Burnley vs West Ham United pre-match analysis: Aerial duals could prove key between two direct teams

You will struggle to find two managers with completely different starts to the season meeting in a Premier League clash this weekend. Sean Dyche is being tipped by some as the next Arsenal manager whilst Slaven Bilic finds his position under pressure as he sits as one of the bookies' favourites to be handed his P45 in the coming weeks.

Long balls are likely

However, both teams are actually very similar in their styles of play this season. Burnley are known for their direct approach and have played an average of 82 long balls per game, more than anyone else in the top flight. Yet West Ham, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, sit second in those particular standings with an average of 80.

It means that aerial duals are likely to be critical to both sides this Saturday. Andy Carroll could well be called upon to lead the line for West Ham as he attempts to find some form, whilst Chris Wood can't stop scoring for Burnley since he arrived at Turf Moor in the summer.

Burnley lead the rankings for aerial duals won with an average of 24.6, whilst West Ham are fifth in the league with 20.4 per game.

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Each side can play on their day

Yet it would be wrong to consider both teams as long ball sides. Burnley showed their passing prowess with a 24-pass move between nine players that resulted in the winner against Everton a fortnight ago. With the Hammers looking shaky in defence this season, often leaving large holes in the channels, Burnley will fancy their chance of creating opportunities to test Joe Hart who continues to be scrutinised for club and country.

Similarly, West Ham have a wealth of creative talent in their ranks but have struggled to find their feet in the early stages of this campaign. Marko Arnautovic has failed to make an impact since his summer arrival, whilst Michail Antonio has been inconsistent and Manuel Lanzini is yet to start a Premier League game after picking up an injury. However, if the trio get it right on Saturday, they could test a Burnley defence that had a relatively easy outing at Goodison Park in their last match.

Something has to give on Saturday with Burnley scoring just one goal in three league home games and West Ham failing to break the deadlock in three out of four away fixtures. 

Yet the difference between winning and losing could be down to the managers. Dyche has been able to organise his team effectively to secure valuable results and justify their top six position in the league. In contrast, Bilic's side have looked overwhelmed, lacking confidence and out of sync with each other. It could be another three points for the confident Clarets on Saturday.