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What does Henry Onyekuru need to thrive at Bayern Munich?

17:06 GMT+3 29/05/2019
Galatasaray Ankaragucu Henry Onyekuru 190119
With a move to the Bavarian giants reportedly in the offing, what does the Everton loanee have to do to succeed in Germany?

At first improbable, it now seems like the reports linking Henry Onyekuru with a move to German giants Bayern Munich have some heft to them.

The 21-year-old is coming off a fine season with Turkish champions Galatasaray, with who he has been on loan from parent club Everton. An inability to secure a work permit has kept him from making his debut for the Toffees, and if these latest reports are to be believed, he might not even get the chance.

The consensus seems to be that, having distinguished himself with a title-winning team in a European league, he has proven his adaptability, and therefore earned a move of this magnitude. While there is something to be said for the Nigeria international impressively taking to whatever level he has been thrust into in his career – be it the Belgian top flight with Eupen or the Super Lig – that assessment does not exactly hold up.

Turkey, per the UEFA coefficients, is ranked 10th in Europe for the period 2014/15 to 2018/19. That is lower than such hotbeds of competition as Portugal, Russia and Ukraine. It fairs even worse when the points for the current season alone are considered: it falls below Scotland, Austria and Cyprus.

The point?

The Turkish top flight is not at its strongest right this moment.

However, this is not a bid to play down Onyekuru’s worth, merely to institute some necessary caveats. As the saying goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you. The Nigeria international did just that, and then some, as his 14-goal haul from a wide forward position attests.

If anything, what it does tell the interested observer is that, in order to thrive in Germany as he has elsewhere, there needs to be a bump in production in all facets.

A look at what he is walking into at Bayern Munich is instructive. The Bavarian club have lost legendary pair Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, the twin terrors that defined a quite successful decade. The season just concluded, with either or both missing for significant periods, offered a snapshot of what to expect for the future, but while Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry have manfully stood in the gap, it is clear more firepower is required upfront.

There have been links with Manchester City contract rebel Leroy Sane, but in Onyekuru they would be getting a more direct goal threat at a far smaller cost than the sum (in the £80 million bracket) mooted for Sane. However, the price cannot be the sole consideration for a club of Bayern’s standing, so what do the numbers say?

While Onyekuru excels both in goalscoring, Coman and Gnabry outstrip the Everton loanee both in terms of assists and chance creation, with the German in particular having a fine season: five assists and 13 big chances created in 30 matches.

Coman has featured rather less frequently due to niggling injuries, but assisted four times and created seven big chances.

In this regard, Onyekuru will need to improve: his associative play with the rest of the team can be much better, as can his final ball. Often, his passes are underhit, or fail to meet a teammate’s stride perfectly for a first-time execution. The upshot of this is that, while his blinding pace makes him virtually uncatchable in transition, he is perhaps the player for finishing off the counter, rather than leading it.

There is also a sense there is not enough variety to his shooting, both in terms of style and volume.

Over the course of the season, Onyekuru averages close to two shots per game, which is respectable enough, but the vast majority of his shots tend to be from inside the area. While statistically those shots offer the highest probability of scoring, there is something to be said for presenting more of a threat over longer distances.

His inability to do so might be the result of his preferred finish being the curling shot with the instep into the far corner.

Perhaps there is even a little bit of chicken and egg to it, in that his reluctance to shoot with power might be what conditions him to avoid shots from farther out altogether.

However those factors feed into one another, it is clear that Onyekuru has a few upward rungs still to latch on to. Bayern will most definitely task his ability to up the volume on his output, while filling out in other areas. So far, he has proven capable of handling the jumps, and so perhaps there is enough reason to be optimistic he will simply play up to the level he is thrust into.