Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

Here are some names that all belong together: Christian Pulisic, Jadon Sancho, Tanguy Ndombele, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Jack Grealish, Harry Maguire, Riyad Mahrez, Romelu Lukaku (again), Andriy Shevchenko … and Chris Wood?

It is A list of the most expensive Premier League signings by age. Pulisic is England’s most expensive 20-year-old, Lukaku is the most expensive 24- and 28-year-old, and after moving from Burnley to Newcastle on Thursday for £ 25 million, Wood became the most expensive 30-year-old in the history of the richest league in the world.

Are you still laughing? None? Well, you can start now.

Newcastle’s acquisition of Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, immediately made the club the richest sports franchise on the planet. The news got the Geordies in keffiyehs partying outside St. James’s Park and bragged about how much money their club suddenly had. Dreaming of a hyper-speed transformation into a potentially bigger and better version of Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, with future Ballon d’Or winners dancing up and down the pitch … now they’ve got Wood.

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The giant Kiwi scored 46 goals in his four previous full Premier League seasons, and he scored at least 10 goals in each. Wood was consistent, wood was good – in an elegant way that stumbled. But Wood is 30, just around the age when most goal scorers suddenly stop to score goals, which is exactly what has happened. Through 17 games this season, he has scored three times. He takes both fewer shots and worse shots than ever before. He is No. 29 in the league in the total number of expected goals, according to the website FBref, and he is No. 39 in xG per. 90 minutes. He has been one of the worst starting strikers in the league.

While I can not prove it scientifically, it feels safe to say that no other football club in the world would have paid £ 25 million for the opportunity to sign Wood. But here’s the thing: Wood could be injured in training tomorrow, never playing a single minute for Newcastle United, and he can still be worth it.

One of the many benefits of essentially “unlimited” money is that you do not really have to plan. Most teams need to figure out how to balance short-term with long-term thinking. Do you buy and play younger players who may not perform as well right away, but who may maximize your potential in a few years? Or are you stacking up a bunch of prime-age players who are not getting better but maximizing your chances right now? Do you get a manager with a gaming philosophy who may take a while to install but who can ultimately reap big rewards? Or do you go for the pragmatist who does not last long but who will immediately get the most out of the list you give him?

Newcastle’s new owners clearly want the club to serve the same purpose that Manchester City or PSG have served for theirs: increased influence in the halls of the world’s most popular sport. To do that, their team needs to start winning the Premier League and making noise in the Champions League. But to win the Premier League, you have to be in the Premier League and if the season ended today, Newcastle United would not be in the Premier League next season. So all they are worrying about right now is not being pushed down.

Magpies do not have to think about the future; they can use their huge resource advantage to do what they can to increase their chances of staying up. And if that does not work, they can continue to use the huge resource advantage to deal with the fallout.

Right now, Newcastle are in 19th place on 11 points – two points behind Watford, who are in 17th place, who still have a game in hand – and there is very little indication that the players on the list will produce anything. better than that. second half of the season. According to FBref, Newcastle has the worst xG difference per. match of all teams in Europe’s Big Five leagues. FiveThirtyEight’s projection system gives them only a 25% chance of staying up.

They then have two problems: They are terrible and they are already in a hole.

Earlier this month, analyst Ben Torvaney tried to assess what level Newcastle should play at for the rest of the season to avoid relegation. If they suddenly played like Manchester City in their next 19 games, he found that they would almost certainly avoid relegation. Playing like Tottenham or Arsenal would give them a probability of somewhere between 80 and 90 percent to stay up. And to break 50 percent – to be a little more likely to stay up than down – they had to play as Aston Villa or Wolverhampton for the rest of the season.

Looking at it this way, the purchase of Kieran Trippier makes sense. At 31, the full-back is not the player he once was, but he has still started for Atletico Madrid, a team better than Villa and Wolverhampton. Of course, the move for Wood completely crumbles against this same logic. Stealing a player from Burnley might help you play at Burnley level, and Burnley are currently in the relegation zone as well.

But stealing a player from Burnley also means something else: That player no longer plays for Burnley.

It seems that the reason Newcastle bought Wood is because they wanted a striker, so they became aware that he was one of the few players in England with a release clause in his contract, and so it was easy enough for them just to pay the clause. and do not have to negotiate with the club they are buying from. In addition, it was easy to convince Wood to come because they can pay him a lot more money than he earned at Burnley. I do not think that is why Newcastle have signed the deal, but a perhaps unintended consequence of their desperation is that they have made one of their direct rivals on relegation worse.

“In theory, Burnley’s deterioration should reduce the amount Newcastle need to improve,” Torvaney said. How much it reduces these chances, however, is a harder question to answer. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about how much of an impact Chris Woods’ departure will have,” he said.

However, the January window is defined by uncertainty. Analysis conducted by the consulting firm 21st Group has found that in the five major leagues, teams that spent € 30 million more than the average in January increased their performance by 0.1 points per game. match – essentially a point or two over a half season. The limited returns are particularly pronounced among strikers, who according to 21st Group account for about 20% of all January transfers. Only 14% of these strikers score at least five goals in their first half of the season with their new club, and as many as 55% do not score a single goal.

While Wood has fought for Burnley this season, he has still accounted for 26% of the club’s expected goals without a penalty this season, the 10th highest number in the Premier League. And over the previous four seasons, Wood scored 29% of Burnley’s goals, the 10th highest number for any player in Europe’s Big Five leagues.

This season, Burnley’s leading goal scorer Maxwell Cornet, who has six goals from just two xG and is at the Africa Cup of Nations right now, is not with Burnley. Without Wood, their only other multi-goal scorer is Ben Mee, a center-back. While Burnley received an amount far greater than the market value of Wood, they will now have to dive into the historically inefficient January striker market to try to replace him, or hope that somehow there is a better opportunity hidden in the club as Sean Dyche did not realize it would be an improvement on Wood.

According to 21st group projections, Woods transfer increases Burnley’s odds of being relegated from 47% to 56%, while reducing Newcastle’s chances of being relegated from 76% to 68%. These numbers account for what they expect Wood to add to Newcastle’s performance, but even though Wood never played a game for Newcastle, 21st Group would still increase Burnley’s relegation odds by up to 54% and in turn lower Newcastles from 76 to 74%. .

Contrary to all the variables and uncertainties that come with not just adding, but trying to integrate, a new signing midway through the season, this deal presents Newcastle with a rare absoluteness: Chris Wood no longer plays for Burnley. For almost any other club in the world, it would not be worth it. But for Newcastle, what’s £ 25 million if it brings you a few percentage points closer to achieving the only thing you’re interested in doing? After all, they can always use for another attacker if they also want to.

Watch out, Watford. You can be the next.


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