A lot has been written about Chicharito’s demise the last few months of 2016. The very reserved Mexican Media has not helped the situation. It is a well known fact Chicharito avoids them and they never fail to take a shot at Chicharito when they can. I will never forget the Mexican journalist who basically took credit for Chicharito’s success because Chicha was “motivated” due to the journalist’s criticism.
However, hot takes aside, Chicharito’s struggles at the end of 2016 were real. He closed out the year on a scoreless streak that had reached over 100 days. It currently stretches 15 official games. Overall for the season, he has 7 goals in all competitions in 1,734 minutes. The equates to a very un-Chicharito rate of 1 goal every 247 minutes. That number is over double his goal scoring ratio last season of 1 goal every 120.6 minutes across all competitions. Bayer Leverkusen have not been able to win games without Chicharito banging them in like he did last season. The club is struggling in the league and are currently in 9th place.
Some theories are out there as to why the Chivas youth product has struggled. The latest suggests Chicharito is not happy at at the club and looking for a way out. However, Eric Bruehl (from the popular Neverkusen Podcast) does not buy that theory.
He is at a club that has him as the focal point of their attack and marketing efforts. He knows the club values him and has said so on many occasions. I think his lack of production just comes down to the team around him. A striker is only as good as the chances he gets and on paper, Chicha should get plenty of chances. Games aren’t played on paper and Bayer have been hit with the injury bug hard. Chicharito himself was hurt early in the season. Bellarabi, arguably Bayer’s most dynamic player, has played less than 170 minutes the entire season. Last season, Bellarabi finished 2nd in the Bundesliga in assists with 11. He also chipped in with 6 league goals. Luckily for Chicharito and Bayer, Bellarabi seems ready to go for the 2nd half of the season. He has trained and played in the friendlies over the Bundesliga break.
Bayer’s other missing man is their high priced Summer Transfer, Kevin Volland. He has only been healthy enough to start 8 games across all competitions. Last season with Hoffenheim, Volland had 15 G+A in 33 games but he has 1 assist in the 9 Bundesliga games he has played for Bayer. The website WhoScored has him at a 6.45 rating this year in the league, compared to the 7.17 rating he has averaged the last 3 years. It is clear Volland has not fully gelled with his new club and teammates. Injuries have hampered him as well but he appears to be healthy now. He will need to up his play in 2017 to show he was worth the $20 or so million the club spent on him.
Bayer have been struggling without 2 of their best playmakers on the field. This has definitely led to a dip in opportunities for Chicharito. His shots per game went down 27% from last year to only 1.9, his lowest since his move to Europe in 2010. On the bright side, his accuracy on those shots went from 50% (last season) to 63%. Scoring goals will always depend on getting good chances and he has seen a decrease. Naturally his goal total will suffer. It also doesn’t help that he has hit the post 3 times already this year in the Bundesliga (only twice all of last season). For good measure, one of the best saves of 2016 was against him as well.
It might sound like I am making excuses for him but I’m really not. He has struggled this season. There is no way around that but it might be good to try and analyze why he is struggling rather than spit out hot takes. He is great around the goal and makes great runs but is he a player who can constantly create his own chance with the ball at his feet? Nope, that is just not who Javier Hernandez is. Part of the reason he was great last season was due Bayer being a perfect fit for his skill set. The team has hardly been complete since August. It is no surprise he has struggled and the team is lagging in the league table. There are a few positives going into 2017. They qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League, something they did not accomplish last year. More importantly, the team is finally healthy which might be what led to this
It’s only a friendly but seeing the ball go in the back of the net is always a positive sight for a goal scorer. Hopefully the new year brings goals for Chicha and points for Bayer. The club needed a hot streak to sneak into a Champions League spot last year, can they do it again this year?
Like Eric, I believe they can get back into a Champions League but I would not be surprised if they failed and were stuck in a Europa League spot. Which might have a negative effect on their chances of holding onto their players. The rest of this season is important to Chicharito’s future and I have confidence he will regain his form. I might email that Mexican journalist so he can start “motivating” Chicharito again...