Joe Hart, Tom Heaton, Nick Pope - the numbers behind Burnley's keeper dilemma

Heaton Hart and Pope
There are England international goalkeepers at Turf Moor - but who will be Burnley's number one?

Burnley have three England international keepers, but who should be first choice?

Unless there are any departures over the close season, Joe Hart, Tom Heaton and Nick Pope will vie for the top spot come August.

Hart, 32, and 33-year-old Heaton both shared the duties during the season just completed, as the Clarets finished 15th in the Premier League.

Pope, 27, was a long-term absentee through injury, having impressed during the 2017-18 season.

BBC Sport breaks down the numbers behind manager Sean Dyche's goalkeeping dilemma.

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Heaton v Hart - who came out best this season?

Both Hart and Heaton played 19 times for Burnley in the Premier League - and looking at the stats, there is not much between the England keepers.

They have both kept four clean sheets in 19 appearances, which is 21.1% of their games, but former England number one Hart conceded more goals in those games (41) than the Clarets did in the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign (39). Heaton, in comparison, let in 27.

Hart and Heaton save %, clean sheets and goals conceded

The stats suggest that both Heaton, who is in the England squad for this weekend's Nations League finals in Portugal, Hart underachieved when it came to preventing goals.

Using Opta's expected goals system, we can see how many goals each keeper would have expected to have conceded, given the quality of chances they faced.

From the quality of shots on target Heaton faced, he would have been expected to concede 22.34 goals, 1.66 fewer than his total of 24 (excluding own goals).

Hart comes off even worse, conceding 3.68 more goals than expected.

He played the season's first 19 league matches. Burnley, perhaps feeling the effects of a July start to play Europa League qualifying games, were 18th after the first half of the league campaign, having lost 13 times and conceded 41 goals. Compare that with their league form over the whole of 2017-18, when they suffered just 12 defeats and conceded 39 times as they finished seventh, and qualified for Europe.

It could be argued that Hart conceded more because the defence in front of him was not as good, but both keepers played nine games each behind the same back four, with centre-backs Ben Mee and James Tarkowski playing prominent roles.

Heaton's impact on results outshines Hart

After dislocating his shoulder in September 2017, club captain and former Manchester United keeper Heaton made his first Premier League appearance of the season against West Ham on 30 December, with the Clarets in the bottom three.

Heaton, games played, wins, win %, draws and losses

Following his return, Burnley went eight games unbeaten and climbed to 14th; that run included a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against a rampant Manchester United who had won their previous eight games.

From the point Heaton regained his position, Burnley never spent a day in the bottom three, winning just over double the number of games that two-time Premier League champion Hart did.

With England's third-choice goalkeeper recalled, Burnley picked up 28 points in his 19 appearances, as the Clarets finished safe on 40 points, six above 18th-placed Cardiff City.

Could Burnley's best keeper be hiding in the shadows?

Pope did not start a Premier League game during the season just ended, having dislocated his shoulder during Burnley's Europa League second qualifying round first leg match at Aberdeen in July, having been a prominent figure in 2017-18.

He conceded only 35 goals in his 34 appearances, catching the eye of England manager Gareth Southgate and earning a place in the 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup.

Nick Pope and Heaton conceded, clean sheets and win %

Those 34 Premier League appearances brought 11 clean sheets, more than fellow Premier League keepers Loris Karius, Jordan Pickford and Kasper Schmeichel - and more than England internationals Jack Butland and Fraser Forster combined.

The former Charlton keeper made 114 saves in the 2017-18 season with a save percentage of 76.51%, the second highest in the league behind Manchester United's David de Gea (80.28%). It was almost 10% higher than England number one Jordan Pickford (67.42%).

PlayerAppsConceded (exc. own goals)Expected goals on targetExpected goals prevented
Joe Hart 18/19194036.32-3.68
Tom Heaton 18/19192422.34-1.66
Nick Pope 17/18343444.2610.26

Using expected goal data, we can see he conceded 10.26 goals fewer than the average keeper facing the same quality of shots. Another stand-out statistic is that he made 52 catches - compared with the three made by Hart and the eight by Heaton during the season just ended.

With those figures in mind, perhaps Pope - who has just signed a new four-year contract - could be the one to emerge as Burnley's long-term man between the posts.

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