Burnley’s rise to seventh in the Premier League table certainly has me wondering if they can maintain their form. Even more to the point is whether Burnley can provide fantasy assets. There are a few factors here that can give us some clues about how the rest of their season might go. With the rate that they have been able to get results to start this season, I can’t see them ending up in a relegation battle, but I don’t think they will be a top ten team by the end of the season either. Perhaps the better question here is how this affects your fantasy Premier League team and which players are important fantasy assets.
19 points from a possible 33 isn’t an amazing start to the season, but it’s good enough to put them seventh in the table after 11 matches. Perhaps this points more to the results of teams around them as much as their own performances, but a 5-4-2 record is identical to Liverpool. So, how exactly does a team like Burnley end up with a goal difference of 1 while Liverpool and Arsenl are just ahead of them with a +4 goal difference, but level on points.
This Burnley team has been set up to prevent teams from scoring. They have allowed just 9 goals this season, which is the fourth fewest behind Manchester United, Man City, and Tottenham, the top 3 teams in the league. Their goals scored, however, is 13th best with just 10.
This is a team that has been drilled in how to play defensive and has learned how to make it work. Believe it or not they don’t have the worst possession percentage in the league, but their 43.9% is third worst. Looking deeper at possession, they hold on to the ball more at home where this increases to 51.9% and decreases dramatically to 37.2% on the road. Their tactics appear to be sitting back to soak up pressure and then playing very direct to get the ball forward quickly, but not necessarily to counterattack.
Defensively this is a team that gives up a league most 17.7 shots per game which decreases to 12 at home and dramatically increases to a massive 22.5 on the road. The area that Burnley seem to be targeting defensively is in making clearances and blocks while also relying on positioning and the strength of their goalkeeper(s).
They lead the league in clearances with 376, shots blocked at 71, and total saves made with 45. Their ability to win aerial duels is also a great source of fantasy points with a league leading average of 23.2 per game.
Surprisingly they have a much more balanced zonal play than I expected. I really thought they would have had the ball in their own third much more than the 30% they are at. Instead most of the action is in the middle third at 43%; however, this is the second worst in the league while the 26% in opposition third is good enough to rank them 10th.
This is a team that looks to set up very defensively in the middle to final third of the pitch. While looking at recent heatmaps the bulk of their players were grouped in the middle third as well as centrally within the box. In their 0-1 in over Southampton in week 11, they limited Southampton to 0.9 with the Saints getting in 13 shots.
The 1-0 win over Newcastle was similar with Burnley limiting them to 0.5 expected goals despite giving up 12 shots.
Even though they continue to give up the most shots per game, their ability to limit the effectiveness of these shots has led to them allowing just 9 goals in 11 matches. This would be even lower if you take out the 2 goals against Chelsea to open the season and the 3 given up against Man City. They are also working hard to keep the majority of these shots coming down the middle and out of the area when possible.
At the other end of the pitch they have scored 10 goals this season with 3 scored at home and 7 on the road. Of these 10 goals, 9 have come from open play and one from a set piece. The vast majority of their shots have come down the middle (67%) and in the 18 yard box (57% with 38% outside of the box).
In terms of attacking transitions, Burnley lead the league with 77 long balls per game and have the third fewest short passes per game with 277, although they do play more short passes when they are at home (348 per game).
In looking ahead for Burnley I believe they have a good string of matches coming up just prior to the Christmas fixture scramble. Using my Fantasy Premier League Fixtures Planner you can see that their toughest test in gameweek’s 12-18 is against Arsenal at home in week 13. Even this match could easily swing in their favor considering how defensively solid they have been this season.
Players to watch
Obviously Burnley’s defensive options are going to be the best place to get fantasy points. Instead of actually breaking down all of the statistics for each player, I think it’s easier to put Burnley’s fantasy assets together based on positions and look at just a few key statistics.
Nick Pope – 13.38 PPG – 8 games – 37 saves
Ben Mee – 11.14 PPG – 11 games – 50 aerial duels won
Steven Ward – 10.57 PPG – 11 games – 9 chances created
James Tarkowski – 9.84 PPG – 11 games – 95 clearances
Matthew Lowton – 8.75 – 11 games – 24 interceptions
Johann Ber Gudmondsson – 5.8 PPG – 10 games – 3 assists
Robbie Brady – 7.86 PPG – 11 games – 19 chances created
Risks up front
Chris Wood – 8 PPG – 8 games – 3 goals
Sam Vokes – 7.71 PPG – 7 games – 3 goals
The bulk of the statistics are already there for the team as a whole, finding the individuals in this team is more difficult because of the way that they play. With their upcoming fixtures being primarily favorable, I think it is worth targeting Burnley players, especially in home matches where all of their statistics lean in their favor. I don’t know how sustainable this form is for them, but Burnley has given themselves a good head start this season and, barring injuries to their defensive backs, should continue to be a solid goal preventing unit.
Additional statistics come from https://www.whoscored.com