How the return of Chris Wood has developed a deadly Burnley strikeforce with Ashley Barnes

How the return of Chris Wood has developed a deadly Burnley strikeforce with Ashley Barnes

The return of Wood from injury has got the best out of his strike partner in recent weeks.

Chris Lincoln

Rewind a month and very few people would expect Burnley to be boasting one of the most potent attacking partnerships in the Premier League across the next three games.

With just 22 goals in 28 matches and without a win in 11 league games, the Clarets were watching their season unravel as they struggled to find the target...until Chris Wood made his return from injury.

The missing link

Wood had missed the majority of those fixtures across the dark winter months and manager Sean Dyche simply could not find a winning formula. He flitted between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 with Sam Vokes partnering Ashley Barnes but the Clarets could not rekindle the performances they had manufactured in the first half of the season.

Even at the start of March, Burnley looked like they could be slipping to another defeat after falling behind to Everton at Turf Moor. It had been over 50 games without victory after conceding the first goal in a Premier League game under Dyche and that record looked set to extend.

Yet Wood was thrown into the action at half-time and within 11 minutes Barnes netted an equaliser. The latter was able to run into space away from Ashley Williams with the foil of Wood allowing Barnes more freedom to create such movements. 

Everton could not cope with the strength and physicality of Wood and he was on hand to head home the winner and a comeback goal just ten minutes from time.

20 minutes of destruction at the London Stadium

With match fitness still an issue, Wood took his place on the bench when Burnley visited West Ham. Again, the lone attack role for Barnes was a thankless task as the away side were pressed back and put under pressure by the Hammers...under pressure themselves from their fans as became even more apparent when Wood was introduced.

The Kiwi replaced attacking midfielder Jeff Hendrick, as he did against Everton, but this time did not take to the field until the 61st still allowed plenty of time for the strike partnership to cause considerable damage at the London Stadium.

With Barnes again enjoying more freedom and Wood grasping the attention of defenders all around him, the duo ran riot as they netted three goals between them (two for Wood) in the space of 20 minutes.

Unstoppable in tandem

Both players did not feature during the international break so were fresh and raring to go this weekend against West Bromwich Albion. Wood made his first start since returning from injury and the outcome was the same.

The opener was a moment of sheer class and a contender for goal of the season. Barnes connected with a technically perfect scissor kick after Wood ducked under an Aaron Lennon cross after receiving a call from his teammate. It was the rejuvenated striker's fourth goal in as many matches.

Yet there was even more to admire from the goal. Burnley played a number of passes in the build-up to the goal, with recent England debutant James Tarkowski pulling the strings from defence. Georges-Kevin Ndoukou, making a rare appearance since signing in January, and Lennon offered genuine width in a Burnley side that looked arguably more balanced in attack than they have all season.

0-2 without, 7-0 with Wood

Wood scored again but there was somewhat of an irony about Burnley's performances in March. Much of their success this season has been built on a solid defence and being able to scrape 1-0 victories through taking any chances that came their way.

4-5-1 had been the most successful formation with 4-4-2 using sparingly. Yet the Clarets looked a completely different side during this recent trio of matches, opening up and putting attack before defence on numerous occasions.

Yet this style has clearly worked wonders for the Europa League contenders as they put the Winter slump behind them. When playing 4-5-1 during March without Wood, Burnley failed to score and conceded twice in two hours of football. With Wood in a 4-4-2, they have scored seven and conceded zero in two and a half hours, at an average of a goal every 22 minutes. It is also a quarter of the goals they have scored all season.

The lessons to be learnt from these statistics? Burnley are more than a one-dimensional side as their critics suggest and Chris Wood is certainly Premier League quality despite being doubted by many.