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Talking Tactics

Burnley must tighten up to ease Hart's burden

Adrian Clarke 15 Nov 2018
Joe Hart of Burnley reacts

Adrian Clarke explains why Sean Dyche's goalkeeper has been the busiest in the league ahead of Newcastle match

Adrian Clarke looks at tactical battles set to take place in Matchweek 13.

Burnley v Newcastle United

The well-orchestrated formula that lifted Burnley to a seventh-place finish last season has been largely absent this campaign.

The Clarets are a less abrasive prospect for opponents, conceding 2.08 goals per 90 minutes compared with 1.03 last season.

The priority for manager Sean Dyche and his staff must be to make their side harder to break down.

Issues to remedy

Burnley’s shape has not changed, with Dyche usually opting for a 4-4-1-1, but the team have been less compact.

It has been easier for rivals to find space between the lines and pull the Burnley players out of position. 

Burnley have perhaps been committing more men forward than in 2017/18, but that has come at a price. They have leaked four goals from turnovers and counter-attacks.

When they lose possession, opponents have been able to play through Dyche's team and stretch them on breakaways, which rarely happened last season.

Weak on the wings

The Lancashire side have also been vulnerable in wide areas.

Nine of the 25 goals they have conceded have come from crosses, with six from the left and three from the right. The bulk of those deliveries have come from advanced positions, too.

Last season Burnley defended deep, forcing opponents sideways and backwards with their narrow and organised shape.

But, while the game plan has not changed, opponents are getting in behind their defence more frequently.

Burnley per 90 in last two seasons
Defending  2018/19 Change from 2017/18
Blocked crosses 2.3 -36%
Poss. won in middle third 21.8 -8.4%
Poss. won in final third 2.9 -17.7%
Blocks made 7.1 +41%
Saves made 4.4 +37.7%
Midfield malfunction

Out of possession, the midfield unit is not functioning as well as last season.

Wingers Aaron Lennon and Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who become the widest members of a six-man backline when defending deep, have struggled when tested by clever movement.

This has left full-backs Charlie Taylor and Matt Lowton over-exposed so Burnley's opponents have had extra space from which to deliver crosses, and from better areas.

Wide open space

But for goalkeeper Joe Hart’s heroics, and a series of last-ditch blocks from the men in front of him, the Clarets’ league position of 17th might be worse.

No goalkeeper in the Premier League has made more than the 53 saves that Hart has been forced into. Burnley have also made an incredible 81 blocks, 21 more than the next-closest team, Brighton & Hove Albion.

Top for saves and blocks in 2018/19
Player Saves Club Blocks
Hart 53 Burnley 81
Fabianski* 53 Brighton* 60
Ryan* 48 AFC Bournemouth 54
Etheridge* 45 Fulham* 52
De Gea* 44 Newcastle 48

*includes Matchweek 13

Cause for optimism

Burnley's clean sheet last time out, at Leicester City, offers something to build on.

Going forward they are not creating enough opportunities, but for now the focus has to be on solidity.

Burnley must make themselves much harder to open up when Newcastle United visit Turf Moor on Monday night.

Also in this series

Part 1: Mounie power can prise Wolves open
Part 2: Fraser will test the progress of Bellerin
Part 3: Rudiger's speed can keep Kane quiet at Wembley

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