Over the last few years, Burnley’s stubborn defence have thrown their bodies on the line to protect the cheapest clean sheets in FPL, but their injury-ravaged start to the 20/21 season has seen FPL interest in Burnley evaporate.
At the time of writing, their total squad has an effective ownership of just 35.3%.
Yet, players have returned from injury bringing clean sheets and points with them; Pope (92) is once more the top-scoring goalkeeper in FPL; and only Stones (69) and Dias (62) have outscored Mee (59) since GW8. So, are FPL managers right to still be wary of Burnley’s defence?
Burnley’s changing luck
Burnley started the season with significant injuries across the board, and they suffered for it.
Tarkowski returned in GW4, Lowton came into the side in GW6 and, most importantly of all, Mee returned from a long-term injury in GW8. This marked a pivotal moment in Burnley’s season.
The chart shows the absolute absurdity of Burnley’s season. Since Mee’s return, per game, Burnley have conceded significantly more xGA (1.65), shots (16.58) and shots in the box (10.42).
Yet somehow, per game, this has resulted in fewer shots on target (4.83), significantly fewer goals conceded (0.83), and significantly more clean sheets (0.5).
Whether it’s the return to form of Pope or a cliff dive in confidence from opposition strikers, the variance between these two periods is unbelievable.
Just as Burnley were inevitably going to stop haemorrhaging goals like they were in GWs2-7, it seems equally inevitable the taps will open again soon.
How do Burnley compare to last year?
|Missed shots %||34%||25%||33%|
|Blocked shots %||33%||29%||35%|
|xGA per game||1.42||1.07||1.65|
|ShA per game||14.13||10.83||16.58|
|ShA OT per game||4.37||5||4.83|
|SiB per game||8.39||7.5||10.42|
These numbers are incredibly revealing.
Burnley are pressuring opponents better, which has seen the percentage of missed or blocked shots rise from 54% before GW8 to 68% since GW8: a similar percentage to the 67% which helped them on the way to their 15 clean sheets last year.
However, the xGA, ShA and SiB per game have dropped significantly compared to the first 6 GWs and last year.
Pope’s poor form at the beginning of the season went largely unnoticed (63% save%), but he has since more than made up for it.
Burnley’s save percentage since GW8 sits at 83%, and (discounting the 5 goals Peacock-Farrell let in to City from their 6 shots on target) Pope’s personal save % since GW8 is actually at 90%: a truly sensational performance.
Can Pope sustain his form?
Pope laps up xGA for breakfast, conceding fewer goals than expected so far this season (22GA vs 26.2 xGA), last season (50GA vs 53.84 xGA), and in his other season as Burnley’s first choice keeper in 17/18 (39GA vs 51.16xGA).
Last season, the average goal scored past Pope had an xG of 0.26, but this season that average has shot up to 0.39, meaning the quality of chance needed to beat Pope has risen significantly (50%).
But the reality is that this is unsustainable. A regression is inevitable, with Burnley likely to start conceding goals to a higher level than last year soon.
So… are Burnley’s defence FPL options, or not?
Pope at £5.4m will continue to be an excellent shout because of the sheer number of shots that he will face, his ever impressive save%, and Burnley’s incredible capacity to ground out clean sheets.
However, his recent heroics, which have been reminiscent of last season, look unlikely to be rewarded with as many clean sheets in future.
Martinez at £5.1m for Villa remains both a safer shout (he is 32% owned vs Pope’s 11%), and a more reliable one (Villa’s xGA sits at 1.21 per game vs the 1.46 of Burnley).
Like Pope, Martinez boasts an incredible save% with 78% this season and 75% last season.
Mee, Taylor, Tarkowski and Lowton have all been impressive since Mee’s return, taking 4.9, 4.5, 4, and 3.8 points per game respectively. These are great numbers in comparison to other FPL defenders in the last GWs, but these numbers will drop should Burnley start conceding in line with their underlying stats.
But Burnley’s defence are cheap at least?
Tarkowski sets you back £5.3m and Mee £4.9m so competing assets Dallas, Shaw and KWP all look tantalising at £4.8m.
Similarly, Konsa (4.7), Vestergaard (4.7), Coufal (4.7), Targett (4.6) are all within a much more generous reach of most budgets.
However, Taylor is only £4.5m and Lowton is a measly £4.4m. These are the two that stand out.
With most successful defenders seeing price rises this year, there are slim pickings in the £4.5m and below category. Even with a regression, Taylor or Lowton offer a reasonable bench option as a 4th or 5th defender for those looking to use money elsewhere.
Overall, Burnley’s season has been wackier than most in a year that has redefined wackiness. Their refusal to concede in line with underlying statistics has seen them go from conceding once from every 5 shots to once every 20.
Reality, though, is inescapable, and it is coming for Burnley to correct its slights against reason.
*All statistics taken from understat.com