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Chris Wood row rumbles on

1 month ago
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I have been amused / irritated to see the Chris Wood debate still continuing.

A lot of comments since Friday night’s win against Wolves.

That victory coming thanks to Chris Wood winning a penalty and then stepping up to smash it home past Sa in the visitors’ goal.

Just over a week ago I wrote something about the Kiwi striker and his time at Newcastle United so far.

It was sparked by journalist Zach Lowy giving this ‘expert’ view after Chris Wood and Newcastle had lost 5-1 at Tottenham.

Zach Lowy – 3 April 2022:

“Newcastle really paid £25m for Chris Wood for the sole purpose of weakening relegation rivals.

“Looking more and more like a shocking piece of business especially when Burnley were able to bring in Wout Weghorst for a fraction of the price.”

It was inevitable that Chris Wood and Wout Weghorst were going to see fans, journalists, whoever, comparing and contrasting their respective impacts on the second half of this Premier League season.

With Callum Wilson set to miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season and with no other Premier League starting level striker in the squad, due to the ridiculous summer 2021 transfer window presided over by Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley, the new Newcastle United owners forced to bite the bullet.

Those new NUFC owners paying out £25m for Chris Wood, the amount needed to trigger his release clause and leave Burnley powerless to stop him leaving.

Much of the media mocking Eddie Howe and those now owning Newcastle United, for paying out £25m on Wood who had turned 30 in December.

Burnley then forced into the transfer market and spending around half (£12m) of the cash they’d received for selling Chris Wood, with 29 year old Holland international Wout Weghorst signed from Wolfsburg.

After this weekend’s Premier League results, this is now the Wout Weghorst / Chris Wood story, in terms of impact on their new clubs since the respective January moves.

Wout Weghorst scoring one goal for his new club and the overall 12 match Premier League record at Burnley so far:

Played 12 Won 3 Drawn 3 Lost 6 (Burnley scoring 9 goals and conceding 17 in these 12 games)

With 12 points from a possible 36, Burnley averaging 1.00 points per game with Wout Weghorst in the side.

Chris Wood scoring two goals for his new club and the overall 12 match Premier League record at Newcastle United:

Played 12 Won 7 Drawn 3 Lost 3 (Newcastle  scoring 15 goals and conceding 12 in these 12 games)

With 24 points from a possible 36, Newcastle averaging 2.00 points per game with Chris Wood in the side, in his first 12 PL matches for NUFC.

(***Also worth pointing out that Chris Wood has now played 5 home games and 7 away in the Premier League for NUFC, whilst Weghorst has played 8 at home and 4 away)

Basically, Chris Wood has scored twice as many goals (2 v 1) as Wout Weghorst so far AND more importantly, helped his new club accumulate twice as many points (24 v 12) as Burnley.

Over the course of a full season, two points per game would give you 76 points, which would have been enough for second in the Premier League last season.

I hear (some of) you shouting that this is ridiculous, making this comparison of Newcastle / Wood keeping up this two points per game over the course of a full season…however, it is no more ridiculous than some of the stuff I have seen the Chris Wood critics coming out with this weekend.

Maybe these two tables will give an even better illustration of what has happened since the two strikers made their moves in January 2022…

This was how the Premier League table looked before Chris Wood made his Newcastle United PL debut on 15 January 2022:

Premier League Table 15 January 2022

This is how the Premier League table looks this Monday (11 April 2022) morning:

Premier League Table 10 March 2022

So before Chris Wood moved clubs. Newcastle United were nineteenth, one place below Burnley and behind them on goal difference.

Moving forward to the present day, Newcastle are fifteenth and three places higher than Burnley, with most importantly a 10 point advantage over the bottom three. I know it might not be a truly scientific take on this situation BUT there is a case for saying that Chris Wood has been worth (or at least majorly contributed to) Newcastle United averaging an extra point per game compared to how Burnley have done in the same time period.

