Chris Wood is converting almost 40% of his shots for Nottingham Forest. Maintain that rate, and he’d break a Premier League record. We look at why his form in front of goal is critical to Forest’s top-flight survival.

Chris Wood is running hot.

Historically hot.

Any hotter and with a surname like his, he needs to be careful.  

The Nottingham Forest forward has scored 12 goals this season from just 31 shots. That works out as a 38.7% conversion rate. As things stand, that’s the best figure for any player (minimum 30 shots) in recorded Premier League history (since 2003-04).

Best Shot Conversion Rate in Premier League history Opta

It’s also better than anyone else on the continent in 2023-24.

Unlucky Serhou Guirassy (33.8%); see ya later Borja Mayoral (31.9%); move over Jude Bellingham (29.1%). Chris Wood’s got you all beaten.

Now look, are we saying that Wood – a Premier League journeyman who’s scored 67 goals in 222 games across spells at five clubs – has suddenly transformed into the most clinical striker in Europe? Er, not quite.

However, his numbers this season are eye-popping. And we felt that was worthy of some attention.

Shots per 90 vs Shot Conversion rate, big five leagues

With 12 league goals to his name already, Wood is enjoying his most fruitful campaign in three years. He’s also just two goals short of his career-best haul (14 with Burnley in the 2019-20 season).

At the heart of Wood’s success – across his entire career – has been an utter devotion to the penalty area.

He lives in it. Worships it. Thrives in it.

Just three of his 67 career Premier League goals have come from outside box (4%). Of players still active in the league, only Gabriel Jesus (0% – yes, really), Ollie Watkins and Michail Antonio (both 2%) have scored a lower proportion of their goals from outside the box (min. 30 goals).

This season is no different. Just three of Wood’s 31 shots have come from outside the box. Ironically one of those turned into a goal – a 25-yard strike against Fulham – but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Chris Wood - all premier league goals

Playing in relatively weak Premier League sides, Wood has never had the service to be a high-volume shooter.

His most shot-heavy season came in 2019-20, when he averaged 2.4 attempts per 90 minutes with Burnley. For context, 54 players average more than that in the Premier League this season, while at just 2.0 shots per 90 this campaign for Forest, Wood ranks 84th.

But that makes sense given he’s playing for a side who average just 40.2% possession (third-lowest) and take only 11.6 shots per game as a team (fifth-lowest)

It’s not Wood’s role to take lots of shots. Instead, he needs to make the most of the ones he does take.

And Wood is doing just that. He’s hit the target with 70% of his shots this season, the fourth-highest rate among all strikers in the Premier League.

But what’s even more illuminating is the quality of his chances. On average each of his non-penalty shots is worth 0.25 expected goals (xG), the best rate of any player in the Premier League this season. That’s an elite figure, albeit from a small sample. Erling Haaland’s xG per shot in his record-breaking season in 2022-23 was 0.23, and he was on penalties.

Based on those underlying numbers, we’d expect one in every four of Wood’s shots to go in. In truth, over one in three have found the net, which shows just how sharp his finishing has been (aside from that crazy open-goal miss against Tottenham).

We said Wood loves to operate in the penalty box, and it’s no different when you look at the defensive side of his game.

Brilliant in the air, Wood is a real asset defending his own box from opposition set-pieces.

He has made first contact on defensive corners 10 times this campaign. Only centre-back Murillo has done that more often (12) and he’s played almost twice as many minutes as Wood.

The former Burnley man also averages 1.5 clearances a game in the Premier League this season, the sixth-most of any forward in the league.

Chris Wood defensive actions

Outside of both boxes, Wood is not asked to offer much in possession. He averages just 14 successful passes and 34 touches per 90 this season.

That’s not to say he can’t – it can be hard to separate the player from the system he operates in – but Wood’s managers have all deployed him as a penalty-box striker, tasked with generating chances from very little.

And sometimes, that’s all you need to be. Particularly playing for a side fighting for their lives in a relegation battle.

In the absence of Taiwo Awoniyi – who many would deem Forest’s first-choice striker – Wood has stepped up and scored some vital goals.

In fact, 10 of his 12 goals this season have either been equalisers or put Forest ahead. The two goals that came when Forest were leading were during games Wood had already scored in: his hat-trick goal against Newcastle at Christmas, and the second in his brace against Luton in October.

In total, Wood’s goals have been worth eight points for Nuno Espírito Santo’s team. Aside from Dominic Solanke – who’s 17 goals have earned Bournemouth 15 points – no other player has been more ‘valuable’ to a side in the bottom half of the table.

You only have to look at the team one place above them in the table to see the negative impact of struggling in front of goal (as well as a hefty points deduction, of course).

Premier League xG vs goals

At -16, Everton have underperformed their expected goals by the largest amount across any team in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Our expected points model tells us they should be 10th based on the quality of chances they’ve created and conceded.

Of course, they are not, and running cold in front of goal over the course of an entire season can put you in a perilous situation.  

Nottingham Forest have plenty of things to worry about, not least a points deduction of their own. But a player finishing off the few chances they create in front of goal is not one of them.

That’s thanks to Wood.

Yes, a lot of his finishing stats are inflated due to a low-level of shot volume. Wood’s played just 46% of all available minutes this campaign, after all. Playing over the course of an entire season and taking more shots would make it very hard to maintain this current level of efficiency.

But that’s not a reason to criticise Wood’s performances this season. When you’re in a relegation battle, the fine margins matter. Chances are few and far between. Matches are decided in moments.

And at this very moment, there’s no one Forest would prefer a chance to fall to than Chris Wood.

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