A third exclusive by Anirudh Shenoy
Burnley have accumulated 33 points from a potential 54 at home, 2 points better of than Manchester United and sitting pretty in 8th on the home league table, letting in only 18 goals at home along the way.
Burnley away has been a tough fixture for every team this season, with the league leaders and champions elect, Chelsea being held there, and the like of Liverpool and Everton being beaten and running Arsenal and Manchester City very close.
The real question is, what makes this Burnley side at home so different from the one that plays away and has a meager 7 point return from a potential 57, and conceding truckloads along the way.
We’re well aware that Dyche doesn’t chop and change much and hence it can’t possibly the players at fault. Surely a 23,000 capacity at home can’t be the driving factor, so we dig a little deeper into Burnley’s performances.
Lack of width in defence
The thing about this Burnley side is that with their rigid 4–4–2 they make the pitch as narrow as possible, resulting in very tight defensive organisation. This tight defensive organisation allows Burnley to be compact and not allow any balls through the defence whilst also being very adept with dealing with crosses into the box
Out of all the defenders that have played in the Premier league, over 16 games at home, both Burnley centre halves find themselves in the Top4 on Squawka’s ranking system, showcasing how important they are to the Burnley cause.
Is the 12th man a real thing?
Joey Barton has said ‘this is a unique club, a unique group of people,’ and the element of togetherness does have an overriding effect on results, however cliched that may sound.
That extends to the crowd, who are roused by Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’ in the seconds before kick-off and whose constant roars serve as intimidation.
The sense of community — Burnley average over 20,000 despite the town only housing 73,000 — cannot be overlooked.
The daunting pre match routine+Five minutes into a game.
Most teams go one of two ways with their away dressing rooms, the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea have large changing rooms, resulting in the players being in awe of the stadium they are at, thus ensuring they start possessing an inferiority complex, allowing the dominant side to have the lion’s share of possession and dominate the game from the get go.
“It’s a lot smaller [than normal], I can tell you that,” Hendrick said after beating Bournemouth — a day he scored a goal of the season contender.
‘It is hard here. I think when I signed I said I had never actually won here. It is a hard place for teams to come to and we’ve got to make sure it stays that way.
Five minutes into a game at Turf Moor with the ground behind the team in full voice, it would appear like each minute is that of a cup final with Burnley dictating a quick tempo, a high press and not sitting deep and inviting pressure. In games where they knew they were well and up against the kosh, Dyche tweaked it.
Against Liverpool, he yielded possesion but with Andre Gray leading the line, the pace on the break against the slow Liverpool centre halves was always an area of concern, clearly displayed by the two early goals.
Attacking impetus at home
Clearly displayed in both the graphics above that they are a lot more narrow at home, through their own choice while they are forced out wide away from home due to larger pitches and more space to cover. In addition to this, the wingers and central midfielders bombard forward a lot more at home, resulting in more support for the likes of Gray.
The centre halves push up more at home as well, and there is more direction to their play as opposed to hoofing it upfield away from home.
It’s elementary, It is quick and long at home with support for the strikers. Away it’s sit deep and try to play out.
If you take Thibaut Courtois and possibly Hugo Lloris out of the equation, Tom Heaton has been the best goal keeper in the league, as a Manchester United fan I can say that from personal experience. His shots/saves ratio is off the charts and the Burnley captain is a very integral part of Burnley’s magical form. Confident with his feet and a lovely understanding with his centre halves has ensured that Heaton has thrived in goal for Burnley.
Post my analysis, I shall leave you with the manager of the Champions elect’s thoughts, after he was unable to break down Burnley with 2 different systems, the 3–4–3 and the 4–4–2.
Conte identified three crucial factors that make Burnley so tough to beat at home: the small pitch, the direct approach perfected by Sean Dyche and the vocal support from their 23,000-strong crowd.
‘You can find difficulty because the pitch is small — this is better for a team that tries to defend and plays the long balls,’ the Italian said.
‘You have less pitch to cover, and then there is a good atmosphere with the supporters. It is good, right, to have this type of atmosphere in Burnley.’
‘For all these reasons, they have these points in the table.’
That combination of factors is proving potent for Burnley this season.