Burnley 1-0 Southampton Post-match analysis: Problematic wide areas exacerbated by injury for Burnley

Joey Barton struck the decisive blow for Burnley on Saturday, as Southampton became the latest team to depart Turf Moor without a point or all three.

It is now six wins from the Clarets’ last seven games at their raucous home ground, which is fast becoming the archetypal fortress that all promoted sides are advised to establish. Doing it on a cold Saturday afternoon in Burnley is fast becoming the new cold Tuesday night at Stoke.

Burnley were not at their best, but they were good enough. Southampton more than doubled the amount of shots than their hosts produced, yet were fruitless in front of goal. At the other end, Barton’s 78th-minute winner – while hardly a peach of a strike – further endeared him to those of a claret and blue persuasion.

Just try and imbue the notion of Blue Monday on Burnley supporters at the moment.

Wide men a priority in the transfer window

Manager Sean Dyche opted to stick with the 4-4-2 system which has served the club so well of late, but eyebrows were raised when Steven Defour was entrusted with the responsibility of deputising for the injured pair of Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Scott Arfield. A penny for the thoughts of Michael Kightly, the club’s only available genuine winger, who languished on the substitute’s bench.

Dyche’s thinking may have gone towards Defour’s use of the ball, with more space afforded in the wide areas as opposed to in a congested central area. The Belgian is arguably Burnley’s best passer, and using him out wide gave him precious time to assess the situation and play the best option.

However, if Kightly is not to be trusted then a new wide player must be high on Dyche’s shopping list. While they have two promotions and a strong Premier League campaign under their belts, this Burnley side is in need of genuine pace and an end product. Find a player that ticks both boxes, and the Clarets not only have a contingency plan for home games, but a logical outboard for counter-attacking away games, too.

A quiet day for the strikers

Andre Gray and Ashley Barnes have undoubtedly been two of Burnley’s better players in recent outings, but Saturday showed that against the league’s very best defenders, there is still work to be done to improve and become a constant threat.

The pair failed to muster a single shot between them, with Gray attempting just 13 passes and Barnes completing just over 56% of his 30 passes. The Saints were wise to the increased level of performance from Burnley’s strikeforce, and Maya Yoshida and Virgil Van Dijk produced an assured defensive display to keep them at bay.

Thankfully, Gray and Barnes had Barton’s dramatic free-kick to fall back on, but with Sam Vokes a viable option from the bench, one or the other of the Clarets’ frontmen may be susceptible to having their starting berth pinched if they cannot sustain their recent good form.

Burnley are clinical in front of goal

It is no secret that in the vast majority of their games this season, Burnley have enjoyed far less of the ball than their opponents.

However, when opportunities have come their way, they have proved they are among the league’s most prolific chance converters: Burnley have converted 10 of their 10 big chances this season, which equates to just over 55%. Barton’s free-kick, while not a glaring opportunity, underlines the Turf Moor outfit’s ability to produce goals from unlikely areas.

That rate ranks higher than the equivalent from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United, and that ruthless streak has been a major contributor to the Clarets’ strong campaign thus far. If Dyche can continue to eek the best out of his squad in front of goal, fears of relegation will be comprehensively allayed. 

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