By William Hill
24th January 2019
There are numerous statistics that continue to rate Burnley as the worst defensive team in the Premier League, despite the fact over half of the division have registered fewer than their six clean sheets through the opening 23 games.
The Clarets have conceded the most total goal attempts, with their 411 given up averaging out to 18 per match. Brighton sit next in this statistic, having allowed 355 attempts on their goal. For context, Manchester City (154) and Liverpool (188) have reduced opponents to less than 200.
Burnley also top the Premier League standings for shots conceded in the box (248) and headed goal attempts against (66).
The issues seem to be across the full width of the pitch too. Sean Dyche’s men have given up the most chances down the right flank (118), the left flank (92) and centrally (113).
Looking solely at these numbers, the expectation would be that Manchester United comfortably make it seven Premier League wins in succession when entertaining Burnley next.
Man Utd are 1/4 to beat Burnley at Old Trafford and 8/13 to win a match in which over 2.5 total goals are scored.
However, Burnley’s defensive resilience has massively improved across their last four top-flight outings and this has coincided with the return to favour of their initial first-team Premier League goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
What Tom Heaton’s return has brought Burnley
Both Nick Pope and Joe Hart have had stints as the club’s number one within the last 18 months as the former Man Utd youth goalkeeper has been sidelined with shoulder and calf complaints and then struggled to regain his place.
This included a run when the Clarets took only four points from a possible 33.
Yet Heaton returned for Burnley’s final game of 2018 in a 2-0 home win over West Ham. They have taken 10 points from a possible 12 in his four fixtures in goal, conceding only twice and keeping a pair of clean sheets.But it’s the more general defensive numbers that have been equally impressive in the same period.
Across the last four gameweeks of action, only Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City have allowed fewer shots on target than Burnley’s 12, while no club outside of the so-called ‘Big Six’ have conceded fewer ‘Big Chances’ to the opposition.
This suggests that Burnley have rediscovered some of their mojo from last season that saw them finish an unexpected seventh in the table and qualify for the Europa League.
Their successes last term included away draws at Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United, alongside a 3-2 win at Chelsea.
Therefore, the shock Burnley win at 11/1 may not be completely out of the question with Heaton between the sticks, while under 2.5 goals in the match at 13/8 suddenly seems much more attractive.