Talking Tactics: Goal-shy Burnley running Wout of time to secure survival
Burnley went for a shot of Dutch courage in January by signing Wout Weghorst to aid their survival hopes.
The Netherlands international has made a strong start to his Clarets career but the goals have yet to flow.
The Lancashire club need that to change if they are to avoid dropping into the Championship after six top-flight seasons.
So, how can Sean Dyche get the best out of his No9? Ahead of tonight’s proverbial six-pointer with Everton at Turf Moor, we investigate.
Having scored 59 goals for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga over the previous three-and-a-half campaigns, Weghorst’s January arrival was met with excitement.
He not only looked like a successor to Chris Wood but an upgrade on the former Clarets star, who had just joined Newcastle.
And Weghorst, 29, soon showed signs of what he is all about.
On his home debut, he turned Manchester United duo Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay inside out before setting up Jay Rodriguez for Burnley’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw.
The following week, Weghorst grabbed his first Premier League goal before assisting another as the Clarets beat Brighton 3-0 to clinch their first away win of the season.
But he has yet to add to that effort, and he will need a bit of help from his team-mates if he is to fire Burnley to Premier League safety.
Unfortunately for Weghorst, he is leading the line for one of the least creative teams in the league.
Burnley have averaged 1.04 non-penalty expected goals per game this term, placing them fourth-last.
Only Everton (0.85) and rock-bottom Norwich (0.84) have averaged significantly less NPxG per game.
It hardly comes as a great surprise to learn that Weghorst has had just 13 shots in 10 appearances for Burnley, averaging just 1.4 per 90 minutes and only 0.54 on target.
Among all Premier League strikers this term, that is only enough to rank 43rd.
He cannot be expected to bang in the goals if he is provided with so few chances to work with.
As a team that play a fairly standard 4-4-2, Burnley naturally place quite a lot of emphasis on crossing.
In fact, only Manchester City, Liverpool, West Ham and Brighton average more open-play crosses per game than the Clarets’ 19.6.
Weghorst is not as much of an aerial threat as Wood. Only around 23% of his non-penalty Bundesliga goals for Wolfsburg were headers.
Wood notched well over a third of his non-penalty Premier League goals for Burnley in such fashion — but that does not mean Weghorst is not a threat from crosses.
Burnley have been trying to target him by increasing their crossing output in recent weeks.
But the balls they are playing into the box are not the right type for Weghorst to attack effectively. Low, fizzed crosses are better suited to the towering centre forward, rather than floated deliveries to attack aerially.
Their wide players need to develop a better understanding with Weghorst and fast.
Just one Cornet
Another key to unlocking the best of Weghorst will be the strength of his strike partnership with Maxwel Cornet, Burnley’s other marquee signing this season.
Cornet is the Clarets’ top league scorer this term with six goals and the dynamic Ivory Coast international ought to thrive alongside Weghorst — not least because of the space the latter creates.
If Weghorst receives the ball to feet more regularly, it should follow that he creates more goalscoring opportunities for the ex-Lyon forward and, as importantly, himself.
Holding out for a hero
Clarets boss Dyche has been pleased with his January addition and believes Weghorst has what it takes to succeed.
Speaking in February, he said: "Wout's come in super open-minded, rubbing off on people with who he is and how he is, the way he goes about it.
"He's willing to work, willing to fight, but he's willing to play and is a very good footballer."
If Burnley can fine-tune themselves to his wavelength, he might prove to be the hero they need.