The Warm Down: Dyche's preferences become clearer against Parma
(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

The Warm Down: Dyche's preferences become clearer against Parma

Sixth and final pre-season match sheds light on style and selection

dave-comerford
David Comerford

Sean Dyche can look back on Burnley's pre-season with satisfaction after they got the better of Parma in their final friendly of the summer.

Jay Rodriguez delivered a match-winning performance, scoring two headed goals in four second-half minutes to build a cushion over the Italian outfit, who really tested the Clarets.

It was their fourth victory in six games, and their second in a week against top-flight opposition after they thrashed Nice on Tuesday.

Ahead of the opening-weekend visit of Southampton, there was plenty for onlookers at Turf Moor to digest.

Rodriguez set to thrive

If there's one pre-season match worth reading into, it's usually the last. With all three strikers fit, Dyche chose to start Rodriguez and Chris Wood and leave Ashley Barnes on the bench, likely indicating his intentions against the Saints.

Rodriguez had perhaps nudged ahead of Barnes in the pecking order after hitting ground the running following his £10million move from West Bromwich Albion with goals against Wigan Athletic and Nice.

And he cemented that position with his decisive brace. The first was truly unmissable, while the second, an off-balance header back across the goalkeeper, was anything but. 

This is Rodriguez's second spell at Burnley and the supporters hold a genuine affection for him. Both of his strikes were greeted with a passionate cheer and chants of 'he's one of our own'.

Barnes, meanwhile, cut a frustrated figure as he was repeatedly penalised in his tussles with the opposition defence. He bagged 12 Premier League goals last season, more than Wood, but one senses that the similarities between the two physical forwards might slightly limit the efficacy of the partnership.

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The more agile Rodriguez offers something refreshing and different.

In his last spell in the top flight, he managed a healthy goal tally despite West Brom's desperate struggles and now, with more talent around him and a fondness for his environment, he is in a position to hit new heights.

Pope tops pecking order; Hart's future in doubt

Make no mistake, Nick Pope's selection here was a significant, if perhaps expected, blow for Joe Hart.

Hart has enjoyed considerably more involvement this summer amid Pope's struggles with a groin problem, but with both available the latter immediately assumed the number one spot.

At 32 years old, Hart might decide, with a week of the window remaining, that he ought to seek guaranteed minutes elsewhere.

New arrival Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who comes with plenty of promise at the age of 22, could even get the nod ahead of him in the cup competitions. Perhaps Burnley signed him anticipating Hart's exit.

As for Pope, we'll never know whether he had the edge on Heaton, but he'll be delighted to be back in the fold after an injury-disrupted campaign.

He didn't have to work overly hard for a clean sheet here - only one or two occasions was he made to really work - but he was solid enough to vindicate Dyche's apparent decision.

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We now wait to see if he can replicate his heroics from Burnley's magnificent 2017/18 campaign. 

Work for Dyche to do in final week

The manager will be pleased by his side's boisterous response after their disappointing first-half performance. The most marked change was in the effectiveness of their pressing play which, if maintained, will cause problems for Premier League defences and, frankly, make Burnley a lot more enjoyable to watch.

However, with only a few days of training left before the season kicks-off, there are issues he will have to address.

The first is their marking from corners or, rather, the lack of it. On three separate occasions early in the game (indeed, they took time to tighten-up) Parma could have taken advantage of static defending to take the lead, but their finishing deserted them. A cleaner strike from Yann Karamoh and a header a fraction lower from Roberto Inglese, and the hosts faced defeat.

One might suggest that this lack of organisation underlines the importance of James Tarkowski's presence in his seasoned partnership with Ben Mee. Burnley cannot afford him to lose this week, with Leicester City potentially weighing-up a move.

At the other end, the Clarets lacked variety at times. Dyche might well have prioritised the flanks as a route to goal - Matthew Lowton and Charlie  Taylor swung plenty of balls into the area - but very few opportunities came from other avenues. 

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One potential drawback to the flat 4-4-2 formation is that the team lacks a creative presence in-behind the strikers, forcing them to play direct. This was a particular problem in the first-half, and the goals would come from one deflected cross and another which somehow reached the back post, both from the right-hand side.

There are plenty of Premier League defences which would prefer to deal with aerial assaults rather than intricate attacking play in the area between the backline and the midfield.

The onus is on last year's player of the season Ashley Westwood to exercise some ambition and drive forward. 

It will be intriguing to see how their approach shifts next weekend.

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