Burnley FC: Anomalies
Excerpts from Ted Knuston (@mixedknuts on Twitter), football statistician and founder of Statsbomb.com website:
“We open with Burnley 2015-16. That season Burnley won the Championship, finishing with 93 pts, 72 goals, +37 in goal difference. Burnley’s opponents shot 14.4 times per game. Even with expected goals figures (xG) of +.20 a game, they should still finish mid-table.
This is an early indication that Mr. Dyche may weigh the same as a duck.
Moving on, they somehow managed to stay in the Premier League last season, which in and of itself is a minor miracle, but the home form is particularly suspicious, resembling that of a Champions League club. However, this season is conclusive proof.
Dyche’s mighty Clarets sit 6th. in the EPL table with +4 goal difference. *
Burnley shoot 8.9 times a match. Their opponents shoot 20.7!
Burnley’s xG in attack is .66. In defence? 1.54! (And yet they sit in 6th) when the statistical laws of the universe says this is IM-possible. And SINCE it’s impossible and yet we can see it with our very eyes, the only other conclusion is witchcraft.
Sean Dyche must be a warlock!
We therefore demand he be weighed next to a duck, tossed in the bog to see if he floats, and burned for crimes against football.”
Awkward. Insane. Ridiculous.
At the start of last season, Burnley was in my relegation list because I refused to give them the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I didn’t think they were convincing. Then they altogether abandoned any hopes of getting points on the road. I had Gray for the first few weeks on my FPL, but shipped him out a couple of weeks after the Liverpool.
The year they won the Championship they finished with 15 draws, six of them 0-0s. Even the games they lost were by 1 goal margins. They were (and still are) under the cosh most games. As at the time of writing, they have faced 55 shots! Only Everton and Palace have faced more.
They’ve conceded 9 goals from those shots and only Man United (13.2%) boast a better percentage of shots conceded led to goals (16.4%)
At the turn of the year, the league average for men getting between shot and goal (for 5+ players) was 4.37%. Second place for this stat was Middlesbrough at 8.3% Burnley’s was 16.67. Extremely fascinating.
So how do they do it?
Burnley play a very deep defensive line, even at home. They play a tight, narrow 4-4-1-1 with room to shoot between the two front men and the midfield, allowing them to get their blocks in with 8 players behind the ball.
They utilize a defensive technique called “frame-squeezing” in which the two centre-backs position themselves in such a way that shots faced are funnelled generally in a direction straight at the goalkeeper. Most of the shots/goals conceded are generally through the middle of the goal. The number 5 and 6 defenders also drop off further to provide cover behind the keeper and put in additional goal-line clearances if need be.
Because they sit so deep and narrow, they force opponents to cross from deep and then get their clearances in. It’s no surprise then, that Tarkowski and Mee lead the league in blocks and clearances.
To play as an attacker in Sean Dyche’s team you have to maintain a high work-rate, be ready to challenge the ball and pick up clearances and second balls. Everyone chips in. Everyone.
Generally, when they do attack they try their utmost best to make it count. Seems like a pretty standard thing to do on a football pitch right? Well, this is Burnley FC and they’re special.
As of Feb. 2017, Burnley were taking shots in the danger zone with fewer than two men between the shooter and the goal for 33.3% of the time, the third highest in the league behind City and Spurs.
Their general attacking play involves fighting for second balls and finding teammates under lesser pressure. This gives them time to breathe and reduces chances of being on the defensive immediately after just starting an attacking move. Oh, and long shots are encouraged whenever there’s a chance.
Sean Dyche may be a witch with these odd stats, but Burnley are definitely no pushovers this season. It will be interesting to see just how far their resilience takes them in the league.
Special thanks to Ted Knuston, co founder of Statsbomb, for explicit permission to use his content. Check out statsbomb.com to understand XGs, PDO, YAPSS and other new-technology stats shaping the world of football today.
*Stats initially correct as of November 16th 2017. All others correct as at time of publishing unless stated otherwise.