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Albion Analytics preview: Burnley

Albion take on the Clarets looking to make it four wins from five Premier League outings.

By Liam Tharme • 06 February 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Steven Alzate fired in the winner against Liverpool on Wednesday, while Aaron Connolly scored the goal that sealed all three points last time out at Turf Moor.

Albion travel to Turf Moor on Saturday, having made club history this week. They kept four consecutive top-flight clean sheets for the first time, doing so in fine fashion by beating Liverpool at Anfield for the first time in almost 40 years.

It was far from a smash and grab performance. Steven Alzate's first Premier League strike capped a flowing 12-pass move from defensive to final third, the sixth time this season in all competitions that Brighton had scored following a sequence of five or more passes.

Per game this season, Alzate averages 3.1 successful passes into the final third, 2.7 shot-creating actions, 15.7 pressures and 5.9 successful pressures and, among Brighton players, only Alexis Mac Allister can better the Colombian in successful pressures. Alzate's performance in both on-ball metrics has improved this season compared to last whilst his press success rate has risen by 5%. Dan Burn topped the Brighton charts for final third touches and aerial duels won at Anfield, and it was he who headed across goal for Alzate to net the winner.

Burn could provide essential aerial support on Saturday as Albion face one of the most aerially dominant sides in the league. Over a fifth of Burnley's shots this season have been headers, with the Clarets topping the league for total aerial duels won (506). Brighton have only been aerially out-duelled by one of six Premier League opponents this calendar year, with the Seagulls soaring to their best aerial duel success rate in a single game this season at Anfield (64.3%).

No Premier League player netted more headed goals than Burnley striker Chris Wood (5) last season, with the Kiwi going into Saturday with exactly 100 aerial duels won this campaign. He is second in the Premier League in this metric. Only Chris Martin (9) has more goals against Brighton than former Albion loanee Wood (8), who scored Burnley's goal in this fixture last season. Yves Bissouma opened the scoring in fine fashion that afternoon and put in a performance of similar pizzazz at Anfield in the week, dominating the defensive metrics while simultaneously playing a key role in Brighton's build-up play. It was he who recovered the ball and initiated the passing sequence for the winner.

Bissouma ranks third in the Premier League this season for tackles attempted (60) and won (39), and is also among the top ten players for successful pressures (108). Per game this season he averages close to six successful final third entries through both passes and dribbles, a strong improvement from the 4.6 he averaged per 90 minutes last season. This is reflected in his involvement in 42% of Brighton's shot-ending sequences this season.

Dwight McNeil has been involved in 40% of Burnley's shot-ending sequences and 66% of their goal-ending sequences this season. The left-footer is the Lancashire outfit's biggest creative threat on Saturday. He tops the Burnley charts for final third touches (303), opponents nutmegged (4), dribbles completed/attempted (42/66), dribbles into penalty area (11) and open-play crosses into penalty area (16).

McNeil sits third among all Premier League players in the last of those metrics this season, testament to his crossing ability. He attempted (7) and completed (4) the most crosses of any Burnley player in the reverse fixture at the Amex in November, though his delivery will have to be perfect against Rob Sanchez.

The Spaniard recorded his fourth consecutive clean sheet in the Anfield win. Sanchez is the Premier League's top corner catcher, while he sits top of all under-23 goalkeepers in Europe's top five divisions for clean sheet percentage, a ranking underpinned by his impressive shot-stopping numbers.

Sanchez and Brighton are well placed to add to the clean sheet run, as they face a Burnley side who have scored the fewest goals in the league this season (13) and have taken just three shots in their last two games, with none on target. Saturday's hosts also sit among the bottom three Premier League sides for successful open play passes into the penalty area (128) and rank bottom for dribbles into the opposition box (35).

Potter's side find themselves towards the top of the penalty area entries tables. They entered the Liverpool box 11 times on Wednesday, averaging an entry once every 29 successful passes, comfortably better than Jurgen Klopp's side who needed close to 39 passes to enter the Albion area. Even when they did get in, they were met with formidable resistance from the Brighton defence.

Across the 2021 domestic fixtures thus far, Brighton have outperformed opponents in penalty area entries by 107 to 93, even more impressive when you consider that Albion's possession average across such fixtures is less than 43%, highlighting the efficiency with which Brighton break into the opposition box. This has borne out in Albion's creation of over double the number of Expected Goals that they have conceded in the last four games.

Burnley have conceded 6.2 Expected Goals in the first 15 minutes of games – their leakiest 15-minute game period. No side has conceded more goals in this time than the Clarets (7), while Albion are one of two sides to concede just a single goal in this period. Neal Maupay has five Premier League strikes in the first 20 minutes of games and has netted the same number of away goals this season, a total among the top ten best travelling scorers in the league.

The Frenchman has demonstrated his creative and defensive abilities lately. He has created four shot-creating actions in each of his last three games and pressed 49 times in those fixtures, forcing 17 turnovers. At five times, Maupay was the most fouled player at Anfield and he set up Aaron Connolly for the winner in this fixture last season. A repeat of the result would give Graham Potter three consecutive wins for the first time as a Premier League manager.