Analysis: How Burnley heaped more misery on West Ham at the London Stadium

Analysis: How Burnley heaped more misery on West Ham at the London Stadium

The Clarets recorded a 3-0 victory but that was only half the story on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Lincoln

Ugly scenes on and off the pitch in the contest between West Ham United and Burnley grabbed the headlines on Saturday afternoon, stealing the attention from an excellent second half away display by Sean Dyche's side.

A game of two halves

Yet it could have been a different story if the Hammers had taken their chances in the opening 45 minutes. Burnley manager Dyche had previously encouraged his side to "play with freedom" but he would not have been banking on the amount of space they gave the home attackers in the first half.

A usually tight back four afforded West Ham far too much room in and around the penalty area. They were able to work the ball into dangerous areas and Joao Mario, Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic all had excellent chances to break the deadlock but were wasteful with their efforts as tensions started to rise in the London Stadium.

Yet Burnley knew they needed to improve and Dyche admitted that words were exchanged at the weekend.

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Chris Wood makes the difference

Dyche responded by changing from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 early in the second half. It was the introduction of Chris Wood that made a huge difference as the Hammers' defence failed to cope with the strength of the Kiwi and movement of Ashley Barnes. There was no surprise to see Wood lay on the opener for his strike partner just five minutes after coming onto the pitch.

Whilst lone striker Arnautovic looked increasingly lost and bereft of support leading the line in the second half at one end of the pitch, West Ham began to capitulate under the pressure in the stands around them at the other end. Wood was afforded yards of space as Aaron Lennon created a second goal within just four minutes.

The pressure on the home side told again as Joe Hart spilled what should have been a comfortable catch from Johann Berg Gudmunsson's distant strike late in the game. With the World Cup now less than 100 days away, many fans and pundits will be looking at the clanger from Hart but the reaction speed of Wood must also be noted as the striker looks sharp and confident despite missing ten games through injury before scoring the winner against Everton last weekend.

With nine points separating Burnley from the bottom half of the table and confidence clearly flooding back, the Clarets should comfortably finish in the top ten after their final eight games of the season.