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Gio Reyna’s Production is Declining. Does he Need a Break?

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The young American has been run into the ground, and it’s showing in his numbers.

Sport-Club Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Along with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Sergiño Dest, Giovanni Reyna is one of the most exciting American prospects in world football. He roared onto the scene at the beginning of the season, most notably with a three-assist performance against SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga.

In recent weeks, however, Gio Reyna’s production has practically ground to a halt. He hasn’t had an assist or a goal since BVB’s 5-1 defeat to VFB Stuttgart, and as I will demonstrate, his underlying numbers are declining as well. While some of this can be explained by the team’s decline, I’d argue that fatigue is playing a part too. Dortmund manager Edin Terzic should consider giving Gio a few games to rest and recuperate, in order to allow him to recover his form.

The idea that Gio Reyna is battling fatigue shouldn’t be controversial. He said as much during an interview back in January. According to Goal.com, Gio had never felt as exhausted as he felt in the final stretches of December.

As a 17-year-old, Gio is still maturing, and has surely never dealt with anything half as mentally and physically demanding as the Bundesliga. Add to that the fact that he played more than 400 minutes in the Champions League, and it is clear that these minutes are affecting his performance.

Gio Reyna obviously was not going to get three assists per game, but that wasn’t the only positive aspect of his performances earlier in the season. His actual scoring numbers aside, many of his underlying metrics were rather good. However, as his production has tailed off, so have his advanced stats. I plotted his npxG/90 + xA/90 over the course of the season, with a line representing a rolling three-game average to demonstrate how his numbers have decreased as the season has progressed:

Data source: FBRef.com

While Gio’s production and chance creation may be decreasing, I don’t think it is due to a lack of effort. I ran quick time-series regressions on his shot-creating actions/90, pressures/90 as a % of total team pressures, attempted dribbles/90, and progressive distance/90, and none of them had statistically significant decreases. So it’s not as if Gio is standing around the pitch doing nothing— he’s simply not creating as many high-quality scoring chances as he used to.

Reyna’s decline in chance creation may not be within his control, either. His decline is correlated with BVB’s decline as a whole, so he may be suffering from the team playing worse. Erling Haaland is in something of a slump, and much of Reyna’s early success was founded upon his chemistry with the Norwegian striker, so that could be another reason for his struggles. However, given his age, the amount of minutes he has played, and the levels of fatigue he claimed to feel prior to the mini-break in January, I think he has more than earned a reprieve. Thankfully, with Thorgan Hazard returning from injury soon, Reyna may not have to carry such an immense burden much longer.


Note: Huge thanks to Paul for helping me with the R code for this article.