Benik Afobe’s loan move from Stoke City to Millwall has got off to a slow start. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo international opened his account against Fulham on Tuesday evening, hopefully from the Lions perspective, lifting a weight off of his shoulders.
In this piece we dig a little deeper into the underlying numbers behind the 28-year-old’s opening three Championship appearances.
To get the negatives out of the way first, Afobe’s fortunes in the final third have been desperately sparse. He has averaged just over two touches in the opposition’s penalty area per 90 minutes.
The Lions have had a tough opening trio of fixtures with spirited performances from Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers posing challenging tests.
Granted, this is a small sample size, but a striker cannot be a threat to the opponent’s backline if they are taking just two touches in the 18-yard box every 90 minutes; that figure will need significant improvement if Afobe is to keep his spot in Rowett’s team.
He has taken just two shots on target in the three outings, one of which resulted in his goal on Tuesday. However, it is debatable if it was an intentional shot, with a Matt Smith knock down hitting him in the head from close range and comically looping over a helpless Paulo Gazzaniga.
The value of his two shots have equated to an average of 0.1 expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes, a completely unsustainable figure should he have desires of pushing on to hit double figures in the league.
The final negative comes in his chance creation, Afobe is yet to set up a Millwall shot and therefore has an expected assists value of zero. If he is not bagging himself, the 28-year-old must contribute to the build up play and attacking machine of Rowett’s side.
Now, there are reasons for optimism. Afobe’s pass accuracy is at 79.3%; solid for a striker often receiving the ball without being afforded much space or time, it also speaks for his intelligence to find a good position to receive.
He has also completed five of six attempted dribbles so far in the league, collating a success rate of 83%, a part of his game he should be encouraged to continue as it should reap rewards for the team in the long run.
Lastly, Afobe’s aerial duel success rate is at 40%, but he did put in a dominant display against Blackburn when he won six of nine aerial duels. A figure that will have Rowett purring, content at adapting to a direct style of play if it fits the game situation with the likes of Jed Wallace and Mason Bennett adept at running off of flick-ons and knockdowns.
A mixed start to life at The Den, then, but plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Afobe’s previous Championship pedigree suggests that he can catch fire at some stage this season.