Post-match analysis: Burnley's pragmatism is duly rewarded

Post-match analysis: Burnley's pragmatism is duly rewarded

A tactical tweak from manager Sean Dyche proved the difference against Bournemouth, while their lack of possession will not be of grave concern.

jordaneyre
Jordan Eyre

In a game fraught with nerve-jangling moments, Burnley held their nerve to see off the challenge of a spirited AFC Bournemouth and climb to 13th in the Premier League table.

The Clarets were 2-0 up after 16 minutes courtesy of Jeff Hendrick’s stunning volley and Stephen Ward’s scrambled effort, before the visitors hit back through Benik Afobe on the stroke of half-time.

George Boyd restored the hosts’ two-goal lead with 15 minutes of the game remaining, before Charlie Daniels grabbed a fine late strike to set up a tense few minutes.

But Burnley clung on to their lead, and they have the pragmatism of their reputable manager to chiefly thank for another Turf Moor win.

Early substitutions paid dividends

The Clarets reverted back to their 4-4-1-1 formation for Bournemouth’s visit, and were rewarded with a lightning start. Hendrick’s goal exploited Nathan Ake’s poor positioning, with the on-loan Chelsea man being dragged into central midfield and thus creating space in behind for Hendrick to roam into.

But the Cherries enjoyed the better of the first-half after Burnley’s early two-goal salvo, and were the team in the ascendancy, a notion typified by Afobe’s strike.

The visitors continued the second half in the same vein, and Sean Dyche – normally one to remain patient – made a double substitution in the 55th minute, with Sam Vokes and Steven Defour withdrawn for Andre Gray and Ashley Barnes.

Initially, the switch to a 4-4-2 formation matched the system of Bournemouth but, shortly after, Callum Wilson made way for Jack Wilshere as the Cherries opted for a three-man central midfield.

Dyche’s switch allowed his side to remain a threat on the counter-attack, with not one but two outlets to aim for with balls from defence. There was the option of target man Barnes, or the pace and directness of Gray. The latter had a hat-trick of chances, and teed up Boyd for the Clarets’ ultimately decisive third goal.

No possession, no problem

As has been noted several times this season, Burnley seem to be equally – if not more – content without the ball than with it. They are extremely well-organised and, in Saturday’s win, often forced Bournemouth to play lateral passes across the face of the area, with the Clarets almost forming a wall of men across the 18-yard line.

Bournemouth’s dominance of possession – they had 69% - meant that all but one of their players completed more passes than every one of their hosts – and that includes, bizarrely, Artur Boruc.

And when the Clarets did have the ball, five of their top seven pass makers were the back five, with skipper Tom Heaton making the second highest amount of his teammates. While sceptics may conclude that such an approach is unsustainable, the simple argument is: why not?

Leicester City completed a modern sporting miracle with their Premier League title win last season, and their approach was largely the same: allow the opposition to have the ball, and hit them on the counter.

Indeed, Burnley’s own title success in the Championship was achieved using largely the same formula. This method depends heavily on three key components: a well-drilled, organised defence; an industrious yet creative midfield; and an attack that can be ruthless in their chance conversion.

Burnley ticked all three boxes against Bournemouth, and their quick transitions in play from back to front could continue to unsettle teams for the rest of the season. 

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