A-Leagues hitman compared to Euro stars as key to Socceroos call-up revealed

Newcastle Jets striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos has enjoyed a breakout season, putting him in the frame for Socceroos consideration. Using Opta data, we assess his case.

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos is enjoying a career-best campaign. With 14 goals in 20 Isuzu UTE A-League matches this season, he is the competition’s second highest scorer, behind joint-leaders Adam Taggart and Bruno Fornaroli, who have netted 15 each.

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Unfortunately for Newcastle Jets, Stamatelopoulos’ goals have not been enough to propel them up the table. They sit 11th, and will have to hope they can hold off Western United in a tussle to avoid the wooden spoon.

That has not been down to the efforts of Stamatelopoulos, who scored eight goals in his first 10 league matches of the season and has netted six in his last 10, albeit he went into the international break without a goal in three appearances.

Perhaps that is why the 24-year-old missed out on Graham Arnold’s latest Australia squad for the Socceroos’ fixtures against Lebanon, but it is fair to say Stamatelopoulos is perhaps unfortunate not to have made the cut.

Of the five strikers Arnold selected, only Melbourne City veteran Fornaroli and Perth’s Taggart have a better goal return this season in league play than Stamatelopoulos.

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Martin Boyle has managed just three goals in 23 Scottish Premiership games for Hibernian; Craig Goodwin – Adelaide United’s record goalscorer – has netted just six times in 18 Saudi Pro League appearances for Al-Wehda; John Iredale has struggled to spark in Germany’s second tier and Portsmouth attacker Kusini Yengi has scored seven goals in League One. 

Stamatelopoulos could consider himself hard done by. Especially when you compare his record to the rest of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Of players to score over 10 league goals in the competition this season, only former Jets star Taggart (111) and Fornaroli (93) have a better minutes-per-goal ratio than Stamatelopoulos (119), who boasts a better shot conversion rate (21.21 per cent) better than Perth Glory’s Taggart (17.24 per cent).

Stamatelopoulos has had 64 shots in the league, which ranks fourth, while he ranks third for non-penalty xG (10.3), with the Jets star having netted 10 such goals. 

Indeed, his overall goal tally has come from 13.7 xG, showing he is performing right about on track when it comes to finishing the chances he has been presented with or created through his own movement and play.

Perhaps Arnold, however, is concerned over Stamatelopoulos’ finishing in crucial moments. While his goal tally is high, his big chance conversion rate stands at just 44 per cent. That is lower than any of the attackers to have made the cut in the latest Australia squad.

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With five fixtures left for the Jets in the regular season, Stamatelopoulos is well in with a chance of breaking the club’s record for league goals in a single season, which was set by Taggart in 2013-14, when he scored 16.

Stamatelopoulos is level with Joel Griffiths (2006-07) in second place as it stands.

So, we know how Stamatelopoulos stacks up against other A-League players, the current crop of Socceroo attackers and even other Jets goalscorers.

But, how about some of Europe’s elite?

According to Opta’s model, Stamatelopoulos’ metrics this season compare well against the likes of Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid) and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), with an 81 per cent and 75 per cent similarity respectively when contrasted with the metrics of that duo from last season.

When stacked up against forwards from Europe’s top five leagues over the past 15 seasons, Stamatelopoulos’ metrics this season rank him in the 95th percentile for goals, 87th percentile for shots, 70th percentile for aerials won and 62nd percentile for touches in the opposition box.

That aerial prowess is proven by Stamatelopoulos’ five headed goals in the A-League this term, with only Western Sydney Wanderers forward Nicolas Milanovic managing to match that tally.

While the Jets are likely to ultimately have to lick their wounds come the end of the regular season, Stamatelopoulos can look proudly on his efforts so far, and it is just a shame he will be unable to show what he can do in the post-season.

Perhaps a move either abroad or to one of the big boys in the A-League will have to come for an Australia call-up to follow. Who knows, perhaps even a stint in Europe awaits, especially given the style similarities to the likes of Morata and Vlahovic.

For the Jets, they would be loath to lose their talisman, and will be hoping Stamatelopoulos can instead change their fortunes heading into next season. He certainly has the quality to do so.

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