Pre-Match Review | Burnley (H)
Sheffield United vs Burnley 02/11/2019
English Premier League
While results away from home have been impressive and despite beating Arsenal in their last home fixture, the Blades must pick up more wins at home.
Last Time Out
Burnley 4 (Eagles 29, Iwelumo 45+1, Rodriguez 45+2, Thompson 85) - 2 (Yeates 9, Evans PEN 47) Sheffield United - 01/01/2011, Npower Championship.
It feels like with every time I look back on when we last played a team, mostly I look back on the season we were relegated from the Championship.
At the start of 2011, Sheffield United found themselves in 20th position, 2 points clear of the relegation places and travelled to Turf Moor to face a Burnley side who sacked their manager Brian Laws 3 days earlier, they were in 10th position, 2 points off the playoffs and with a game in hand.
Laws was appointed in January of 2010 when Owen Coyle moved to Bolton Wanderers, despite being relegated from the Premier League that year, Laws was given the opportunity to get the club promoted again. Key players left that Summer and results were inconsistent. A 2-0 defeat to Scunthorpe on the 28th of December was enough, and he was sacked the following day.
Constant caretaker manager Stuart Gray was given the reigns (on a temporary basis, obviously) on the 30th of December and his first fixture was against Micky Adams’ side.
It looked to be a nightmare start for Gray when Mark Yeates put the Blades ahead in the 9th minute, former Sheffield Wednesday winger Chris Eagles equalised for the Clarets with a 30-yard strike. Goals from Chris Iwelumo and Jay Rodriguez (who rejoined Burnley this summer) in first half stoppage time meant it would be a miserable start to the year for Sheffield United. A Ched Evans penalty in the opening minutes of the second half reduced the deficit, and it may have looked like a comeback was on until Steven Thompson made it 4-2 in the 85th minute.
Matthew Lowton started for the Blades that afternoon, who is now on the books at Burnley.
Summer at Burnley
Notable Ins: Jay Rodriguez (£10m, West Bromwich Albion), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (£3m, Leeds United), Erik Pieters (£1.5m, Stoke City), Danny Drinkwater (Loan, Chelsea)
Notable Outs: Tom Heaton (£8m, Aston Villa), Stephen Ward (Free, Stoke City), Anders Lindegaard (Free, Helsingborgs IF), Steven Defour (Free, Royal Antwerp), Peter Crouch (Retired), Nakhi Wells (Loan, QPR)
It was a summer of consolidation for the Clarets, James Tarkowski was heavily linked with a move to Leicester City for most of the Summer and promising young winger Dwight McNeil was linked with a host of bigger clubs. One of them being Juventus if you believe what you read in the papers.
Jay Rodriguez returned home to replace the outgoing-self-deprecating-good-bloke Peter Crouch who has moved on to every television channel. Bailey Peacock-Farrell left Leeds United to challenge Joe Hart for the second-choice keeper spot after the goalkeeping outgoings of Tom Heaton and Anders Lindegaard.
Erik Pieters looks to be a shrewd signing at left back with plenty of experience at this level, replacing the outgoing Stephen Ward and has already taken Charlie Taylor’s place in the starting 11.
Football Manager 2008’s Steven Defour returned to Belgium after his contract had expired, he never really seemed to settle due to injury problems, being restricted to just 58 appearances in 3 years. Danny Drinkwater appears to have taken his place in the squad, but appears to have his own problems at the moment.
Burnley’s Recent Form
Their last 6 games reads: won 2, drawn 2 and lost 2. Two-thirds of their current points total. They’re also 4 points better off than at this stage last season. However, last year’s campaign started early with a Europa League qualifying campaign in July.
The two defeats have come against Leicester City and Chelsea, the two sides currently making up the rest of the league's top 4 after Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
The defeat to Chelsea meant they now only have one win in 26 Premier League games against the so-called big 6, so defeat on Saturday was always a likely outcome, and Dyche’s side did look to be in the game until Christian Pulisic scored his second of the evening just before half time.
Their last victory was at the expense of Everton, with a Jeff Hendrick volley separating the two sides.
Blades may find confidence in the fact that Burnley are yet to win a game away from home this season, the last time they won on the road was against Bournemouth on the 6th of April.
On Sean Dyche and Burnley.
"I've got a lot of time for Sean. I've known him a while, and he's played in these parts and I know full well his managerial career. They're a benchmark for clubs like ours that want to stay in the Premier League. I like his team, I like the way they work together and they are a team. They've got a plan and they play a way that's effective.”
On the players' performances so far
"There's still a long way to go and we've got our feet on the ground, It's only a start and their challenge is to continue and to be consistent in their performances. Their attitude has been superb and still we're newcomers into this division and this is a club that has come up from League One. We weren't this ridiculously powerful Championship club. The boys are still learning. I think you've got to look at that as well when there's an opinion on certain players. We are always looking to improve individually and as a group.”
On Chris Wilder
“Chris Wilder has done a great job all his career, always enjoy his company. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his staff. It’s another very tough game.”
“Wood is touch and go, Bardsley has a tight back, and JBG is making progress but will be weeks not days. Drinkwater is about real fitness now, he’ll need another week joining in regularly, but he’s injury-free and feeling good."
Opposition Style of Play
It’s a 4-4-2 with two robust players up top. A vertical style which relies on long passes. No other team in the league progress up the pitch with fewer passes than Burnley.
Burnley on average complete 71 long passes per game, only Sheffield United complete more with 75 per game (we are direct, stop taking it as criticism).
Of course, a long pass doesn’t mean a hoof from their centre back or goalkeeper into the head or chest of their centre forward every time, but it is something that Dyche seems to have embraced as Burnley continuously punch above their weight in the Premier League.
Their centre forwards, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood (a doubt for Saturday's game) are incredibly important to the way they play, not just in a goal-scoring sense, but to win aerial duels coming from clearances or the second balls which come from that.
They are a good team defensively and playing with a deep defensive line can lead to the opposition committing too many players forward, allowing for plenty of space for their forwards to win the ball from a long clearance to initiate counter-attacks, laying it off to their 2 industrious central midfielders or their wide players who can put in a cross.
This is Something for Wilder and his back 3 to consider, especially as United’s response to a low block is to allow the centre backs to overlap, creating numerical superiority in attacking areas. However, their centre backs are well drilled in defending crosses, alternative routes to the goal may need to be found.
Or it could be that United’s style of play could pin Burnley back, leaving the two centre forwards isolated.
It would be nice to win a game by more than one goal; I’ll say 2-0 due to Burnley not winning many away from home.
Half Time - Draw - Full Time - Sheffield United at 9/2 (Bet365); Sheffield United to win and Under 2.5 goals at 10/3 (SkyBet)
I hope we play the same team that beat Arsenal, Mousset match fitness permitting.