Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Nathan Delfouneso: what we can expect

With Burnley suffering somewhat of an injury crisis upfront following injuries to Martin Paterson, Steven Thompson, Charlie Austin and Wes Fletcher; Eddie Howe has acted decisively and impressively in signing the highly rated Aston Villa and England U21 striker Nathan Delfouneso on loan for the remainder of the 2010/11 season. BMGH briefly looks at what fans can expect from the young Villain during the Clarets promotion push.

Any reservations about Eddie’s inexperience in the transfer market have been completely shattered by this signing. The Aston Villa supporters and players young player of the year for the past two seasons and the golden boot winner at the 2009 U19 European Championships (England finished as runners up) – Nathan Delfouneso is some prospect. He’s tall (6 ft 1 in), strong, quick, skillfull and good in the air – the indentikit modern centre forward; and despite his inexperience, he’s well equipped to make an impact at Championship level over the coming months.   If we look at Aston Villa’s 3-2 win over Blackpool from earlier in the season, we can see in more detail how Delfouneso might fit into the Burnley system.

This was only one of two matches that Delfouneso has started this season with the more experienced Agbonlahor, Carew, Heskey and more recently Darren Bent generally preferred ahead of the 20 year old striker in the starting line up. In this game, Villa played a very similar system (as they have for the majority of the season) to the one which Eddie Howe seems to have settled on recently for Burnley with Ashley Young playing off a central striker in a fluid 4-4-1-1, often with inverted wingers.  With that and the claret and blue shirts – Delfouneso will hopefully settle into Burnley’s system pretty quickly – a huge boost at the business end of a promotion chasing campaign and a factor I’d be surprised if Howe hadn’t already calculated on.

The player’s Guardian chalkboards for the game illustrate how Delfouneso possesses the versatility required to play that lone striker role.

The above shows Delfouneso’s passing v Blackpool, revealing that for the 64 minutes he was on the pitch, the striker mainly looked to move into the channels to link up with Downing and Albrighton. This is largely how Martin Paterson has interpreted the lone striker role for Burnley, although most often in a 4-3-3 under Owen Coyle. This movement has been something that Burnley have sorely missed season due to Paterson’s continued injury problems and so Delfouneso will be a welcome addition in this regard, providing another dimension to the Claret’s attack.

However, unlike Paterson, the young striker also offers a presence in the air. The chalkboard above reveals how he faired in arial battles during the Blackpool encounter (left = won, right = lost), winning around half of the headers he challenged for. This is a respectable ratio considering that the majority of headers lost are around the centre circle, hinting that these were from goal kicks where the advantage largely lies with the opposition centre backs.

Finally, this is Delfouneso’s goal which shows another string to Delfouneso’s bow – the abiltity to pick up the ball in the middle of the pitch and run at the goal, in this instance to devastating effect.

This really is a very exciting and encouraging signing for Burnley. Delfouneso is very highly rated throughout the game as a future England international and he ticks all the boxes in terms of the type of player he is and what Burnley are missing at the moment. Welcome to Burnley Nathan.

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