Saturday 05 July 2014
With a modestly sized squad and little money spent on beefing it up, few considered Burnley promotion contenders 12 months ago. Yet they are back in the Barclays Premier League after a four-year spell in the Championship.
How did the manager, Sean Dyche, pull it off? What made the Clarets such a difficult side to beat last season? Which type of side will they be in the top flight? Out tactics columnist Adrian Clarke takes a closer look…
Burnley were the best at pressing in last season's Championship. Working incessantly hard to close down the opposition, their tactics are built around winning back the ball quickly, then being penetrative once possession is turned over.
Slow, expansive, possession football does not suit them. With a passing accuracy of just 70.2% last term (the 14th best in the division) they do not keep the ball especially well. Remarkably, despite accruing 93 points in 2013/14, over the course of the campaign they spent longer without the ball than with it.
As a consequence 43-year-old Dyche chooses to focus his attention on teamwork, fitness, and the ability to attack incisively. Once they retrieve possession, they tend to go for the kill.
Knocking an average of 81 long passes per match last season (the second highest in the Championship), the Lancashire side turn defence into attack quicker than most, but it is not aimless route-one football.
While accurately releasing forward runners into the channels works well for them, just as often Burnley will cause problems with short, sharp passing between the lines. Whatever they do, they like to do it fast.
When chasing the ball Burnley have two distinct styles. First they play pressure football, asking their strikers to close down from the front, triggering a chain reaction behind them. Squeezing up as a team, the Clarets are excellent at denying rivals teams space.
Such an approach is impossible to maintain, so when necessary Burnley also sit back and keep their shape in a 4-4-1-1. Here, they concentrate on staying narrow and strong down the centre of the pitch, with both wingers and full-backs tucked in.
Conceding just 37 goals in 46 league games en route to promotion, tactically they are a very difficult side for the opposition to play against.
Dyche began his career as a youth team player at Nottingham Forest under the legendary manager Brian Clough and there are echoes of "Old Big Head's" style in the way he sets up his side at Turf Moor.
Last season in an interview with the Daily Mail, the man whom supporters have dubbed "the ginger Mourinho" confessed his mentor's simple approach to tactics, and uncomplicated man-management was something that influenced his own philosophy.
"I always remember how, as a kid under Brian Clough, everyone at Nottingham Forest knew the structure of how the team played," he said. "The basic requirement for each position was always crystal clear, and it provides a nice clarity, so that players go on the pitch knowing exactly what is expected of them. Once they have done the basics, they have the freedom to play.
"Honestly, I'm not reinventing the wheel here. You need the right players, as well, and these lads have been brilliant."
The former Watford manager also shies away from rotation in favour of keeping a small squad, and a settled side. This kind of loyalty and trust was also a feature of Clough’s regime. Remarkably, last season 11 Clarets players registered more than 30 league starts, with the next closest, Ashley Barnes, on just 11.
|BURNLEY'S 2013/14 CHAMPIONSHIP STARTS|
|46||Jason Shackell, David Jones, Tom Heaton|
|41||Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff|
In addition to continuity, discipline is also extremely important to Dyche, just as it was at Forest in their heyday.
Statistically his charges were the cleanest side in last season's Championship, producing the fewest fouls per match (10.2), and collecting the least amount of yellow and red cards (49 and 2). If you think Burnley will try and kick opponents off the park in the Barclays Premier League to avoid relegation, think again.
With 41 goals between them Sam Vokes and Danny Ings grabbed most of the headlines for Burnley last season, forming the deadliest strike partnership in the Championship by quite some distance.
Both were fabulous but arguably, right-back Kieran Trippier had an even better individual campaign, shining consistently well for the Clarets all season.
The former Manchester City player was named in the Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year for the second successive campaign, impressing with his ability to defend securely, as well as adding verve to the Burnley attacks, with a stream of well-timed overlaps and deliveries.
Tripper made more key passes and crosses than any other team-mate, as well as creating more goal assists than any other player in the Championship last season. His supply line to top scorer Ings, in particular, was incredibly consistent.
Quick, strong, and with a solid all-round game, do not be surprised if the 23-year-old forces his way into England's plans next season. Talent-wise the right-back has the potential.
A willingness to work hard as a team helped Burnley produce a stunning promotion campaign. They will be spirited and hard to play against in the top flight this season.
Dyche's favoured 4-4-2 may morph into more of a 4-5-1 system in the Barclays Premier League, especially with 20-goal striker Sam Vokes out injured until Christmas. But no matter which formation they line up in, Burnley will take a balanced approach to attack and defence.
Individuals like Trippier, centre-back Jason Shackell, midfielder Dean Marney and forward Danny Ings will be crucial to how the Clarets fare, but this is a side that is stronger for the sum of its parts.