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Dwight McNeil Burnley Tactical Analysis Premier League

Replacing Chris Wood: Using xGold to find 4 transfer options for Burnley

Finding a striker in the modern game is not as straightforward a process as it might have been in the past. When we think of strikers we automatically think of goalscorers and players who ‘come alive’ in the final third of the penalty area and are not really involved with other parts of the game.

With a greater understanding and differentiation in terms of team styles, however, the role of the striker has changed. Take the English Premier League for example and we immediately see that a striker needs to have a different skillset depending on which team they happen to play for.

At Manchester City, for example, a forward needs to be able to function as a creative midfielder as they tend to play in such compact shapes that interlinking with teammates is an important part of the role. At Liverpool, the ability of the central striker to drop off and play in deeper areas is important in terms of creating space for the likes of Salah or Mane to cut inside and attack diagonally into the penalty area. While both of those examples are at the top end of the Premier League hierarchy we can look lower in the table to see that this trend hold true.

Under Sean Dyche, we have seen Burnley develop perhaps one of the most effective game models in the top-flight, especially when you take into account the level of spending on transfers and wages at each club. Burnley are a side who take some criticism for their perceived style of play but their compact shape and aggressive and direct style is combined with intelligent team building and recruitment that sees then target players that they believe is a fit for their team and style of play.

Now, Burnley find themselves in a position where they have to find a new striker with the news that the New Zealand international Chris Wood has left the club to join Newcastle United, a side that are in the relegation fight this season with Burnley. I don’t think that Burnley expected to be losing one of their most effective strikers this January but with reports that Newcastle played £25M for a striker who is 30-years-old and that Wood wanted to make a move for a fresh challenge we see Burnley now in a position where they have to try to replace Wood and his output in a difficult window.

In this article, we will use our xGold tool to identify four possible targets that Burnley could turn to in order to strengthen their squad. xGold is a custom-built tool that allows us to find players with similar data outputs to a target player from around the football world.

#1 Lyndon Dykes, 26-years-old, QPR and Scotland – 89% match

The first player on our list for Burnley to consider is the 26-year-old Scottish international Lyndon Dykes. Dykes, who was actually born in Australia has been linked in recent days to a move to the top-flight in England with the likes of Crystal Palace and Newcastle (it’s always Newcastle) reported to have an interest in the forward. Dykes profiles as a traditional target-forward who receives the ball well with his back to goal and can bring others into the game as they move into advanced positions. He also, however, has the pace to run and threaten the space behind the defensive line, something that Wood does not necessarily have in his game.

While Dykes does not profile as a prolific goalscorer he does tend to create spaces and opportunities for teammates as he drags opposition defenders towards him as they try to deal with his power and threat in the air.

First of all we will look to compare Dykes to Chris Wood in terms of his attacking outputs. As you can see from the radar comparison Dykes output is higher almost across the board than Wood’s with the only exception being a slightly higher percentile rank for Woods in terms of head goals per 90. It should be noted that neither Woods nor Dykes profile as forwards who take a large volume of shots although as you can see from the radar Dykes is higher in terms of his % of shots on target and goal conversion %. We do, of course, have to note that Dykes is playing at a slightly easier level than Woods but looking at the data above I think that Dykes data translates into an interesting option for replacing Woods.

Now, we will consider a comparison between Wood and Dykes in terms of passing and progression. As I mentioned above Lyndon Dykes acts as a facilitator at club and international level as his presence and physical profile attracts opposition defenders towards him and as a result space is opened up around him. This translates to his passing and creative metrics as Dykes performs well in terms of key passes per 90 and expected assists per 90. He is a forward who would come into a club like Burnley and almost immediately make them better.

Dykes feels like a player who makes a lot of sense for Burnley, He is valued on Transfermarkt at £3,15M with a contract expiry of 2024. There should be negotiating room here and he would cost less than the fee brought in for Woods.

