2022/23 Season Preview: Samuel Chukwueze
What factors are likely to determine Samuel Chukwueze’s trajectory at Villarreal in the 2022/23 season?
We assess the lay of the land and look ahead: what factors could influence how things pan out for the Nigeria international?
Review of 2021/22
Missing the first two months of the season due to injury is hardly the platform for success, and so it proved for Chukwueze. The hamstring injury he sustained at the end of 2020/21 meant he faced a long road back, and upon his return, Villarreal unsurprisingly played it safe with him in terms of minutes.
Regardless, he had some memorable moments as the season progressed, often from the bench. He memorably scored the goal that eliminated Bayern Munich from the Champions League in April, as well as late sealers against Young Boys and Real Sociedad earlier in the campaign. On the whole, Chukwueze finished with seven goals and three assists in all competitions.
State of play
Chukwueze has started just two of Villarreal’s six friendly matches so far in preseason, although his goal in the friendly against Borussia Dortmund was very well executed, and was part of a mostly encouraging outing.
By all indications it does seem like he will have to duke it out with Yeremy Pino for a place in the starting lineup this season. Villarreal scraped a Europa Conference League place on the final day of the season last term, and it is safe to assume that there will be plenty of minutes to go around.
Big question: Will he finally add consistency and goals to his flair?
Look, we know Chukwueze can dribble. He is legitimately one of the best at it in Europe, and on any given day he can eat any full-back in the world alive.
However, there is more to football than just take-ons. In concrete terms, there is little difference between what the 23-year-old is now and what he was three seasons ago when he first broke out. It’s about time he started adding goals and assists to his fleet of foot, as well as improving his level of involvement on the pitch. To that end…
What can he improve?
It would be easy to say he needs to score more goals, but doesn’t everyone? Let us go for something that is entirely within his control: his variety, both in terms of actions and space occupation.
Chukwueze seems to only want to do one thing: stand out on the touchline, receive the ball, and then take on his full-back. All right, that’s three things, but you get the point. After a while, it gets repetitive, less effective and more frustrating for his own teammates. There is such a thing as being too direct, and the Nigeria international could do with playing with his head up more often.
What would constitute a good season?
Chukwueze has never put together a 10-goal season before, so that has to be a target for him this season. However, in keeping with the theme of playing with his head up more, assists too will figure in how his 2022/23 season comes to be viewed.
Appearances: >40 (all competitions)
Goals: >10 (all competitions)
Assists: 10 (all competitions)