Football Features

Hit woodwork stats: Who are the Premier League’s unluckiest strikers?

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 10:29, 6 December 2023

If Darwin Núñez didn’t have bad luck, he would have none at all.

The oft-maligned Liverpool striker joined Jurgen Klopp’s squad revamp from Benfica for a club-record fee of £85m in the same window Manchester City acquired Erling Haaland’s talents.

They were immediately compared and it wasn’t long before Núñez, much like everyone in the Premier League, was left in the dust. A credible scorer with the Eagles — 32 goals across 57 league appearances — his first season at Liverpool saw him bag nine strikes in 29 league outings.

Nunez needs to improve his composure in front of goal, but it’s fair to say luck hasn’t always been on his side.

“It’s the riddle of the life of a striker. You have a few goals already and it makes it easier,” Klopp said recently. “He always will miss chances but if you miss the first five before you score it doesn’t feel great. Now he has had a good start to the season and he has scored fantastic goals, different goals, all kinds of goals. He’s in a different moment.”

Things are looking up this campaign, with Klopp even talking about Núñez’s scary potential.

“I’m a bit afraid of the highs he could reach because there is so much there, it’s crazy,” he added.

But there is still one tendency Núñez cannot shake: hitting the woodwork. In fact, he’s doing so at a nearly unprecedented rate.

Is Nunez the Premier League’s unluckiest striker right now?

Núñez is already five behind last season’s total but really should be on more than four Premier League goals for 23-24. In yet another entertaining high-scoring affair, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alexis Mac Allister and Wataru Endo found the net, running out 4-3 winners over Fulham last weekend.

Núñez could have joined them but struck the woodwork again. It was the 10th time he’s done so for Liverpool, a league-high since he moved to the Premier League. In fact, since Opta began collating ‘hit woodwork’ data (from 2006/07 onwards), no player has hit the post or bar at a higher per-90-minute average than Nunez. Liverpool’s No.9 is well clear on 0.36 ahead of former West Ham and Fulham forward Mladen Petric and Deniz Undav (0.29).

Undav, currently on loan at Stuttgart from Brighton with five goals in eight Bundesliga games, hit the woodwork twice in 619 minutes. Petric and former Norwich forward Josip Drmic also played fewer than 1,000 minutes. This makes Nunez’s record all the more freakish, although Liverpool fans will not be encouraged by the outcomes for the three aforementioned forwards.

Arsenal and Brighton young guns just off the mark

If we filtered the Opta data to exclude players with less than 1,000 minutes of game time, two interesting names pop up in second place.

Brighton teenage sensation Evan Ferguson has been earmarked for big things, with Premier League champions Manchester City among those linked in transfer reports. Having already won eight international caps for Ireland (three goals), Ferguson has netted six times in the Premier League this season, to go with the six he already bagged the previous campaign for a total of 12. But it so easily could have been more. Across both, he has hit the woodwork five times.

Alongside Ferguson on a 0.26 per-90 average is Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah, who hit the woodwork four times in the 2021-22 Premier League season despite playing just 824 minutes.

Nunez’s woodwork woes are deja vu for Liverpool

A Uruguayan hitting the woodwork on this scale will feel familiar to many Liverpool fans. Luis Suárez was doing this before Núñez but the former Ajax centre-forward ultimately transformed into a world-class goalscorer. Such prolificacy in the red half of Merseyside wouldn’t be matched until Mohamed Salah walked through Anfield’s gates.

Suárez ended his Liverpool stint having registered 69 goals across 110 appearances. But his figures weren’t always so impressive. After his first 37 games, Suarez was on 10 goals and probably quite frustrated, because he had also seen 10 efforts hit the woodwork — making him the fastest player to hit double digits in this category since records began.

The next quickest? As of Sunday, it’s Núñez in just 42 games, both Uruguayan forwards mere inches from massively boosting their goalscoring output as they worked to establish themselves in English football’s top flight.

Incidentally, after 42 Premier League games, Nunez has one more goal (13) than Suarez.

Which striker ‘hit the woodwork’ most in Premier League history?

Opta only started tracking data in 2006 but since then it is Robin van Persie who hit the post or crossbar more times (44) than anyone. He did so 10 times in 2011-12 alone, the most anyone ever recorded in a single Premier League season.

The former Arsenal and Manchester United striker has an extensive lead on the next-best total, which belongs to Harry Kane (36).

Sergio Aguero is next on 34, followed by former Manchester City teammate Kevin De Bruyne (29) — many will recall that 2016-17 season where the Belgian playmaker hit the woodwork nine times in the league. Rounding out the top five is Wayne Rooney, also on 29.