The Villarreal wideman has suffered a slump in recent months but his upward trajectory was bound to plateau after initial surge
Samuel Chukwueze’s downturn in form for Villarreal is peculiar for a number of reasons, given the youngster had a breakthrough year last season, and was linked with various top clubs around Europe. As a consequence; he was expected to take his game to another level this season.
The expectation to see him continue his upward trajectory this term hasn’t quite materialised, and the 20-year-old has found himself out of Javier Calleja’s first-team since late-January.
In the Nigeria international’s last start at Deportivo Alaves, his mixed performance was the final straw for the Yellow Submarine trainer who’s opted for Gerard Moreno, naturally a striker, on the right flank since February.
Moreno, for his part, has taken advantage of Calleja’s show of faith and has scored three times and set up one in six La Liga appearances, while Chukwueze in that time has done nothing as regards goal contributions.
Admittedly, reduced game time means a lesser chance of scoring or assisting but the youngster wasn’t getting those numbers before being dropped.
He hasn’t scored in the league since November – a 3-1 defeat by Celta Vigo – neither has he assisted since September – a 2-0 victory over Real Valladolid – which brings up a pertinent question as to what the wonderkid offers besides his dribbling ability.
A lingering perception about Chukwueze is that while being a livewire with the ball at his feet, he can sometimes fail to contribute consistently enough in other areas of the pitch. It was okay in his breakthrough campaign, but surely the player needs to take steps to improve his all-round game.
The youngster scored five times and registered two assists in 2018-19 but has only hit the back of the net three times in the ongoing campaign while supplying one league assist all season.
The last time he scored a goal of any kind was in a 3-0 Copa del Rey win over Girona and his last goal contribution came against Rayo Vallecano, another Segunda Division side, in the same competition on January 29.
— Ayodeji Ayodeji (@AyodejiX2) March 17, 2020
Truthfully, the 20-year-old’s steep decline may have been unforeseen in November after his goal against Celta put him on pace to surpass last season’s tally. However, a closer look at the attacker’s numbers shows a decline in a few of his underlying stats.
The young wideman’s scoring frequency this year reads a goal every 475 minutes, while last year’s was lower at 342 minutes. This is probably due to him taking fewer shots – 1.6 attempts per game in 18-19 to 0.8 per match in the current campaign.
He takes fewer touches this season too (31) compared to last year (34), highlighting a reduced level of involvement and passes more accurately this season.
Eight big chances were missed in the previous campaign, while two have been missed this year, but this can be explained by his season heat map which shows he seldom finds himself in the box in the current campaign as often as he did last year.
Be that as it may, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Chukwueze, who wins a greater percentage of his duels in 19/20.
The Nigerian has won 54 percent of his total duels so far, which is a marked improvement on last year which stood at 42 percent. Furthermore, the winger achieves a slighter level of success in his dribbles in the current season when compared with last term, 57 to 55 percent.
This aforementioned comparison, which shows inconsistencies in Chukwueze’s game, is typical of the ebb and flow for youngsters in their formative years. Their development is largely accompanied by growing pains, so maybe the 20-year-old is just going through that phase where it seems like he’s stalled but then hits a rich vein of form.
The Villarreal prodigy certainly thinks so, evidenced by a recent interview with AOI in February.
“Goals come with luck. I have had a couple of chances this season and I make attempts to convert them but you know you just have to keep trying,” the talented winger stated. “I’m actually not bothered because it is still a learning process for me and I know very soon what I have been practising will start manifesting.”
Chukwueze is certainly saying the right things, but his future will be shaped by how he reacts to recent drop-off in performances; which will go a long way in determining whether he takes his game to the next level or go down as another promising youngster who never delivered on his potential.