Burnley boss Sean Dyche to stick with strike duo for West Ham clash?

Sean Dyche has had a number of lieutenants - key players who have consistently done the job for him and the team over a number of seasons.
Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood at West Ham in 2018Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood at West Ham in 2018
Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood at West Ham in 2018

And he retains that trust that they will continue to deliver for him.

But he insists he picks the side he thinks can earn a result, from game to game.

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There have been questions about the form of his frontline strikers, with Chris Wood struggling for form and goals, netting three in 20 appearances so far this season, while Ashley Barnes has one in 15 this term.

Jay Rodriguez is in the worst goal drought of his career, having failed to score in 18 appearances following his equaliser at Liverpool late last season.

But Matej Vydra is knocking on the door for more regular game time, with his stoppage time equaliser against MK Dons his third goal of the season, coming from only 443 minutes.

There is a growing clamour from supporters on social media to see the Czech Republic forward involved from the start, and Dyche admitted after the MK Dons tie: “I said to the centre forwards at half-time that I put pressure on the defenders to defend, so I have to put pressure on you to score a goal”, after Wood and Barnes squandered a number of opportunities.

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Asked how long that patience would last, after the 1-0 defeat at home to Manchester United, Dyche said: “It’s not about loyalty, it’s about players I think are playing well, players that are active, players doing the job they’re meant to do.

“I believe in all the players here, irrelevant of who the first XI are.

“I think it’s more about the team I think can win a game.

“I’ve said many times, of course you want your strikers scoring, no matter who is out there, but equally, you look at the rest of the team, and we have to find goals in the same way we ask strikers to defend from the front.

“I think it’s more relevant, I put a team out there I think can win.”

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Burnley have scored nine goals in 16 league games, the joint lowest in the division along with bottom side Sheffield United, but are creating more and better chances: “I think the quality of chances I’ve referenced more than anything else, there’s a lot of noise about amounts of chances, they only really count if they’re quality chances, the way the game works now with stats, someone shoots from 30 yards and hits someone in the shins four years away, and some guidelines class it as an effort on goal, when clearly it’s not going in in a million years.

“We try and look at the quality of chances we’re creating, and I think that’s got better as the season has gone on.

“The hardest job in the world is to put it in the net, I’ve always said that, I don’t overly put pressure on centre forwards, now and again I do, not very often, I kind of leave them to keep in the right areas and keep doing their job, and they’ll find a goal.”

So often this season, Dyche’s options have been limited, but he has all four senior strikers fit, and Joel Mumbongo caught the eye in the cup as a substitute.

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However, Wood and Barnes have more often than not been his preferred pairing - scoring 70 goals between them in 105 starts alongside each other, for Brighton and Burnley.

Dyche said: “There are certain players who have laid down a lot of good work over a long period, and they kind of end up getting that head start where they have delivered so many times, you’re thinking they’re probably going to deliver again.

“Strikers and wide players can have little dips, and ups and downs.

“You know when you’re flying defenders are more consistent over a longer period because it’s a different kind of job, when you’re attacking you can have spells when you’re quiet, games can have spells when you’re quiet.

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“You have to stay focused because you can be quiet then active for a period, then quiet again.

“Just by the nature of the job, wide players and forwards can often change during a game, often for that freshness.”

And Dyche has changes available, with the bench against United as strong as it has been in recent memory: “Forget about the experience, it’s more about the actual bodies, and the players we have here, going into this run of games, a very busy time - it’s a really important factor.

“We want these players to be fit and pushing each other to perform, and we want to get back to that.

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“It’s a good sign if your bench is strong, then you are a stronger collective.

“We’re getting there, Charlie Taylor is touch and go. We just need that inner Premier League feel and fitness levels now, there’s a couple a little bit short, but generally we’re well and fit for task.”