Strength, aerial prowess, and a focal point in attack - What Chris Wood will bring to Newcastle United

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  • Newcastle United
    Newcastle United
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Eddie Howe
    Eddie Howe
    English association football player and manager (born 1977)
Chris Wood poses for photographs at the Newcastle United Training Centre on January 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England - What Chris Wood will bring to struggling Newcastle United - GETTY IMAGES
Chris Wood poses for photographs at the Newcastle United Training Centre on January 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England - What Chris Wood will bring to struggling Newcastle United - GETTY IMAGES

Newcastle United have just spent a remarkable £25 million on a 30-year-old striker who has scored only three goals in 21 games and attracted plenty of criticism for it.

But what might have looked like a strange decision at first glance makes a lot of sense on closer inspection, as manager Eddie Howe has got the player he wanted; a centre forward whose goals will either keep Newcastle United in the Premier League or get them back there next season.

Why did Newcastle sign Chris Wood?

Chris Wood was Eddie Howe’s first choice in every transfer meeting because he wanted a striker that other attacking players can cross to and play off, who had played in the Premier League and would not need to acclimatise. To get him on a two-and-a-half-year deal, with the option of a third, has been celebrated as a coup at St James' Park rather than the panic buy it has been dismissed as elsewhere.

Although Newcastle always rated Wood highly, the problem was that nobody thought that Burnley, who are one of their main relegation rivals, would sell their best striker to them.

That led to a long list of alternative targets being drawn up. Interestingly, despite a huge number of foreign strikers being pushed forward, Howe was adamant about what he wanted.

He also desired a specific type of centre forward. There was no point signing a player who was identical to Wilson - who has been ruled out for at least eight weeks with a calf injury - because at some point they would be expected to play together.

Newcastle needed a striker who could do some of the things that Wilson does, hold the ball up, run in behind and offer a focal point to the attack, but also a potential partner in a two-man attack.

Most importantly, they needed someone who can score goals and Wood has scored ten or more Premier League goals in each of the last four seasons.

The only other players who have done that are Mo Salah, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Son Heung-min and Alexandre Lacazette and they are all playing for teams good enough to chase a Champions League place. Wood was playing for a defensive Burnley side trying to stay in the Premier League.

Burnley's New Zealand striker Chris Wood controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Liverpool at Turf Moor in Burnley, northwest England - GETTY IMAGES
Burnley's New Zealand striker Chris Wood controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Liverpool at Turf Moor in Burnley, northwest England - GETTY IMAGES

When Newcastle discovered that Wood had a release clause in his contract, they moved very quickly and decisively, much to Burnley’s anger and dismay.

You do not often get a chance to not only strengthen your own side but also weaken a direct rival, but that is precisely what Newcastle have managed by getting Wood. There is something delightfully Machievellian about it.

What will Wood bring to the Newcastle team?

Strength, power and heading ability, as well as a goal threat inside the area. There is a lot of football logic behind the transfer.

Wood has won the most aerial duels (93) of any striker in the Premier League this season. He has had the third highest number of headers on goal and the second most on target. He is more mobile than many target men, too, and will still run in behind a defence as well as play with his back to goal

This will not make Newcastle a long-ball side, but they can be more direct, which will help them enormously against sides who press them deep inside their half. Newcastle can hit balls over the press which Wood can compete for, winning possession and holding on to it until midfield runners and wingers like Ryan Fraser and Allan Saint-Maximin can get alongside or even beyond him.

This will be a potent weapon when Newcastle play in transition and need to focus on counterattacks, but Wood brings something else, too.

When Newcastle were sent crashing out of the FA Cup by Cambridge United last weekend, it was a defeat inflicted because they did not have a centre-forward on the pitch.

They delivered 35 crosses into the area in 90 minutes and had nobody to get on the end of them. At times, they did not even have anyone standing between the posts inside the area.

They were unable to break Cambridge down and when Watford arrive at St James’ Park this weekend, they will look to play in the same way. It will be far harder for the Premier League visitors than it was for a League One side because of Wood’s presence.

Newcastle have some brilliant crossers of a ball, particularly since Trippier joined. He improves the team defensively and offensively, but only if there was someone to get on the end of his accurate delivery from the right flank.

Fraser, Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie are also good in that respect and Wood is far better in the air than Wilson, so rather than just cover for an injured striker, they have signed one who offers a new type of threat.

For all the snide comments and criticism elsewhere, Newcastle think they have delivered the perfect signing for what they need to improve in their predicament. That is not something to be sniffed at in the January window.

It is a view the vast majority of their supporters agree with, too. Wood will be given a hero's welcome when he makes his debut against Watford this weekend.

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