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Scout Report: Burnley - Simple, but highly effective

Burnley's straight-forward style proved to be devastating in the last league meeting between the two sides, but will it be enough to earn them a first away win of the season?

Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

What Has Happened Since The Last Time They Met? (4-1, 29/12/2016)

Despite their impressive showing this season, Burnley have won just eight points from nine games since they beat The Lads 4-1 to finish off 2016. Sean Dyche's men are also without a win in five Premier League games, and they're still yet to win away from home this season. You know what that usually means, though...

Nonetheless, the Clarets have generally played better than their recent results would suggest, and a gap of seven points between them in 12th and Hull in 18th should be sufficient to see top-level football at Turf Moor for another year.


Tactics

Dyche's philosophies have remained the same throughout the season. He looks to keep it simple, often lining up in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. The premise is as obvious as the formation suggests: two banks of four with one forward to drop back. It’s a very rigid and solid setup with a focus on keeping the team’s shape. In midfield, one typically presses the ball, while the other patrols the space in front of the defence. Burnley like to force teams wide, away from the goal where they’re at less risk of conceding. Joey Barton centrally, and Matthew Lowton, George Boyd and Stephen Ward wide, leading the team in tackles emphasises this.

Manchester United v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In attack, Burnley attack through the middle more than any other team, and 66% of their attempts come from this area. That's because Burnley tend to play in a very direct manner, hitting the ball long to a target man to knock down for the likes of Andre Gray, and Jeff Hendrick advancing from midfield. All four of Burnley's defenders, along with Barton, attempt more than 2.5 long balls per game. Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes both win more than four aerial duels per game, to highlight how effective this tactic is. You only have to look at the last league meeting between the two for proof of that.

It's an almost throwback style of play; relatively simple, but highly effective.


Strengths

Burnley are great in the air. Their average of 23.3 aerial duels won per game is the league's best. We saw in the 4-1 reverse just how devastating that they can be, particularly around the opposition box. Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes win more than four per game in attack, while the centre back pairing of Michael Keane and Ben Mee combine for eight per game.

Swansea City v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Clarets also make more clearances per game than any other team, with 34.1. Again, Keane and Mee combine for nearly 17. They also block more shots (5.9) than any other team and block the second most amount of crosses, with 3.5 per game.

They may allow more shots than any other team, but they're still pretty effective at reducing the risk of these. The fact that have conceded 42 goals, the 12th best record in the league, is proof of that.

Burnley are highly organised, regimented, and display a great team spirit. They're clearly fully in tune with their manager.


Weaknesses

Burnley are horrible away from home. In fact, they're the worst team on the road. They've won just two points from a possible 42 away from Turf Moor, something that should really concern Sean Dyche. It's fortunate that their home form has been so strong.

And if they want to change that, they'll have to improve the volume of efforts on goal, particularly those on target. 10 shots per game, and only 3.3 on target, rank well below Burnley's league position. They've created just 184 chances too, the league's third worst, so it's little wonder that they've scored just 31 goals. Fortunately for them, it's been enough to get them by so far. And surprisingly, despite their aerial ability, Burnley have scored just two headed goals. At the other end of the pitch, Burnley allow more shots on their goal (18.3) than any other team.

Only West Brom (41.5%) see the ball less than Burnley (42%), while their pass accuracy of 67.1% is the league's worst. These numbers are admittedly low as a result of their direct style of play, but Sunderland may be able to force Burnley into playing a style that doesn't suit them if they can adequately deal with their directness. Previous evidence doesn't suggest that that's the case, however. But stranger things have happened...

Burnley aren't great, or choose not to be, at retaining the ball. They're not great at winning it back, either. Only two teams make less tackles than The Clarets (16.3 per game).


Key Player - Andre Gray

The non-league to Premier League success story of Andre Gray has seen the former Luton man bag eight goals in his debut top-flight season. Gray clearly enjoys playing against Sunderland - he's scored four goals against The Lads this season, including a hat-trick in December's league meeting.

Those eight goals have come from just 18 shots on target. An almost one-in-two shots on target conversion rate is rather impressive.

Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Gray had gone five games without scoring until a double at Swansea, and while he failed to find the net against Liverpool last time out, you'd imagine that he'll be fancying his chances on Saturday.


Match Facts

  • Burnley have lost nine of their last 10 away league games;
  • Burnley have lost by a one-goal margin in seven of their last eight away matches;
  • Sunderland have failed to score in five of their last six matches;
  • Sunderland have conceded at least two goals in eight of their last 10 games;
  • There have been over 2.5 goals scored in six of Burnley's last seven away games;
  • Sunderland are undefeated in their last six home games against Burnley

Likely Line-Up

Burnley - Football tactics and formations