Without Chris Wood, Burnley seemed destined for relegation in 2021-22. Sean Dyche has done brilliantly to keep the Clarets in England’s top flight for nearly a decade now, but this season has not gone as planned, and COVID interruptions have caused them to play the fewest amount of games so far. They sit bottom of the table as a result, and before today, had no genuine goal scoring threat in the team. But all of that has now changed in the blink of an eye, with a stunning surprise signing of Wout Weghorst from VFL Wolfsburg and Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands. In this tactical analysis, we break down why the Dutch forward is the perfect fit for Burnley, and why Weghorst swapped the Bundesliga giants for the Premier League minnows.
burnley’s style of playEmbed from Getty Images
Often mocked for their dinosaur-age style, the centre forward is one of the most important players to everything Burnley want to accomplish. That is exemplified best by the fact that Chris Wood was the target of 51.4 passes per 90 this season, the most of all Burnley men. Their longball, headed goals game may seem outdated by some, but it’s been incredibly effective in keeping the Clarets up over the years. We must also remember that on their day, Burnley can keep excellent possession. They choose to be more direct and go straight into their strikers whenever possible instead, which again means the centre-forward is an absolute essential piece to the puzzle. Take Chris Wood out of the equation (their top goal-scorer over the past three seasons), and you’re left with a massive hole. This is why Burnley were desperate to sign a striker before the window closed, and they correctly identified the perfect man to be not only a Wood replacement, but a massive upgrade in that department.Embed from Getty Images
Under Oliver Glasner, Wolfsburg often used the Dutch forward as their instant outlet after losing possession, and even looked to go toward him early on during build-up phases. Burnley will have recognized all of that, and the hard working forward’s potential to excel in any task they could ask of him. Setting their sights on Weghorst may have seemed like a non-starter at first glance, but the striker had expressed Premier League interest in the past, and they secured his signature with relative ease much in part due to Wolfsburg’s poor start to the 2021-22 season.
WOUT WEGHORST’S KEY CHARACTERISTICSEmbed from Getty Images
Wout Weghorst is an absolute bully. He will torment an opposition back-line throughout the 90 minutes, from pressing high, to dropping deep, to winning everything that comes his way in the air. If you had to sum up his best attributes into one sentence – Weghorst is deadly in the box, and a quintessential target man, but a high pressing forward capable of being so much more than just that. The Dutchman scored a career high 20 league goals last season, keeping up his streak of hitting double figures in each season since the start of 2015-16, back when he played for Heracles in the Eredivisie. But, again, more than just a goal-scorer, the 6’6 striker also holds up the play expertly well, and links up with close others magnificently. He’s the kind of centre-forward that naturally brings others into the game – both through on-the-ball and off-the-ball presence. Chris Wood is the exact same in that sense, and that’s why we’ve always been buoyant about the New Zealander’s arrival at Newcastle.Embed from Getty Images
But back to Weghorst. Not only can the Wolfsburg man score goals, he can also turn that solid on-the-ball presence into assists. The centre-forward hit a career high 8 assists last season in Wolfsburg’s stunning 4th place finish. This season hasn’t exactly gone as planned for Weghorst or his team for that matter, but he still ranks at the very top of all centre-forwards in Europe’s top five leagues for his defensive qualities, and ability to lead the first line of pressure. In fact, he ranked second on our Pressing From The Front – Top 10 Centre Forwards In Europe compilation back in December. The 29-year-old will allow Burnley to perform the exact same tasks they wanted to accomplish with Chris Wood up front, but will also help Burnley achieve greater success when pressing from the front and defending higher up the pitch. Sean Dyche’s team are always seen as one operating in a ‘low-block‘, but they still press from the front when they have the opportunity to do so, and Weghorst will be a tremendous help in accomplishing greater stability in their defensive solidity.
PLAYER COMPARISONSEmbed from Getty Images
When looking at the strengths of Wout Weghorst and Sean Dyche’s style of play at Burnley, it’s a match made in heaven. But if the Clarets are to survive this season, they need someone who can do more than the likes of Jay Rodriguez, Ashley Barnes and Matej Vydra, not to mention be an upgrade on Chris Wood. So let’s take a look at how the Dutch forward compares to Burnley’s other striking options, and his predecessor in Wood, on a per 90 basis for this season alone.
ATTACKING + POSSESSION
We’ve always been high on Wout Weghorst’s abilities as a footballer, and the above infographic shows exactly why. He outperforms his fellow Burnley competitors in both goal contributions, and expected goal contributions, in addition to shot on target %, shots on target per 90, and pass completion. He also excels in areas like dribbling, progressive passing and key passes, even if one or two Burnley forwards may perform slightly better on a per 90 basis. He’s always toward the top in every single statistical category, if not winning it altogether.
Encouragingly, when compared against Chris Wood, you can see the room for improvement. The 6’6 striker’s shot on target percentage and pass completion vastly outperform Wood, and will massively help Burnley not only keep the ball, but create more effective chances from that possession.
When it comes to the defensive side of the game, Weghorst continues to perform well, even in a team that keeps more of the ball than Burnley. Chris Wood beats him out for pressure percentage, and every single Burnley player has won more tackles, partially down to Wolfsburg having more of the ball. But his high number of pressures in the attacking third suggest he could help Burnley put on a more front-foot defensive pressuring style, and not need to resort to their low-block so early on. Burnley press higher when they have the mobility of Vydra and Rodriguez in the team, but not anywhere near as much with Barnes and Wood. Weghorst will add a different dimension, and potentially inspire more of a front-foot defensive stance.
The Dutchman’s also a capable dueler, having won more headed duels than all of his competitors. This is slightly expected of a man with a 6’6 frame, but still positive. Even on the statistics where Weghorst isn’t able to match his new Burnley mates, you can clearly see just how well he’d fit into the team’s over-arching style of play.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
For a fee reportedly around £12 million, yes that’s right, just £12 million, Wout Weghorst is an absolute steal for Burnley. He will instantly make the team better, and massively increase their chances of staying up this season. Weghorst does not just compare well to Burnley’s current forwards, but surpasses expectations and brings a whole new dynamic to the team. In size alone, the Wolfsburg man is an absolute menace. He will be incredibly difficult for Premier League defenses to contend with, and should help Burnley play a more free-flowing, higher pressing style of football. If nothing else, we cannot wait to see the big man in action in the Premier League, tormenting defenses and scoring goals for fun.
So there it is! Why Wout Weghorst is perfect for Burnley! Be sure to check out more of our Recruitment & Scouting articles, our brand new Data Analysis section, and all of our January Transfer Window articles. Also be sure to check us out on social media @mastermindsite, and don’t forget to give us a follow using the links below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!