After starting out hot in the German top flight, the Nigeria international has hit a bit of a wall. Here are the numbers behind his lull in form.
Bayer Leverkusen’s nerveless 3-0 win over Werder Bremen was the sort to pass without notice, beyond the fact of consolidating Die Werkself’s lead at the top of the Bundesliga standings. Two things of note did take place, however; both involving striker and serial Rookie of the Month winner Victor Okoh Boniface.
The first was that he failed to score for the fifth match in a row, having announced himself in the German top-flight by averaging a goal a game over his first seven league appearances. The second was that he was substituted after 71 minutes, the earliest he has been removed from league action since making the move to the BayArena this past summer.
While there is certainly some mitigation in the form of the Europa League in midweek, it is difficult not to link both events. When once it seemed like Boniface was set to keep pace with the likes of Harry Kane and Serhou Guirassy, he is now a full eight goals behind the England striker and, for the first time this season, might be in a real funk.
Outside of scoring himself, the Nigeria international’s goal contribution – only Xavi Simons and Leroy Sane have more assists than his five so far this season – has maintained his value to the collective. However, strikers are judged on goals, and that applies even for Boniface who models his game on nippy, silken attacking midfielders. It would not do for this mini-drought to perpetuate itself, even if he has notched three assists in this fallow five-game stretch.
Here are some of the numbers behind this barren run, and what they tell us.
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To begin with, beyond his lack of goals, it is easy to establish there has been a more holistic drop-off. If anything sets Boniface apart – beyond his high volume shooting – it is his dribbling: he is the only out-and-out Bundeslliga centre-forward in the top 10 for successful dribbles per 90 (3.2, with a 58.1 percent success rate).
- In the first seven matches of the season, he attempted 44 dribbles (an average 6.29 dribbles per game, success rate 54.55%); in the subsequent five matches, he attempted 21 (4.2 dribbles per game, success rate 52.38%). While his success rate has remained roughly stable, his propensity for the dribble has significantly decreased.
That is not the only thing that is down either. Since his utility outside of scoring goals has been established, it is also worth considering his shot-creating actions and their frequency as well.
- Over the first seven matches, Boniface had 26 shot-creating actions, an average of 3.71 SCA/game; over the subsequent five, he has had 14 shot-creating actions, an average of 2.8 SCA/game.
Finally, a look at his other calling card: shots.
- Even here, there is a downturn: in the five matches in which he has failed to score, he took a total of 16 shots (adding up to 2.2 xG), an average of 3.2 shots per game. In the previous seven, he took a total of 44 shots (adding up to 8.1 xG), an average of 6.285 shots per game. His shot output has, more or less, been halved.
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It is not, as some might suspect, that opponents have sussed him – or Bayer Leverkusen – out either.
- A look at touches: he has averaged 35.6 per game over the last five, and 38.5 per game over the previous seven.
The conclusion here is simple: Boniface is getting as much of the ball as he always did, but is (a) being less dynamic with it, and (b) taking fewer shots.
Quite why this is the case is anyone's guess.
- All stats via FBref and Opta
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