Post-match analysis: Burnley's unsettling early approach must be sustained

Post-match analysis: Burnley's unsettling early approach must be sustained

The Clarets flew out of the blocks but need to preserve their lead for longer, while their aerial dominance must be made to count in the quest for survival.

jordaneyre
Jordan Eyre

If Burnley can perform as they did for the majority of Sunday’s narrow defeat to Tottenham Hotspur more frequently away from home this season, then things look more encouraging.

The Clarets never lacked industry and endeavour but were perhaps left ruing a misplaced pass here, a wrong decision there. Their loss was marginal, yet the consequences remain pretty seismic: it’s now seven defeats from eight games on their travels.

Spurs were hardly at their fluid best, but gradually improved. While Harry Kane was largely anonymous, others around him stepped up. Dele Alli was positive, Christian Eriksen kept busy but it was Danny Rose, Spurs’ flying left-back, who gleaned the most plaudits a stellar performance.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche will have few complaints with the manner of his side’s performance, but knows the formula for away day success remains elusive.

Fast starts need sustaining

The Clarets began strongly against Tottenham, and perhaps should have been a goal ahead prior to Ashley Barnes’ 21st-minute opener. Andre Gray’s close-range effort was thwarted by Hugo Lloris, and the hosts almost seemed surprised by the intensity of their visitors’ start.

However, Burnley’s quick starts are not uncommon. Nearly half (43.7%) of their 16 goals this season have come inside the opening 30 minutes, with over 31% of those coming before the 15-minute mark. Clearly, Dyche wants his players to fly out of the traps and unsettle their opponents.

Yet, there is a drawback. Burnley can often stir teams by striking early, and have dropped seven points from winning positions this season – albeit two of those teams are high-flying Manchester City and Tottenham.

Even their dramatic 3-2 wins over Crystal Palace and Bournemouth could have swung the other way, and so the Clarets must assess the game accordingly. Teams can attack with abandon if they are 2-0 down in a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality, and if Burnley sit back too much they can invite pressure on.

Dyche needs to address the issue and strike a balance between being overly cautious, having taken the lead, or seeking to extend it, which can leave his side vulnerable.

Burnley must play to their aerial strengths

The Clarets may not be the most technically gifted side in the Premier League, so identifying their strong areas and sticking to them remains fundamental.

Out of the top eight players to attempt and win attacking aerial duels on Sunday, only one was a Tottenham player. Barnes led the way with five headers successfully won, while Michael Keane and Sam Vokes both won two.

Burnley have scored five goals from set-pieces this season but, when you consider that they have only scored 16 in general, it seems a relatively large figure. The three aforementioned players are known for their aerial presence, which is why a greater emphasis on corners and free-kicks could provide another source of goals.

Few sides are better organised at attacking or defending dead-ball situations than Burnley, which is why it makes sense to utilise their physicality in a positive way. There is no shame in admitting that they will be outplayed against technically superior teams, but if playing in a slightly less aesthetically gratifying way means avoiding relegation, few Claret supporters would argue. 

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