Transfer Talk: Burnley need to nail Wood replacement
Chris Wood’s departure for Newcastle has dealt a devastating blow to rock-bottom Burnley’s bid for Premier League survival.
With only two weeks of the January transfer window remaining, the Clarets are running out of time to replace their former attacking focal point.
The Lancashire club are not in action until Sunday's trip to Arsenal, with tonight's crunch clash with fellow strugglers Watford postponed.
Now having time to finalise his squad before the bid for safety begins in earnest, we investigate the options available to boss Sean Dyche.
A big hole to fill
Burnley need to tick a number of boxes when signing a new centre-forward.
In Wood, they have not simply lost a target man, but a player more well-rounded than he is perhaps often given credit for.
Any direct replacement for the robust New Zealander will need to be adept with the ball at their feet and, such is the energy-sapping nature of playing as one of the two strikers in a 4-4-2, have an excellent work rate.
Goodbye Mr Reliable
Between signing in the summer of 2017 and leaving last week, Wood accounted for 49 of Burnley’s 173 Premier League goals. That is almost 30%.
In that time, the only other Clarets player to have hit double figures is Ashley Barnes (30 goals).
Maxwel Cornet is enjoying a fine first season for Dyche’s side, registering six times at a league-high 0.88 goals per 90 — but those numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact he has only played 614 minutes this term.
Newcastle triggered Wood’s £25million release clause — but it seems highly unlikely that Burnley will re-invest all of that in his successor.
Doing so would almost double the £12.8m they paid to sign Cornet from Lyon in the summer.
They do not need to spend that kind of money either. Year after year, the Lancashire club have succeeded on a shoestring budget in top-flight terms.
A potential target could be Cardiff’s Kieffer Moore. The Wales international, 29, profiles very similarly to Wood and could be available for between £10m and £15m, according to reports.
And should the worst happen and Burnley end up going down, they would have a front man who is well-accustomed to tormenting Championship defences.
Crystal Palace frontman Christian Benteke is another name in the frame, with the Eagles putting a rumoured £12m price tag on the 31-year-old Belgian.
A tactical change?
Dyche and 4-4-2 go together like toast and jam — and no one would expect the long-serving boss to rip up the tried and trusted set-up with which he has made the Clarets an established Premier League outfit.
But what if they cannot replace Wood at such short notice? Might Dyche do the unthinkable and tweak his tactics?
He will not want to sacrifice midfield width, so the lesser spotted 5-4-1 may be the most realistic option.
However, the problem is that Barnes — the player best suited to the lone striker role — has been out injured since October. Replacing Wood will be difficult in the next fortnight but it is imperative.
There is a chance that Wood’s unexpected exit could actually galvanise Burnley for the battle ahead.
It would only be natural for the manner of the move to leave a sour taste.
The Clarets host Newcastle on the final day of the season. If relegation is still to be decided at that stage, the atmosphere at Turf Moor could be feisty to say the least.
Selecting the right replacement for Wood will go a long way to determining Burney's survival chances.