Now, I think comparisons to Wout Weghorst are setting a pretty low bar because from what I have seen, he looks woeful. Though you do have to take into consideration the massive factor of bringing in a player mid-season from a weaker overseas league, who has never played in the Premier League before.

As opposed to bringing in a PL ready striker mid-season who had scored double figures in each of the last four Premier League seasons.

To emphasise this point, Newcastle United brought in four Premier League experienced players in January and they all went straight into the team as soon as possible. On the other hand, almost half the January spend went on Bruno Guimaraes and yet Eddie Howe treated him with kid gloves, gradually easing him into the team after a series of cameos off the bench. Still only four starts, Bruno Guimaraes is getting better all the time and was man of the match on Friday night, clearly a superb player and a midfielder who plays for Brazil. Yet still Eddie Howe felt he had to give Bruno plenty time to adjust from the step up the PL from Ligue 1. Personally, if Bruno had been thrown straight into the team, as was the case at Burnley with Weghorst, I don’t think we would be now getting these ever improving performances from the Brazilian midfielder. I think instead we would have had highs as well as lows, as Bruno would have been having to learn on the job.

Yes Chris Wood wasn’t intrinsically worth £25m when arriving in January BUT to Newcastle United he WAS worth that amount.

In a desperate situation with no Premier League level striker available for the rest of the season (I think now apparent that Callum Wilson won’t be playing again this season and needs looking after and aimed at 2022/23), Newcastle paid a £10m / £12m premium to trigger the £25m release clause.

It all comes down to what price / cost / value you would put on safety and avoiding relegation, with £10m / £12m a drop in the ocean when talking about the implications if Newcastle United go down this season.

When Chris Wood arrived at Newcastle United, he (quite literally) hit the ground running and has never stopped. He instantly knew his job and what Eddie Howe wanted him to do for the team, basically work his socks off unselfishly for this NUFC side, be a focus for the attack, ensure the team defend from the front, plus score a few goals. If you are honest, Chris Wood has had very few great scoring chances these last 12 PL matches, I would say he is maybe a couple short and if had scored four not two goals, that would have been a fair return on the service that has (and hasn’t) come his way.

Whilst you can argue about what would and wouldn’t have happened if a different striker brought in etc etc, what you can’t argue with is that Chris Wood arrived at a club that had one win in 19 league games, was second bottom and one of the favourites to be relegated. With Wood introduced to the side, in the next eight PL matches NUFC picked up an amazing 20 points due to six wins and two draws.

Yet still this weekend I have seen plenty of Newcastle fans not wanting to give Chris Wood any credit at all.

Burnley were gutted that they couldn’t stop Chris Wood leaving and only the release clause made the move possible. If it hadn’t been Chris Wood, Newcastle United would either have had to turn to Dwight Gayle to start each week, or do something daft like playing ASM as a false nine which has looked terrible the odd time it has been tried in matches, or find a club in the Championship or overseas willing to sell an untried (at PL level) forward.

Hand on heart, if any of these scenarios above had happened, would Newcastle United have still picked up 24 (or more…) points in these last 12 Premier League games?

That to me, is the only relevant question when you consider just what a terrible position Newcastle United were in.

Yes, the likes of Burn and Targett have helped improve the team since January BUT so has Chris Wood.

Looking at that league table now, I reckon that a fair evaluation would be that if Chris Wood hadn’t signed, Newcastle would have picked up around 18 points these last 12 games, instead of 24 points. That would have now put NUFC fourth bottom, four points above Burnley and Sean Dyche’s side having a game in hand.

A great call from Eddie Howe to sign Chris Wood in January and also credit to the new owners for backing his judgement.

If Newcastle United win their next two games, at home to Leicester and Palace, it would mean that since Chris Wood joined NUFC, we would have beaten every team currently sitting between eighth and sixteenth in the Premier League table, the kind of form that over the course of a full season can really see you on the up…

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