STRIKER – 25 – NEW ZEALAND – LEEDS UNITED
It won’t go down as one of the most talked about transfers in this window, but it has created a rather long saga as well as a fierce debate about how much Championship players are really worth. But one of English football’s hottest strikers in the 2016/17 season is finally on his way back to the Premier League. With Burnley set to invest heavily in the New Zealand international following the sale of fellow striker Andre Gray to Watford, Sean Dyche’s men are set to boost their frontline with this signing, reported to be between £16 to £18 million, but is he really worth that much money?
After being poached from New Zealand by the West Bromwich Albion academy in 2008, the 25 year-old has had a mixed career to date. After scoring regularly for the Baggies’ academy, Wood made his Premier League debut that year, but only made 2 appearances in a campaign that saw the Baggies relegated to the Championship. He made 18 appearances in the second tier at the Hawthorns but only managed to score one goal that year. What followed was a series of loan moves to Championship sides once Albion made an immediate return to the top flight, as Wood appeared for Barnsley, Brighton, Birmingham and Bristol City over the course of two years. He finally hit double figures in the Championship in his fifth loan move, for Millwall, and that form earned him a permanent move away to Leicester City. Despite hitting 9 goals in 20 appearances in his first season at the King Power, he was once again cast out of the squad as soon as the Foxes reached the Premier League. A £3 million move to a stagnant Leeds United in 2015 was a risk at the time, but it was money well spent as he hit 40 goals in two seasons at Elland Road, becoming one of the division’s hottest talents, and almost earned United a play off spot.
Strengths and weaknesses, and is he worth it?
Despite not being proven at the top level, it’s clear that Wood has an eye for goal. 26 goals in any division is no easy feat, and the 25 year-old only needs a yard of space within the penalty to damage teams. It’s important to recognise that all of Wood’s 26 goals in the Championship last season came from within the penalty area, so the fox-in-the-box tag is most appropriate here. A weakness though is a lack of diversity with regards to the type of goal he scores. 22 of those goals were used with his right foot, with only 3 headed goals and one left footed strike, but with Same Vokes in the side, the physical presence of the Burnley side is taken care of, and this partnership could blossom to a positive extent over the coming season. There’s also the debate as to whether a £16 million deal is too much for a Championship player, but this is not the only signing in this division of a similar fee. Britt Assombalonga (£14 million) was bought by Middlesbrough from Nottingham Forest for the same reason as Wood – to score goals – and other signings in recent years such as Wolves’ £15 million-rated Ruben Neves and Aston Villa’s £12 million purchase of Scott Hogan proves that the Championship is catching up with the Premier League with regards to over-inflated signings.
Where would he fit in at Burnley?
The man currently leading the line at Burnley is Vokes, and it looks like Wood is a direct replacement for the recently sold Andre Gray. Vokes and Wood are too different types of strikers, despite one having the same height and build as the other, (Wood is actually taller than Vokes by 5cm). It seems like a logical move for Wood, but while he was a big hit in the Championship (no player scored more in the second tier in 2017 than him), he’s still not Premier League proven yet, and it may take time for him to get used to the intensity of the top division.
Chances of this signing happening? – 10/10
With a medical reported already completed at Turf Moor, the deal should be completed formally in the coming days.
Will he be a good signing? – 7/10
It’s a similar situation to when Andre Gray arrived at Burnley from Brentford, having scored a hatful of goals for the Bees in the Championship, but Wood is a proven goalscorer, and if he can get his first Clarets’ goal out of the way in the coming weeks, then he can definitely his double digits for his soon-to-be new club.