NUFC’s most improved player since lockdown – Impressive stats but a big decision that awaits

Dwight Gayle has undergone a revival since the turn of the year. It is obvious that he is now the best striking option in the squad. At times – he can be frustrating – he offers a goal threat in the Premier League.

With only one year left on his contract, a decision needs to be made on his future once the current season ends.

Gayle has scored three and assisted twice in just 708 minutes. His underlying numbers are very encouraging and show that he does compare well with other Premier League numbers. In terms of goals, he is averaging 0.38 per ninety minutes. If he maintained his fitness and this form, it would equate to roughly a goal every three games (so around 12/13 goals over the season).

According to Understat, Gayle is averaging 0.52 expected goals (xG) per ninety minutes since the beginning of 2020. For context, this is better than both Andy Carroll (0.34) and Joelinton (0.27).

As a measure xG is good at highlighting how intelligent a striker is and how frequently a striker gets into goal-scoring positions. Gayle is the best player in our squad when it comes to sniffing out chances. His recent goal against Watford showed this, as he gambled on a knockdown from a corner and got an easy tap in at the back post.

This was movement that we haven’t seen from Joelinton. Meanwhile, Andy Carroll doesn’t have the mobility to get into these positions often enough. 

During this same period, Jamie Vardy is averaging 0.53 xG per ninety minutes (just 0.01 more). This highlights how good Gayle’s movement is. For much of the season, we have missed a player to be the focal point of the attack.

What’s perhaps even more impressive is that Gayle ranks second in the Premier League for non penalty xG per shot. According to Statsbomb data (taken from FB Ref), he averages 0.21 npxG per shot. This is level with Vardy and below on Josh King, showing that he is good at selecting the right time to shoot and taking these from dangerous areas.

In terms of shots, Gayle is averaging 2.73 shots per ninety minutes, while Joelinton averages 1.6 shots. This again underlines his attacking instincts and the increased threat that we have in the striking role. The former Palace man hits the target with 47.4% of these. 

Since the change of formation, the performances have been much better in attack and the inclusion of Gayle has helped in that. In 2020, he is our joint top scorer with three goals and he arguably could have scored more in this period.

The defence remains a concern due to injuries and a string of avoidable errors, but there have been positives to take on the attacking front. Gayle will be hoping to further his cause over the final two matches and show why he should have a long term future at the club. Over the last 12 months, the club have been willing to extend the contracts of older players, where before they haven’t been.

In the current state of flux caused by the takeover, it could be a wise move to give Gayle a new contract for one or two more seasons. The last few months have shown that he can score goals at this level and he would be a good back-up with or without a takeover. Carroll won’t be around forever and Joelinton could be moved on if there isn’t an improvement soon. We will need to sign one or two strikers this summer, but to replace all three is wishful thinking. 

Gayle is the best of the three and the one I’d like to see us keep hold of for a little bit longer yet.

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