Making a case for 4-4-2
Dyche has demonstrated flexibility within his formations for the Clarets this season. Once a stoic 4-4-2 man to almost Mike Bassett-esque levels, various factors culminated in the ultimately successful switch to a 4-2-3-1 – or variations thereof - for Dyche which, at one stage, saw Burnley riding high in ninth.
But after a meagre showing at The Hawthorns almost a fortnight ago with that formation, plus a more stern yet fruitless showing against Manchester City last weekend, perhaps the time is nigh for the reintroduction of a second out-and-out striker to aid Sam Vokes.
In Burnley’s 0-0 draw against Manchester United a few weeks ago, Dyche opted for a 4-4-2 on the basis that his men had nothing to lose. If the Clarets boss is willing to adopt that bold approach at somewhere like Old Trafford, it must surely be worth a punt at a more fertile place for victory such as Stoke?
A return for Andre Gray alongside Sam Vokes seems favourable, and his movement could cause problems for the Potters’ most likely defensive pairing of Marc Muniesa and Bruno Martins Indi, who only played together for the first time last weekend. Exploiting any frailties in their newly-formed partnership could unsettle the defence and make for an uneasy afternoon for the Potters.
The battle for supremacy on the right
Burnley’s likeliest options to replace the injured Johann Berg Gudmundsson on the right wing are Scott Arfield and George Boyd: two industrious, hard-working wide men who maybe contribute just as much defensively as they do when going forwards.
With Stoke likely to field the marauding Erik Pieters at left-back and the equally attack-minded Marko Arnautovic ahead of him, there is real scope for progression down that side if the Clarets can expose the space when available.
It is a catch-22 for Dyche: field Boyd or Arfield, and sacrifice some attacking creativity for defensive-mindedness in dealing with Pieters and Arnautovic, or bring in the dark horse for Gudmundsson’s vacant right-wing berth, Michael Kightly, and lose that defensive cover.
The former Potter featured heavily in Burnley’s previous visit to Staffordshire, teeing up Danny Ings for his second goal, which turned out to be the eventual winner. Kightly’s offensive contribution, backed by Stephen Ward’s defensive competence, offered a fine balance to deal with Stoke’s threat.
However, Kightly’s workrate doesn’t extend as far as either Arfield’s or Boyd’s, which makes Dyche’s decision all the more intriguing.