Hwang Hee-chan ends Premier League debut season with five goals, one assist
Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Hwang Hee-chan finished his first season in the Premier League on Sunday with five goals and one assist over 30 appearances as the midlands club finished 10th on the table.
Hwang, who is known as The Bull for his relentlessly aggressive style of play, quickly become a fan favorite after joining Wolves on loan in August, scoring four goals in his first six Premier League appearances. The fact that Hwang has a very different approach to countryman Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur — relying on strength and persistence rather than speed and agility — only added to the interest.
But after that initial flurry, the 26-year-old struggled to stay productive in the new league, scoring just one goal in the last seven months on Feb. 24. A hamstring injury at the end of 2021 didn't help Hwang's chances, pushing him to the sidelines for five games.
Despite the obvious dip in performance, Wolves in January activated a clause to make Hwang's loan from RB Leipzig permanent later this year. By activating the clause, Wolves committed to signing Hwang on a four-year contract this summer. The deal, for which both personal terms and the club fee were agreed last year, will go through during the offseason, putting Hwang with the club until the end of the 2025-26 season.
Although Hwang's up-and-down season might not have lived up to the expectations he set with such an explosive start — he scored a goal in his first ever game with Wolves on Sept. 11 and then two in his fourth game on Oct. 2 — a slow first season in the Premier League isn't unusual for players making the move from another European league.
Son, who joined Tottenham in 2015 from Bayer Leverkusen, scored four goals in his first season in the Premier League, also picking up one assist in 28 appearances. One year later Son had 14 goals, and five seasons after that he won the Golden Boot.
A similar path could well be open to Hwang if he can learn from his experience this season as he enters his sophomore season in three months time. In fact, with Wolves proving especially unproductive in front of goal this season, Hwang's five goals are actually good enough to see him take third place on the club's goal scorer ranking, behind Raul Jiminez and Daniel Podence tied for first with six each.
For Wolves, the 10th-place finish will be disappointing but not entirely unexpected. The club was only promoted to the Premier League in the 2018-19 season after a six-season spell in the lower leagues. In the 2018-19 season and 2019-20 season they finished seventh, before dropping down to 13th last season.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]