend his deal with Hibs, the other is a Californian striker who has swapped the beaches of the US west coast for terrorising defences with Aberdeen.

But who is having a better season – Martin Boyle or Christian Ramirez? Both are right up there in the hunt for the golden boot this festive period.

We’ve taken a look at the stats both have been putting up in the Premiership so far ahead of their expected pre-Christmas meeting tonight when Aberdeen visit Hibs at Easter Road.

Two of the Premiership’s leading goalscorers

It’s undeniable both Ramirez and Boyle have had strong starts to their respective campaigns in terms of goals scored – with Ramirez (and Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi) second only to Motherwell’s Tony Watt in the league scoring charts.

Ramirez’s early months at Aberdeen have been so good in fact, other publications have listed him among the top-20 players in the top-flight, while he has also been adopted as an honorary Aberdonian by the Red Army.

Boyle, meanwhile, is in a tie for fourth with Liam Boyce of Hearts and Alfredo Morelos of Rangers.

The Scottish Premiership’s top goalscorers.

Only one top-flight strike separates Ramirez and Boyle as things stand. While the Stars and Stripes-capped hitman has eight goals to his name so far, the more pacey Socceroo (that’s the Australian nation team to the unitiated) has seven.

It is worth noting, despite Boyle also being capable of playing wide and in the no.10 slot, it is out-and-out no.9 Ramirez who has also set up two goals so far this season , while Boyle has yet to provide an assist to any of his team-mates.

Similar goal returns, but is either performing better or worse than they should be?

While Ramirez is slightly ahead of Boyle in the goalscoring charts, the Dons man is also performing better against measures like expected goals (xG) than Boyle.

Christian Ramirez celebrates after scoring to make it 4-1 Aberdeen against St Mirren on December 4.

Let’s have a look at their comparative attacking stats.

Both players have played similar amounts of games (18 for Ramirez v 17 for Boyle), minutes (1,489 v 1,510) and we know how many goals they’ve both scored.

They are also playing in teams with very similar numbers for the campaign, with a recent upturn in form meaning Aberdeen go into tonight’s game against the Hibees one point better off and one position higher in the table than their hosts.

It’s all laid out in the Premiership table, but – as a side – the Dons have scored 23 goals, while Hibs have netted 20.

Head-to-head stats for Hibs’ Martin Boyle and Aberdeen’s Christian Ramirez.

Where Ramirez and Boyle’s seasons – as attackers tasked with bagging these goals – start to diverge is in the positions they’re finding themselves in, the amount of shots they’re taking and converting.

Ramirez, as you can see above, takes less shots per 90 minutes and converts more.

As Reds fans have seen, the American is your classic penalty box striker (or ‘predator’ or ‘poacher’ or however you want to label him). He’s in the right place at the right time to score and, invariably, this ‘right place’ is inside the penalty area.

Look at the expected goals (xG) map for the player below, which clearly shows Ramirez plays a percentage game where he gets a lot of high-quality chances in and around the goalmouth.

You’ll also see, however – despite the close-range nature of his goals – they are not deemed by Opta to be easy goals. The stats gurus reckon 5.4 goals would be the right return from the chances he’s had, but Ramirez has overperformed by finishing eight off.

An expected goals map for Aberdeen’s Christian Ramirez.

All eight of Ramirez’s goals have come inside the box. Boyle, meanwhile, playing up front with a more traditional striker in Kevin Nisbet, has registered a counter from outside the area.

Here is Boyle’s xG map. In it, we see a player who is also overperforming against the chances he’s had, although not as dramatically as Ramirez.

Three of Boyle’s goals came from chances with a low xG rating, which suggests, like his Reds rival, he has a knack for finding a way to score.

Also, note the lack of efforts from in and around the six-yard box.

An expected goals map for Hibs’ Martin Boyle.

However, the big red circles – four in total – overlaid in the middle of the graphic reflect a key difference between Ramirez and the Hibs striker: Boyle takes his side’s penalties.

Penalties make a difference to Boyle’s numbers

The table below puts a whole new spin on Boyle’s attacking showings compared to Ramirez this season.

Without penalites, Boyle’s xG is just 1.66 for the 17 games he’s played in the Premiership. He’s still overperforming in terms of goals scored, according to Opta, but nowhere near as well as Ramirez.

Excluding penalties, former Minnesota United hitman Ramirez is averaging 0.33 goals per 90 minutes, with Boyle averaging 0.1 goal.

So it actually isn’t much of a competition at all as things stand, not from open play.

Martin Boyle scores a penalty to put Hibs in front during the cinch Premiership match against St Johnstone at Easter Road on September 25.

Zoning in on the form of recent weeks

Both Aberdeen and Hibs’ form has dipped at points this term.

While the Dons are currently back on the up and on a three-match Premiership winning streak, Hibs’ victory against Dundee was their first league win since September 25 (the game pictured above which they won with a Boyle penalty).

During this barren run, which saw Jack Ross sacked as Hibs boss, Boyle only netted once in the league – in a 3-1 defeat against Celtic.

Although he scored a League Cup semi-final hat-trick to beat Rangers at Hampden, he also became a social media sensation when he blasted a spot-kick miles over the bar in the Easter Road side’s 1-0 defeat to Livingston on December 8.

Whether Boyle’s shooting boots will return under new boss Shaun Maloney – another son of the north-east, who will make his Hibs dugout debut against the Dons tonight – remains to be seen.

For Ramirez, it has been a relatively seamless move to Scottish football.

His only slight bump in the road was a run of five league games without a goal, which ended when he netted two against St Mirren on December 4 in a 4-1 Pittodrie win.

The American is well on his way to 20 goals in all competitions this season.

Will either player get on the scoresheet tonight? If we were betting, our money would be on Ramirez.