Genuine tactical innovation
Plus: Take your chances, lads!
Hi everyone - it’s rare a 2-0 defeat feels like a success but that’s where we’re at!
Genuine tactical innovation
Not only did the 2-0 defeat not sting, it also featured a big surprise from Sean Dyche.
When team news dropped, most people probably thought it would be a 4-5-1 with Jack Cork slotting into midfield and Dwight McNeil and Maxwell Cornet playing wide.
Cornet lined up alongside Chris Wood in attack in the usual 4-4-2 shape with Josh Brownhill nudged back out to the right flank. It caught City by surprise and the pace of Cornet offered a genuine threat on the break, similar to when Matej Vydra plays.
I liked the plan a lot. While 4-5-1 for tough away games makes sense, with McNeil and Wood both not the quickest it isn’t straightforward to actually launch counter-attacks.
Cornet also dropped deep to cut off the supply to Rodri, which worked to an extent. City dominated the ball as expected but they were not able to carve out many clear chances. Their second goal probably shouldn’t have counted due to a foul on Ashley Westwood by Riyad Mahrez - and Burnley had plenty of their own opportunities.
The other thing I liked was that our system was flexible during the game. Cornet sometimes switched back to the wing with Brownhill moving inside to form a 4-5-1. City had no idea what Cornet was going to do and seemingly had no plan to stop him.
There’s been a lot of talk about different formations potentially being the answer to our poor start to the season. We’ve written in previous newsletters about McNeil as a 10 with Cornet wide and Johann Gudmundsson coming in.
The strong form of Nathan Collins makes it hard to drop him when captain Ben Mee returns from his bout of Covid, so perhaps a back three is a route to explore too.
That one makes even more sense when you consider that summer signings Connor Roberts and Cornet both have plenty of experience of playing as wing-backs. That would also mean we could play McNeil centrally and give Wood a partner up top too.
I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Cornet up front, though. While there weren’t a lot of signs of a partnership between him and Wood, he is probably an even more dangerous out ball than Vydra and clearly has an eye for goal. The problem is we would probably like to play Cornet up front, and wide, and maybe at left-back, all at the same time.
But the most important thing is that Dyche is open to trying new things.
We all know 4-4-2 will be his preferred option more often than not, but that makes it easy for opposition teams to prepare tactics against us. Thinking outside the box and surprising managers with different selections or formations is going to be vital.
Take your chances, lads
Considering how blunt our attack was against Norwich City, Saturday was a vast improvement with four excellent chances to break our long duck at the Etihad.
Cornet had the first, racing on to a quite superb long pass from McNeil, only to put his finish too close to backup goalie Zack Steffen - then waste the rebound as well.
Brownhill fired wide from inside the box - he still seems to lack confidence in front of goal - and then Ashley Barnes could have scored with his first touch after replacing Cornet when McNeil hustled City out of possession near their own penalty area.
Wood, who had another pretty quiet game, should have scored from a set piece too.
While the above stat is a concern, that we created four great chances against one of the top defences in the league, albeit with some key players missing, must be positive.
Wood has shown he is a reliable scorer in the past. His goals tend to come in streaks, like a lot of strikers, so we don’t need to panic about him. Keep in mind that he had a lot of travel during the international break as he was away with New Zealand.
If we weren’t creating anything, I would be more worried. Southampton is big, though.
Opposition view: Manchester City
Thanks to Dan for his take on Saturday’s game:
There was a lot of chat about our home record against Burnley before the game and it made me a bit wary because runs like that are always going to have to end sometime. I didn't think City were great and Burnley's pressing made life difficult for us. If Cornet or Brownhill took those chances in the first half it would have been a different story, so I'm glad we managed to grind it out in the end.
Stones and Laporte weren't great and I think we missed Dias. It was Stones's first appearance of the season so he's understandably a bit rusty, but him and Laporte have never formed a particularly convincing partnership. I thought Steffen did well though, most notably on the Cornet chance. Ederson being out was a slight concern but it looks like we've got a pretty able deputy for him now.
On this week’s podcasts
We have a special interview with former chairman Barry Kilby this week.
Listen to it here and in all of the usual podcast places, Spotify etc, as well.
This week’s question ties into the special Barry Kilby podcast.
Which ground was Kilby ejected from as a youngster, along with his father?
Listen to the next preview show, which is out Friday, to find out the answer.
Birthdays and anniversaries
Today is John Deary’s 59th birthday. Sam Vokes (32 on Thursday) and Andy Payton (54 on Saturday) are some of the other notable Burnley birthdays coming up this week.
We’ve lost our last three games played #OnThisDay including a game at Ewood in 2009 that I am definitely not bringing up here. But back in 2005 we won 1-0 away to Leicester City thanks to a close-range winner from Ade Akinbiyi against his old club.
Last week’s article by Nate prompted a couple of emails, firstly from Nick:
Some very good points here. Agree that Wood does most, if not all, the heavy lifting in terms of goalscoring. This seems to have been the general gameplan for a few years now. It would be interesting to know with which strike partner he has the highest xG.
The idea of Cornet, McNeil and Gudmundsson behind him sounds good, but are we moving too far into the realms of 4-2-3-1 for Dyche there? The present situation does put us in a precarious situation regarding a serious injury to Wood and I totally agree - we really need someone else to chip in.
Dyche surprised us at City and used a similar shape (at times) with Cornet dropping in as a kind of roving 10, so 4-2-3-1 more regularly is a possibility. After all, some of our best form in the Premier League came with Jeff Hendrick playing as maybe the least creative number 10 in the history of the game. As for Burnley’s goalscoring, it’s quite damning that nobody has scored more than once for us in the league so far this season with only Wood of the four strikers on target other than in the cup against Rochdale.
Mark also got in touch:
I'm not Chris Wood’s biggest fan but can see where Nate is coming from, I've been saying the same thing for a number of years on Burnley sites on Facebook and when I used to be on Twitter. That our front two who you pick to partner who isn't good enough we need a forward who can get us 15 to 20 goals a season along with Wood's 10 goals a season. But hopefully we will start taking our chances soon!!
I think every club would love a striker who can get 15 to 20 goals a season! But they aren’t easy to find and, traditionally, we don’t create a lot of good opportunities either.
That’s it for this week - comment below with any views or feedback, or if you have ideas for the newsletter, or want to contribute. I’d love to hear from more of you.