After Stephan Roux’s impromptu injection of positivity I’m actively looking forward to our clash with Burnley at Turf Moor tomorrow. The Lancastrians home doesn’t seem to have the same air of invincibility that it had last season, and Town could realistically cross back into Yorkshire with all 3 points on Saturday evening.
The battle of the barren
This clash will look less like the epic Game of Thrones ‘Battle of the B*stards’ and more like a battle of the barren. Whilst Town haven’t pulled up any trees on the goal scoring front, neither have Burnley – their figure of 9 goals in 7 games is somewhat skewed by their unexpected 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth.
In fact, Burnley have almost been as bad in front of goal as Town, not in terms of taking chances but in creating them. The Clarets have managed a measly 22 shots on target this term, which is only 4 more than Town.
For those of you unaware, expected goals are a fairly new addition to match statistics which give a more realistic review of a team’s performance than traditional statistics such as shots on target.
For every shot in a match it is calculated what the percentage chance of scoring from that position would be. For example, a penalty would carry an expected goal rank of roughly 0.85 as most spot-kicks end up in the back of the net.
Whereas a Jonas Lossl free-kick would have an expected goal rank of 0.01 as there’s very little of him hitting the back of the net. The expected goals figures are quite revealing for both Town and Burnley, take a look below.
On average Town have managed an expected goals figure of 0.53 goals per game this season, meaning we are slightly behind target with our 3 goals in 7 games.
On the other hand, Town have conceded an average expected goals rank of 1.84, which shows that we have let our opponents score more goals than they have deserved this season. We have conceded 3 more goals than we should have done this season so far.
Our lowest expected goals figure this season was against… Cardiff. Surprisingly, Town had an XG of 0.66 in their loss to Manchester City and a miserable 0.24 in the home draw against Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds.
Our highest XG of the season came in the 1-0 home loss to Crystal Palace in which we hit 0.85, opposed to Palace’s 0.76. These figures show that Town don’t defend efficiently and that they are also poor at converting their chances, of course we know all of that but these figures do show that we aren’t far off.
The Clarets XG per game is almost twice of Town’s, but once again it is skewed by the Bournemouth result where they had an XG of 2.34. However in their last game against Cardiff, Sean Dyche’s side were at the opposite end of the spectrum, with an XG of just 0.11 (the lowest in the Premier League this season).
Yet the Clarets still won, as both of their goals came from low probability chances, and their players showed a ruthless efficiency. In the goals against column Burnley should have conceded more than Town with a negative XG of 1.87 per game.
If you do some further digging into this statistic, you can see that Burnley have registered the highest number of clearances, blocks and deflected shots in the division. Whilst the odds of scoring have been in their opponents favour, Burnley have somehow managed to thwart them with last-ditch defending.
This is a very risky strategy, going into a game relying on your strikers to show from relatively slim pickings and hoping your defenders can muster goal saving blocks and tackles.
Whilst Sean Dyche is being applauded for lifting his side to mid-table in recent weeks, their ascent appears to have been down to luck more than skill. Surely this can’t continue against Town?
What does this mean for Wagner’s men?
It means that they will have to concentrate entirely for 90-98 minutes of the game, not allowing Burnley’s strikers to have any opportunities to capitalise on. It also means that Town need to shoot from closer range and engineer more one-on-one situations to breach Burnley’s spirited defence.
What do we think will happen?
The bookies, papers and pundits have already written this off as the weekend’s worst game, a dead cert for final billing on Match of the Day. However, we don’t quite agree with that. Sure last season, the two fixtures between the sides were poor from a neutrals perspective, but 3 Premier League 0-0 draws in the same fixture haven’t occurred consecutively since 1992.
Burnley are leaky at the back and so are Town, it will just be a matter of who can take their chances. I expected Town to register their highest XG of the season so far, and I reckon that will see us score twice, edging the game 2-1.
Comment below to let us know your match predictions.