Why Burnley could be the biggest gainer in the January transfer window | THT Opinions

The Hard Tackle makes a case for relegation-threatened Burnley being the biggest winner in the January transfer window.

The recently concluded January transfer window was yet again a busy one for Premier League clubs. As the ones least affected by the lengthening pandemic, combined with superior broadcasting and sponsorship revenues, the English clubs have been able to lure many talented players across Europe to English shores.

The likes of Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Everton were among the busiest outfits in January, ushering a massive overhaul in order to reach their respective goals and objectives come the end of the season. Excluding the loan fees, the three clubs spent around €170 million combined.

Judging by their large expenditures, it does not take much to paint them as the big gainers in the January transfer window, with Newcastle United, in particular, significantly improving their squad in an attempt to stave off relegation during the second half of the campaign.

While Newcastle, Aston Villa and Everton went for quantity, others opted for quality. Liverpool, for one, made a smart investment on Luis Diaz while shipping two of their out-of-favour defenders in Neco Williams and Nathaniel Phillips out on loan to Championship clubs.

In what might come as a shock to many, another smart performer in the market was Burnley, having offloaded Chris Wood before signing Wout Weghorst. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at why the Clarets might even turn out to be the bigger winner from the winter transfer window.

The impetus of the Chris Wood deal

Chris Wood is a major doubt ahead of the visit of Chelsea. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Will Burnley rue the departure of Chris Wood? (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The January transfer window was always going to be an important one for Newcastle United. After being taken over by the Saudi Arabia-backed consortium, the Tyneside outfit were linked with almost every top player in Europe. But in light of their difficult sporting situation, they had to settle for players willing to drive them out of the relegation scrap to begin with.

Kieran Trippier became the club’s first signing under the new regime, but what truly caught the attention was the acquisition of Chris Wood from Burnley. The New Zealand forward joined Newcastle permanently in a €30 million deal and is set to become the club’s main forward during the second half of the campaign in the elongated absence of Callum Wilson.

It was a well-calculated move from Newcastle United, as the departure of Wood was set to significantly weaken Burnley, one of their direct competitors in the relegation scrap while strengthening their own ranks in the goalscoring department. With 23 goals in 21 matches, the Magpies are indeed one of the least productive teams in the division, with only Burnley, Wolves and Norwich City having a poorer goalscoring record.

Was Chris Wood truly the big deal?

For Burnley, the departure of Wood was expected to be a massive blow. With three goals, New Zealander was regarded as the most effective outlet in Burnley’s goalscoring department that consists of Jay Rodriguez (14 games, 0 goals), Matej Vydra (16 games, 1 goal) and Ashley Barnes (8 games, 0 goals).

In hindsight, though, Wood was the only striker on par with Burnley’s own inconsistencies going forward. A tally of 53 goals in 165 competitive matches is truly an impressive record for anyone playing for the Clarets. But there have been certain deficiencies regarding the striker’s performances this season, particularly when it comes to his effectiveness inside the box.

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Wood has amassed an xG tally of just 0.20 per 90 mins, a sharp downgrade from his tally of 0.39 last season. It is rather surprising given Burnley as a team have been able to create more scoring situations (0.74xA per 90) than they had last season (0.71xA per 90).

Another key piece of statistic that highlights Wood’s lack of productivity this season is his shooting efficiency. During his time at Burnley this season, the 30-year-old attempted 2.04 shots on goal, compared to 2.2 last season. While this is not a significant fallout, the bigger issue for Wood was his shots on target percentage that decreased sharply from last season’s 55% to this term’s 32%.

Where Chris Wood truly stands out, however, is his ability in the air. Thanks to his imposing 191 cm frame, he has won a league-high 112 aerial duels this season, with a success rate of 51%. It makes him one of the best headers of the ball in all of Europe, but was it going to be enough to help Burnley steer clear of relegation?

Chris Wood is highly dominant in the air. (Courtesy of FBRef)
Chris Wood is highly dominant in the air. (Courtesy of FBRef)

Then there comes Wout Weghorst

When Newcastle United signed Chris Wood from Burnley, very few could have thought that the Clarets would end up signing someone like Wout Weghorst as his replacement.

The Dutchman was one of the Bundesliga’s top goalscorers last season, netting 20 goals in 34 matches while producing nine assists. In fact, Weghorst has had a splendid record ever since arriving from AZ Alkmaar, scoring 59 goals in 119 appearances. Fortunately for Burnley, they were able to wrap up his signature in the middle of the only season the striker was underperforming, with just six goals in 18 games.

During his time in the Bundesliga, Weghorst played for a far superior club than Burnley. However, there is no denying that the 29-year-old is a far more complete forward, especially when it comes to work-rate in the creative side of things. Even in his worst season in the Bundesliga, the forward has amassed an xA tally of 0.12 and 2.47 shot-creating actions per 90, which are above average numbers in the broader perspective of Europe’s top five leagues.

Like Wood, the 29-year-old has had a fallout in terms of his efficiency in front of goal this season. Especially when it comes to his goals per shot ratio, the number has fallen sharply from 0.20 to 0.13, but it still scores higher than Wood’s 0.10. Meanwhile, the former Wolfsburg attacker has a much higher shot on target percentage of 50%, which has actually increased from his tally of 46% last season.

Statistical comparison between Chris Wood (L) and Wout Weghorst (R). (Courtesy of FBRef)
Statistical comparison between Chris Wood (L) and Wout Weghorst (R). (Courtesy of FBRef)

Weghorst cannot be deemed better than Wood in the air, given the sheer volume of duels the New Zealander has won (7.17 to 3.12 per 90). However, the Dutchman has a taller 197cm frame and has a marginally higher success rate of 52%. Those numbers are likely to improve in Sean Dyche’s traditional approach of hurtling balls into the box.

Wout Weghorst has not been in good form this season, but the same can be said for any other Wolfsburg player. The striker does have a track record of performing at the highest level of football, and with additional support from players like Dwight McNeil and Maxwel Cornet, the Clarets’ offence is certainly set for an upgrade.

Simply put, one of the least financially strong clubs in the Premier League and one of the relegation favourites have expertly utilised the €30 million recouped from selling Chris Wood to bag themselves a striker more than capable of causing more damage to the opposition defences while simultaneously creating a far deadlier combination with the creative outlets, making Burnley a strong candidate for being one of the biggest gainers in the January transfer window.

[Stats courtesy of FBRef]

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