Aston Villa have been linked with Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson – but why would they want him?
Words: Andrew Maddox | @MaddoxJourno
Aston Villa have been linked with a £20 million swoop for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson.
The news has garnered mixed reaction from the Villa faithful, with some claiming it’s a “the kind of signing a bottom half club would make” due to Wilson only ever breaking the ten goal barrier once in the Premier League. He has been compared to Wesley by fans, with many proclaiming that they would rather stick with the Brazilian.
However, how does he actually stack up to the England international? Before answering that, some background is needed on Wilson.
Well first there is the obvious factor of age. Wesley is just under five years younger than Wilson, turning 24 in November while Wilson is 28. This would imply that Wesley has a higher ceiling and room to grow than Wilson, which may make him the more appealing option to many. However, one thing that has to be noted is the distinct lack of Premier League experience in the squad.
Of the players that started the season finale against West Ham, only Pepe Reina had significant Premier League playing experience before this season. With Reina leaving and Tom Heaton now injured, there is nobody to take up that mantle. With Wilson having 126 Premier League appearances under his belt, his experience could prove invaluable.
It has been noted that the highest Wilson has ever finished in the top flight is ninth in 2016/17, meaning that he doesn’t have much top half experience. However, in these instances a bit of perspective is needed. Villa just scraped survival in 17th place and have just had a massive backroom overhaul. With the investment clubs like Everton are making this season, wanting to get top half is a stretch for this season. Therefore, his lack of top half experience is irrelevant.
A further area of complaint is the £20 million price tag, with many saying it’s far too high for a bottom half striker. However again, the crucial thing is perspective. Newcastle finished 13th and shelled out £40 million for Joelinton, West Ham finished in 16th and paid £45 million for Seb Haller. In a combined 70 Premier League games last season, they only managed one more goal than Wilson netted in 35 games. While £20 million may seem like a large amount for Villa, it isn’t massive in the Premier League and it is the sort of ballpark that Villa have to be looking at to bring in a Premier League level player.
There are others saying that Villa should pursue a bigger name for a bigger fee. However, this is financial recklessness to the highest degree. Villa’s reported budget is £100 million this summer, now £86 million with the signing of Matty Cash. This would be great to bring in a massive striker on a massive fee, but Villa need more than just a striker. A winger, a goalkeeper and at least one centre back are also being sought by Dean Smith. Villa have two options then. They can either blow half the budget on a striker and be left scrounging the bargain bin for other areas or be sensible and bring in a consistent level of quality.
With the background information out of the way, the comparisons between Wilson and Wesley can finally be made. In the interest of fairness, Wilson’s stats will all be from the 2019/20 season unless otherwise stated.
It has been noted by many that Wilson only scored three more goals (8) than Wesley (5) in 14 more Premier League games last season. This is a fair point and their goals per game ratio were extremely similar last season, Wilson scored 0.23 goals per game while Wesley scored 0.24. Both players also got one assist, so there’s no advantage to be gained there. On the surface, there is no need to pay £20 million for an extra three goals. So, we must go deeper.
When it comes down to shots, Wilson attempted more shots last season, 55 to Wesley’s 35, but Wesley is far more accurate. 66% of Wesley’s shots were on target compared to just 47% of Wilson’s. This could come down to Bournemouth’s greater creativity however, with the likes of David Brooks and Ryan Fraser being highly creative players for the Cherries. Wilson was presented with 18 big chances over the season with Wesley getting ten. This equals out to them both getting a big chance every other game on average, cancelling out the creativity argument. When it comes to converting them, Wesley scored 50% of his chances while Wilson converted 44%. Again, a slight edge on Wesley’s side.
Clearly Wesley has the slight edge when it comes to scoring, but how about other areas?
It’s when you look beyond sheer goalscoring that the comparisons become genuinely surprising. Wesley attempted on average four more passes per match than Wilson, attempting 17.4 passes per match as opposed to Wilson’s 14.4. This was also with a higher success rate of 71.66%. They are almost even with how many of these passes are forward, with Wesley playing 3.6 passes forward per match and Wilson playing 4 per match. When it comes to passes backward, Wilson plays 3.4 passes back per match and Wesley 4.3, again only a slight edge for Wilson. Despite being utilised as a target man, Wesley was safer on the ball as he was only dispossessed 0.9 times per match compared to Wilson’s 1.4. This would be expected if it wasn’t for Wesley apparently being poor on the ball. The Bournemouth front man takes the edge in crosses and through balls, but as he is more of a mobile striker than Wesley, this is expected.
So again, Welsey takes the edge in terms of team play. However, Wesley even takes the edge in terms of defending from the front. He made more tackles, clearances, headed clearances and won more aerial battles than Wilson outright despite the gap in games played. There is no single area when broken down per match that Wilson takes a clear edge over the current Villa hitman. This trend continues when broken down over his whole Premier League career as well.
Over his 126 appearances, his goal ratio is only 0.09 better than Wesley’s. The Brazilian also has a much better shooting accuracy overall, 66% compared to Wilson’s 51%. This should come to be expected due to the discrepancy in game time, but the stats from this season show that it isn’t a one-off. When it comes to big chances, Wesley again takes the edge over Wilson’s career, converting 50% of his compared to 39% for Wilson.
Looking at the same teamplay stats as before, Wilson averaged 13.2 passes per match, four behind Wesley. His accuracy is also slightly lower than Wesley’s at 68% compared to Wesley’s 72%. Wilson averages 3.2 passes forward, again lower than Wesley’s average, and 3.6 backwards per match which is only a slight advantage. He also gets dispossessed 1.6 times per match, higher than Wesley’s total. Defending tells much the same tale as this season, with Wesley taking the edge in every department mentioned before when broken down to per match.
It is genuinely surprising seeing how Wilson presents no true upgrade over Wesley in any department. Even when looking at Wilson’s stats over his entire career, none of them shine above Wesley’s when taken down to per match numbers. It is for this reason that Villa should look to avoid splashing a near club-record fee on Wilson as well as mega wages and instead persist with their current Brazilian hitman.