Boniface has been a key element of Leverkusen’s attacking performance so far. Coach Xabi Alonso’s side have scored 20 goals in their first six games, the same number as Bayern Munich. Their offensive strength is also confirmed by the expected goals metric (xG), which assesses the quality and volume of scoring opportunities created.
According to this metric, Leverkusen maintains an average of 2.08 expected goals per game, the third-best result behind Bayern (2.24) and Freiburg (2.11), whose players, however, often fail to finish. Of Leverkusen’s total expected goals, Boniface’s chances represent an impressive 47%. Only Jonas Wind (Wolfsburg), Omar Marmoush (Frankfurt), and Loïs Openda (Leipzig) are currently better, accounting for 49% of their teams’ total xG.
Without being a direct comparison, Boniface creates the intensity on the pitch with his movements that, for example, Liverpool’s Darwin Nuñez produces. Chaos in a good way. The burly Nigerian striker, for example, is averaging 6.2 shots on goal per game. An average of just over three attempts is enough to be in the top 10% of the top nine of the best leagues in the world.
This is also well illustrated by a comparison between the best players of the current Bundesliga season, in which the other strikers keep a respectable distance from Boniface. The trio of Serhou Guirassy, Harry Kane, and Tomas Cvančara are shooting 3.5 shots per game. By an overwhelming majority, the Nigerian also dominates the number of touches with the ball inside the opposing area. He’s averaging 10 per game, two more than the aforementioned Guirassy. Kane has six and Openda five.
And it is not surprising that there is a similar difference between Boniface and the others also in the number of shots he creates alone, that is, without the prior action of a teammate. After six rounds, it’s almost certain that his numbers won’t be as dominant in the long run, but they give a good picture of his current state of mind and how quickly he has adapted to the new competition.
Now, the most important thing. How many quality opportunities are you creating with your activity and what is the quality of your movement in the area? The answer is clear. Only Wolfsburg’s Wind has created more scoring opportunities so far, but the gap between the two players is not great. While the 24-year-old Dane has 0.80 expected goals per game, Boniface has scored 0.76 so far. And with an overall xG of 5.34, he scored six goals.
Moreover, given the high volume of shots and the activity in the last third, their contribution to the goals seems sustainable in the long term. Although Sehrou Guirassy is at the top of the Bundesliga scoring table with 10 shots on target, one has to remember that he crossed the double-digit threshold with only 4 expected goals and his 45% of converted shots are not a sustainable frequency. Boniface is among the top scorers despite having converted only 16% of his attempts, a fairly average number.
Leverkusen hit the jackpot
The young striker was not among the best finishers, even during his previous commitments. In Belgium, he scored nine times, with 11 goals expected, while in Norway 15 and 13 of his shots came on goal. The relatively high number of shot attempts from an open angle or from outside the sixteen areas, along with missed opportunities, will most likely be something he won’t avoid for the rest of his career.
For example, in the last league game against Bayern, he worked tirelessly to finish at every opportunity but ended up not missing any of his eight shots. At the same time, he is still only 22 years old and is going through a very turbulent period in his career, so it is possible that he will gradually gain more serenity. If that doesn’t happen, it’s not a big deal because it also has chances to score in more dangerous central zones inside the area, which is a crucial skill for a striker.
In both Norway and Belgium, he showed that he had a very good game with his back to goal, which his teammates often exploited. Leverkusen has done this a little less so far, and Boniface’s number of possessions in these situations is below average. As far as creativity is concerned, Boniface showed last season that he knows how to play between the lines and that he has a good ability to create opportunities from midfield and, above all, from the central zone next to the goal.
He doesn’t have as many opportunities at Leverkusen, as he is one of the nine most effective, but he has already managed to make two assists for a goal. His results in the expected assists metric are above average in the league.
Trading in the market for top forwards is extremely difficult at the moment for a number of reasons, but so far Leverkusen seems to have been very smart during the transfer window and is reaping the rewards of their €21m investment from the start. Even though Boniface still looks like a diamond in the rough, he has quickly fit into the offensive team and will make his presence noticed many more times this season.