Burnley - The Tactician's View
Burnley are a conundrum of a football team.
While the Clarets have collected just a meagre seven points from their 19 away Premier League matches this season, Sean Dyche’s newly-promoted side have been outstanding on home ground.
Burnley have won 33 points out of a possible 54 at Turf Moor, as many as any club outside the top four and more than Jose Mourinho’s expensively-assembled Manchester United.
By working the transfer market superbly, Dyche has put together an adaptable squad capable of beating anyone at the Lancashire base.
So, what style of play have they adopted to do so?
Well, Burnley like to get the ball forward quickly and effectively, using long balls and crosses to put pressure on their opponents.
With target man Sam Vokes winning aerial battles, holding the ball up and scoring his share of goals – nine – and the quicker, smaller Andre Gray picking up the scraps, Burnley have successfully gone on the offensive on home turf.
Gray has also netted nine goals, while the third forward in the Clarets squad, Ashley Barnes, has scored six times. While the 24 goals they have scored between them may be two less than Harry Kane has managed for Tottenham Hotspur, and the same number Everton’s Romelu Lukaku has achieved, the haul is higher than West Ham’s own three first-choice forward of Andy Carroll, Michail Antonio and Andre Ayew.
Vokes’ total of 207 aerial battles won leads his team and it is perhaps surprising that he has scored so few goals with his head – just two.
Burnley have also managed this without what you would call a traditional playmaker in their ranks.
While the likes of Robbie Brady and Johan Berg Gudmundsson possess quality, it is Vokes and Belgian midfielder Steven Defour who lead the assist rankings with three each. Six other players have two assists to their names.
It is this team work and hard graft which have been the backbone to Burnley’s successful quest to avoid the drop.
Defensively, centre-backs Ben Mee and Michael Keane have combined to make a staggering 560 clearances, ranking them second and fourth in the Premier League standings, while right-back Matthew Lowton’s 169 would rank him second in West Ham’s own clearance table behind the injured Winston Reid.
If the ball is in the air, the two centre-halves invariably deal with it, making 176 headed clearances each – joint-second in the Premier League.
Mee and Keane are also ranked first and second in blocks made in the Premier League this season with 46 and 44 respectively.
Put simply, the pair are the most-effective defensive pairing in England’s top-flight.
Behind them, England’s Tom Heaton won the club’s Player of the Year award and for good reason. Agile and capable of making outstanding saves to keep his team in games, Heaton has made a Premier League 139 stops this season.
Overall, Burnley may not be particularly good at keeping possession of the ball, but when they do have it, they are mightily effective. The Clarets are capable of scoring at any time and from almost any position on the field.
While West Ham might keep the ball for long periods on Sunday, that does not necessarily mean they are in control of the game.