What will Callum Wilson bring to Newcastle United?
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Newcastle have finally managed to sign a striker and it’s a proper Premier League striker as well. Callum Wilson may not have been everyone’s first choice but there’s only one question that matters when you sign a new player – do they improve the team? And the answer in Wilson’s case is, absolutely, yes. Wilson’s been a Premier League player for 5 seasons now following Bournemouth’s promotion in 2015. Since then he’s averaged 25 league appearances per season – not bad considering he’s suffered 2 ACL injuries (one in each knee) during that period – and scored 40 goals in total, at a rate of roughly 1 goal every 3 games.
To get a better understanding of what Wilson will bring to the Newcastle team I sat down and watched every goal he’s scored over the last two seasons and I was impressed with what I saw. I’ve pulled out 5 goals which I think demonstrate a good cross section of the type goals he scores to highlight his attributes.
Goal 1 – vs. Leicester City (31/08/19) – Movement
One of the first things that struck me when I watched Wilson’s goals was the quality of his movement off the ball. Defenders need to keep an eye on both the ball and the player they are marking but Wilson makes this difficult for them by playing on the blindside of defenders - this goal against Leicester is a prime example. Here, he starts his run out wide moving in behind Ben Chillwell before taking up a position on the blindside of Soyuncu.
Wilson then signals to Ryan Fraser where he wants the ball and makes a darting run in to the space, Soyuncu tries to step up and to play him offside but it’s already too late. Fraser plays a perfectly weighted ball and Wilson finishes well with a first time shot across the keeper on his weaker left foot.
Goal 2 – vs. Huddersfield Town (09/03/19) – Positioning
Linked to good movement, Wilson also has a striker’s instinct for being able to recognize space and arrive there at the perfect moment. 9 out of the 21 non-penalty goals Wilson’s scored over the last two seasons have either been inside, or just outside, the 6-yard-box which demonstrates his instincts for being in the right place at the right time. Not only this, but he ‘busts a gut’ to get into these areas which is what I like to see from a striker. You can see his desire in this goal against Huddersfield.
After some nice play by Bournemouth to get the ball up the pitch, Wilson peels off and makes a lateral run taking him to the blindside of the Huddersfield defender (there’s that movement again). David Brooks lays off a nice ball to Fraser in acres of space inside the penalty box and Wilson steps on the accelerator, pointing to where he wants the ball and makes an unorthodox finish with his chest.
Goal 3 – vs. Everton (15/09/19) – Finishing
It’s no use having good movement and being in the right place at the right time if you can’t finish, after all that’s the main role of a striker. One of the best examples I found of Wilson’s finishing ability is this goal against Everton where he shows good movement again to latch on to the through ball. He knows he has time and sees the keeper rushing of his line towards him and he checks his run to shape his body for a delicate lobbed finish above and around the on-rushing Jordan Pickford … who’s arms aren’t quite long enough to get a touch on it.
Goal 4 – vs. Man City (01/12/18) – Heading
At 5’11’’ Callum Wilson is on the smaller side for a center-forward and his 26.2% aerial duel win percentage puts him in the bottom half of Premier League forwards last season – as a comparison, Joelinton’s win percentage was 39.2% which is in the top 20% of performers in that position. That said, Wilson can score with his head and has notched 4 headed goals (19% of his total) over the last two seasons. In this example against Man City, Wilson uses his movement to outwit and out-jump Otamendi to power home a thumping header passed Ederson.
Goal 5 – vs. West Ham (19/08/19) – Outside the box
As already discussed, Wilson has scored a high % of his goals close in and around the 6-yard-box so it’s no surprise to find he’s only scored 1 from outside the 18-yard-box in the last 2 seasons, but it was a beauty. Again, it’s made by Ryan Fraser who makes a bursting run from inside his own half to the edge of the penalty area - the ball bounces kindly for Wilson who shows great composure and technique to rifle a volley passed Fabianski with one of the sweetest strikes you’ll see. Absolute Pinger.
There is no denying Wilson had a fantastic season in 2018-19 when he scored 14 and assisted 9 - using the ‘similar playing style’ search function on Smarter Scout for his output that season you’ll see a list of names which includes Robert Lewandowski, Eden Dzeko and Jamie Vardy. Not a bad crowd to be in is it? His overall goal contribution (G+A) was the 7th best in the league, only behind Hazard, Salah, Agüero, Aubameyang, Sterling and Mané – for a team that finished 14th, that’s some going.
Fast forward to last season and the picture isn’t quite as rosy with Wilson only managing 8 goals and 1 assist – however, it must be said, this would still make him Newcastle’s top scorer ahead of Shelvey on 6. According to Understat, since he’s been in the Premier League, Wilson has scored 40 goals against an xG of 40.19 which tells us he scores 97.8% of the chances he’s expected to. As a comparison, using Joelinton’s stats from last season + Hoffenheim, the Brazilian has only scored 60% of the chances the xG model would expect.
Wilson brings more than just goals to the table and he works hard for the team; for example, he was in the top 10% of Premier League forwards for pressures last season which would be good to see at Newcastle as we were the most passive team in the league last season. As discussed, one area he does struggle with is aerial duels and if Bruce is going to get the best out of his new striker, he needs the team to play to his strengths.
Wilson will be wasted if we just lump long balls up to him like we did with Joelinton last season. Assuming Fraser follows his former teammate through the door, then Newcastle are perfectly set-up to play quick, counter-attacking football. Wilson thrives off early balls into the box where his intelligent movement and instinctive finishing can be utilized – a lot of Fraser’s assists in 18/19 came from crosses played early from deep … the man on the end of those? Callum Wilson.
It finally looks like we’re paying for proven Premier League quality and I’m much more excited about the new season than I was a week ago.
Photo credit: Visionhaus / Contributor
Video credit: Bein Sports, Sport TV2, Sky Sports.