Exciting times as Brentford have finally signed striker Ivan Toney from Peterborough. Billy Grant takes a closer look on what we can expect from the powerful frontman – analysing the stats and asking Peterborough fans how good is he really?

Brentford have signed striker Ivan Toney from Peterborough for a record fee of £6m – with the fee rising to £9m including add ons. Another coup for Brentford’s Directors of Football who are not letting the disappointment of last season stop the Bees in their quest for top flight football.

The 24-year-old League One Player of the Season – who was being linked with a number of clubs including Celtic – scored 26 goals in all competitions (39 games) before the League One campaign was curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Toney made his league debut at Northampton Town in 2012 at the age of 16 – the youngest player to ever play for The Cobblers. 

In his final season at Northampton (2014/15), he scored 10 goals in 44 appearances. That return was not bad but wasn’t spectacular. However, digging deeper – the fact that he had the 3rd highest expected goals tally/90 mins in Division Two that season (0.38 xG/90) showed that he had a lot of promise. He was regularly getting himself into great scoring positions but needed to improve his delivery.

That promise earned the 19 year old a move to Premier League Newcastle. 

Only four substitute appearances at Newcastle in three years saw him sign for Peterborough for £500k in 2018. He went on to play 94 games for Posh scoring 49 goals and 15 assists. 

He scored 24 goals and assisted 6 last season in 32 matches as Peterborough gunned for promotion.

They were in the final playoff place on the day that the season was curtailed – ended up dropping to 7th place and out of the playoffs when the final positions were decided on a points-per-game basis. 

Ivan Toney, Peterboro. Photo – Joe Dent. ThePosh.com

Toney has been on the Bees’ radar for some time now. An official approach was made to sign him in the January window but Brentford were knocked back. Four times. 

Posh were asking £10m with the proviso that we then loaned Toney back to the First Division side to help them in their quest for promotion to The Championship. 

In an interview on Sky Sports News, Posh Chairman Darragh MacAnthony claimed Toney was “The best player outside the Championship” and stated that Peterborough were not prepared to “Sell promotion down the river .. even for ten million”. 

He also intimated that he was unimpressed with Brentford’s bargaining approach after “Someone from a top four side” told MacAnthony that Posh only had a 7.5% statistical chance of promotion – thereby implying that they were better off taking the money there and then.

As a result, MacAnthony stood firm vowing to sell Toney in the summer if Posh did not get promoted. 

 

As it goes, if we had loaned Toney back, with the season curtailment, he would have been available for us after lockdown. But that’s easy to say in hindsight.

There is an argument to say if Toney and Watkins were the strikers to take us through the post-lockdown session, we would have been looking at a calendar with fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester United.

But that’s in the past now. We move on.

What type of player is Ivan Toney?

Toney is a player who likes float across the back four and often take up the position in between the full-back and centre-back. He likes to play out wide and full backs find him a handful. 

He has great movement. Is fast. And is strong with the ability to hold off his defenders. 

But it’s his ability to create space in dangerous area – not only for himself but his team-mates – which makes Toney such a force. 

And his finishing is second to none – making him deadly in and around the box. 

Ivan Toney scores for Peterboro. Photo – Joe Dent. ThePosh.com

Where Toney can really be of benefit to Brentford is the fact he is great at dropping back and defending deep when his team are out of possession – anticipating opposition play, intercepting and creating counter-attacks. 

He is aggressive and physical and loves to get stuck in which is showed in the 24 yellow cards and 1 red card he received in his 94 games for Posh.

@BeesAnalytica made a really interesting comparison – comparing Toney with all 120 strikers who have played Championship football last season. 

Ivan Toney’s Division One analytics compared to analytics for all 120 strikers who played Championship football in the 2019/20 season. Courtesy Bees Analytica

Now a quick caveat before we have people stating that these figures don’t add up.  You have to bear in mind of course that Toney was playing in a lower division against not as strong players. So this is not 100% like for like.

However,  you can still get a feel for the potential in the player. And bearing in mind Brentford’s experience in finding raw diamonds and polishing them up, you can see that there is tons of potential here for Toney to really make his mark on The Championship. 

Top 10% in terms of goals per 90, non-penalty goals, xG (expected goals), shots, xA (expected assists), final third passes and off duels per 90.

And top 25% in terms of successful attacking actions, goal conversion, shots on target and assists per 90 mins. 

The areas where Thomas Frank will be coaching him heavily will be on his progressive runs. touches in the box and through passes where he is in the bottom 10%.

Ivan Toney vs Ollie Watkins

Ivan Toney
2842 League One minutes played
xG/90 mins – 0.65

Ollie Watkins
4,430 Championship minutes played (including playoffs)
xG/90 mins – 0.511

Brentford stats site @BeesAnalytica has drawn up a very interesting comparison between Toney and Ollie Watkins as can be seen below. 

Ollie Watkins v Ivan Toney radar chart courtesy Bees Analytica

Now bearing in mind Toney is playing in a division below and against technically weaker players than Watkins has been playing against, again this is not 100% like for like.

But you also have to bear in mind, Brentford look at players who are seen as raw diamonds (as Watkins was when we signed him 3 seasons ago) and develop them up to become top class jewels. In this respect, Toney shows a lot of promise. 

In the comparison, Toney has more shots per 90 mins. Gets himself in better goalscoring positions per 90. Has more assists, shots, touches in the box, goals and key passes per 90 mins. And is way ahead when it comes to final third passes and off-duals.

Interestingly, their goal conversion rate is very similar. 

Ollie comes out on top in key passes, touches in the box and progressive runs per 90 mins. 

Football analyst Ted Knutson from Statsbomb recently spoke on our special football analytics podcast (below) and stated how excellent Thomas Frank was in developing players.

He mentioned the remarkable transformation of Ollie Watkins from a winger to a striker was being talked about in footballing circles. No doubt Thomas is relishing making Ivan Championship-ready.

Another quick note here. This is not a comparison to say which player is better than the other. We love Ollie Watkins. And it would be incredible if both players were in the team this season. That would give the opposition something to worry about.

But with teams sniffing around out Ollie ten to the dozen, we can presume that he will be terrorising defences in the Premier League in the not too distant future. So it is fitting for us to get a feel for the player who will be stepping into his boots.

Peterborough Perspective

Jarred Farmer from Peterborough Podcast The Yellow Block gave us his thoughts on Brentford’s new signing. 

Ivan Toney is more than a big centre forward. He has pace, is superb in his own box defensively, holds the ball up to bring others into play and is a great finisher. 

He’s the complete striker at League One level.

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It’s hard to make a realistic comparison but think a lower level Didier Drogba and you won’t be too far wrong. Unpredecented strength and stamina who terrorises defenders and knows where the back of the net is.

If there was an area of improvement, I think that he could score a lot more of goals with his head. No doubt that is an area he would be working on at Brentford. 

Ivan Toney is undoubtedly good enough for The Championship and he will fit in like a glove into Brentford’s team. So much so, I don’t think you’ll notice the loss of Watkins as much as you all think you will. I wanted to see him go to either Leeds United or yourselves as you are both teams that create a plethora of chances which is a match made in heaven for big frontman.

Ivan will score 20 goals in all competitions this coming season and I am quite happy for you to hold me to this come May.