Football: How All Whites striker Chris Wood has thrived in the English Premier League

As the English Premier League season comes to a climax, Chris Wood continues to defy the odds.

With players from 112 countries featuring in its 30-year history, it is staggering that a New Zealander has found himself at the top table.

The All Whites striker is one of the great outliers of New Zealand sport, and his achievements could fuel some fascinating pub trivia questions.

Try this one: How many Germans have scored more Premier League goals than Wood? Or this: Which Russian and Croatian players have topped his 42-goal career haul?

The answer to both is none.

Mesut Ozil (33) leads the Premier League charts among Germans, while former Everton and Manchester United dynamo Andrej Kanchelskis managed 42 goals during his career. The leading Croatian (Nikica Jelavic) has 29.

It’s the same for other countries with much stronger footballing pedigrees than New Zealand. No Czech player has matched Wood’s scoring feats in England’s top flight, with Patrik Berger (38) and Milan Baros (28) heading their list.

There are numerous other nations, including Cameroon (16), Ecuador (24), Ghana (26), Greece (20), Hungary (17), Japan (14), Poland (3), Romania (23), Serbia (29), Switzerland (22) and Turkey (34).

Wood’s accomplishments also stack up against some top-tier countries. No nation exports more footballers than Brazil but only Roberto Firmino (63) and Gabriel Jesus (49) have exceeded Wood’s tally among the 59 Premier League players from South America’s largest country. And there are only two Italians from a long list: Paolo Di Canio (66) and Gianfranco Zola (59).

Wood isn’t the most skilful centre forward in England — though his all-round game has improved considerably — but has a wonderful scoring instinct and is mentally tough. He is proficient off either foot, physically imposing and dangerous in the air.

The 29-year-old scored for the third consecutive game last week — a well-taken penalty in Burnley’s 3-2 loss at Southampton — and is on track for another double-digit campaign, after finding the net at least 10 times each of the past three seasons.

With eight games to go, Wood has seven goals ahead of Burnley’s crucial clash at home to Newcastle tonight.

Wood has 42 career Premier League goals, with 41 coming since his Burnley debut in August 2017.

It’s been phenomenal, especially as Burnley are one of the smallest Premier League clubs (in terms of budget and home-town population) and Wood plays for a team that rarely dominates possession.

For perspective, Newcastle paid an estimated £40 million ($78 million) for Joelinton at the start of last season, but the Brazilian has found the net only four times.

The progress of Timo Werner at Chelsea also highlights the challenges of the Premier League. The £50 million-rated German was expected to be among a stellar cast at Stamford Bridge but has only five goals from his first 29 league games

Wood has scored against 18 Premier League clubs. West Ham have been his most frequent victims (six in seven games), followed by former club Leicester (four in eight games). He has three against Spurs, Everton and Aston Villa, among others, and has also netted against Manchester United and Arsenal.

Burnley will need Wood at his sharpest the next seven weeks. They are 15th (33 points) but with little margin for error, with Brighton (32), Newcastle (29) and Fulham (in the final relegation position on 26) close behind. The Clarets face tough trips to Old Trafford, Molineux and Craven Cottage and also host Liverpool during that time.

The United Nations of World Football

112: Different nationalities in English Premier League history.

96: Nations represented on EPL scoresheet.

42: Goals by leading New Zealander, Chris Wood.

62: Number of countries where the top EPL goalscorer has less than Wood’s tally.

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