First of all I want to apologise about that title, but you know how it goes, if you’re going to dedicate a whole article to Chris Martin then you’ve got to slip in an awful pun somewhere and I thought I’d get mine in early so you can read the rest of the column in peace.
Chris Martin is a man who has come under a lot of stick recently, just as Reading appear to be turning a corner, almost as much so as Dave Edwards and Tyler Blackett had before him. The Scottish forward has played 414 minutes in total since signing on loan from Derby County. In that time he has scored just once, to put that into perspective that’s one fewer than Omar Richards, who has scored more having had just three shots in the league this season.
For many fans he epitomises Reading’s loss of panache in the striking department this season. However, it’s not the lack of goals which many find frustrating, it’s the lack of any sign of life up top when Martin is on the pitch that rubs people up the wrong way and his apparent lack of interest. The stats back this up, as he averages just one shot every 83 minutes whilst in a Reading shirt. To put that into perspective, Leandro Bacuna, a midfielder who has played predominantly at right back and has scored just one league goal this season averages a shot every 82.5 minutes, a marginal difference considering the circumstances.
Yann Kermorgant, who likewise has scored just once a la Martin, and can be considered similar in stature, pace and positioning, has at least has averaged one shot every 40 minutes. Whilst our top scorers in all competitions, Mo Barrow and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson average one shot every 58.5 and 35 minutes respectively. The only shot on target Martin has had was his debut goal against Middlesbrough, which means he’s played just under 400 minutes of football since even testing the goalkeeper.
I don’t want to be seen as launching a scathing attack on a Reading player (although I’m sure some won’t mind considering his decreasing popularity) but it helps emphasise why he’s come in for such scathing criticism, particularly as we personally know how lethal he can be in front of goal. Martin has scored three times against us in the eighteen months alone for Fulham and parent club Derby respectively.
So what’s the problem?
Many will owe it to his arrogance, laziness and negative attitude, others to a clash in styles of play. These may well be the case. I did try and research the amount of distance Martin covers per game in comparison to the likes of Bodvarsson, but unfortunately couldn’t find it likewise it would be interesting to know how many crosses we have averaged a game recently and if anyone does know then please inform me.
To what extent is Chris Martin the problem, part of the problem or an innocent victim? Whilst Martin’s record doesn’t do him much justice, it is worth noting that Reading are the second worst shooters in the league this season averaging just 10 shots a game, only Burton Albion have had fewer pops at goal, with only 8.3 a match. Brentford, the league leaders in this regard, average 17.5, which is hardly surprising considering the way in which they peppered our goal back in January.
How about creativity?
Chris Martin has actually averaged more key passes a game than most fans personal favourite to lead the line, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. Martin averages 0.7 a game compared to the Icelander’s 0.4. It is worth mentioning neither of these are particularly impressive though. Therefore, is it fairer to say it’s our midfield to blame? Liam Kelly is our best player for key passes with 1.4 per game, however, overall this doesn’t really put Reading in a good light. Kelly is the 44th best player in terms of key passes a game and that, remember is according to this stat, our most creative player!
Can it be reasonable to argue that Martin is victim of a sluggish midfield? Our league top scorer, a midfielder in Mo Barrow, has scored as many goals as the rest of our strikeforce combined (Dadi x 7, Martin x 1 Smith x 1 Yann x 1) which could go some way to proving this.
I honestly believe that Martin, whilst clearly underperforming, is proof of the team’s lack of creativity this season, due to the type of player that he is. Personally I think Martin is astoundingly similar to Dave Kitson, a bit slow, sluggish, waited for chances to be made for him, but Kitson thrived with a creative midfield, a small striker playing off him and the likes of Convey, Blakey and Shorey whipping in sumptuous crosses with frequent regularity. Put an unproven Kitson of 12-13 years ago in this team and I think he would be scapegoated the same way in which Chris Martin has been.