#2 Habib Diallo, 26-years-old, Strasbourg and Senegal – 84% match

The next player on our list is the 26-year-old Senegal international Habib Diallo. He currently plays in the French top-flight for Strasbourg. Diallo has followed a well-worn path from Senegal to European football. He developed at the famous Generation Foot academy and moved to France to join Metz, who have a partnership with Generation Foot, as a youngster. From there he has steadily built a reputation as an effective forward domestically and then in 2020 he made the move to Strasbourg for a reported fee of £9M. From that point, he has continued to impress to the point that a move to England actually feels like it would make sense for the striker.

As you can see from the above attacking comparison radar there are some areas of the game in which Woods is actually outperforming Diallo at this point in the season. Wood edges it in terms of head goals per 90 and xG per shot while Diallo is slightly better in terms of goal conversion % touches in the area per 90 and non-penalty xG per 90. Diallo is, of course, also younger than Wood and has yet to enter his peak years.  He is a forward who can play with his back to goal and, once again, he can bring others into the game and create opportunities in the final third for teammates.

Ths ability to bring others into the game is shown by the radar comparison of Woods and Diallo in terms of passing and progression. Diallo is simply providing a better output across the board compared to Woods with an extremely balanced look across all key metrics for the Senegalese forward.

While Diallo would probably require a more significant investment, I believe that he shows more potential for growth across the board compared to Dykes.

#3 Sasa Kalajdzik, 24-years-old, Stuttgart and Austria – 83% match

The third player on our shortlist is possibly my pick for a player to come in and immediately not only replace Chris Woods at Burnley but improve on what they had. That player is the 24-year-old Austrian international striker Sasa Kalajdzik. The tall striker who has 4 goals so far at international level profiles as the type of striker who would fit immediately into Sean Dyche’s tactical approach. His frame and ability in the air are excellent but he also understands how to set himself to receive the ball cleanly with his back to goal. While the Austrian has a significant value of £19.8M on Transfermarkt his contract has just 18-months to run. This is the point at which clubs have to start either talking about resigning a player or looking to sell in order to protect as much value in the player as possible.

The first thing for us to note is that Kalajdzic is playing at a similar level to the Premier League and his output across all key attacking areas are simply better. He is not only a goalscorer but a forward who can do everything that you expect of him in terms of finishing chances, winning the ball in the air and providing an attacking platform from which his club can build. The only attacking side of the game that he does not overly impress in are his dribbles per 90 but Burnley do not typically ask their centre forwards to carry the ball. Instead, they will be expected to hold the ball up and attack crosses.

Kalajdzic is less effective in terms of passing and chance creation than the likes of Lyndon Dykes and even Habib Diallo but he still registers stronger outputs than Chris Woods in these areas.

With the contractural situation of Kalajdzic at VfB Stuttgart now feels like the right time to approach them about a potential deal for the Austrian forward.

#4 Mohamed Bayo, 23-years-old, Clermont Foot and Guinea 81% match

Finally, we have the youngest player on our shortlist in the 23-year-old Guinean international forward Mohamed Bayo of Clermont Foot. He helped his team get promoted to Ligue 1 last season and his performance so far this season has been a big part of the reason that the relatively small side have not struggled to hold their own in the top-flight. He is a forward who comes alive in the final third and especially in the penalty area and he combines the ability to play with his back to goal with a willingness to run and attack space behind the opposition defensive line.

While Chris Woods edges it in terms of head goals per 90 and xG per shot it is clear to see that Bayo is outperforming him across all other metrics as the Guinean forward is a shot monster who maintains strong goal conversion despite a relatively high rate of shots at goal.

Once again we can see that chance creation and passing are not strong points for Chris Wood, although some of that is related to Burnley’s style of play, and Bayo impresses with his chance creation with relatively high outputs for key passes per 90 and xA per 90 as he creates good opportunites for teammates through his combination play in the final third of the pitch.

Bayo would rank second in terms of the players on the shortlist that I would prioritise for Burnley to target in order to replace Chris Wood and his output in terms of data.

Conclusion

  1. Sasa Kalajdzic
  2. Mohamed Bayo
  3. Lyndon Dykes
  4. Habib Diallo

That would be the order in which I would approach signing a player to replace Chris Woods at Burnley from our shortlist. I think that the top two give the most value in terms of the growth that they both have in their game as well as having significant resale value down the road.