Burnley may get the ball forward quicker than anyone else in the Premier League - but it is effective

It is not a shock to see Burnley, of all the clubs in the Premier League, play the fewest percentage of passes in their own half.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 1:08 pm
Chris Wood scores against Norwich back in September

Sean Dyche's footballing nirvana is a mixed style of play, trying to hurt opponents in as many ways as possible.

But the pragmatic Clarets boss isn't shy of getting the ball forward as quickly as possible into the strikers.

As he said after the 1-1 draw at Liverpool in 2017: "We deliberately got the ball and got it as far down their throat as we could because we felt it would be effective.”

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Despite being labelled as "anti-football" by David Luiz, then of Chelsea, just over a year ago, Dyche makes no excuses for not trying to replicate the type of possession, death by a thousand passes, philosophy that Manchester City have made particularly effective.

After that barb from Luiz, Dyche noted: “I don’t have to defend anything. There are no rights and wrongs to football in my opinion.

“I can’t remember ever going into an interview and saying: ‘It was a disgrace: Man City had 800 passes. That shouldn’t be allowed.’

“The idea of football is to try to win. You work backwards from winning. But win you must. You have to win to stay in the Premier League.”

Dyche's preference for fielding two, and sometimes three, strikers was derided in some quarters as Burnley were relegated in 2015, but he has stuck to his guns, and other sides are returning to a twin spearhead.

He explained his preference earlier this season: “A lot has been made of me playing two centre forwards, but I think centre forwards are the best players, in that it’s the hardest job, so if there are two of them, commonsensically it gives you at least somewhat of a better chance.

”But I appreciate the players you’ve got, if you’ve got a key centre forward who needs other players in midfield to go and adapt, if you’ve got wide players who can come inside and join in with the centre forward, then that’s another weapon.

“But I do like playing two centre forwards, I think it’s effective, when they play well, together, and when they link, when they do that, you usually see two centre halves in trouble.”

So, you will see Burnley play into any two of their strikers more often than any other side in the top flight.

Only 37.8% of Burnley's passes are in their own half - tied with Sheffield United, who also get it forward more quickly, albeit they have developed a deserved reputation for a more inventive philosophy, with their unique over-lapping centre backs.

The side with the next fewest passes in their own half are Manchester City, who, despite their ability to play out from the back, only recorded 39.5% of their total passes - presumably because teams are wary of pressing Pep Guardiola's side high up the pitch, and enabling them to pass through the press and attack the space in behind.

Liverpool, 25 points clear at the top, get the ball forward quicker than 13 of their Premier League rivals, playing the seventh lowest percentage of passes in their own half at 43.1%.

Top of the pile for passes in their own half are Arsenal with 51.1% - again, no surprise for anyone who saw the Clarets' 2-1 defeat at the Emirates back in August.

It is all well and good looking to keep the ball, but you have to pass with purpose, and the Gunners, particularly under Unai Emery, were often put under pressure by their insistence on playing out from the back, with both centre backs inside the area under the new rule brought in at the start of this season.

Burnley's style of play appeared to be mocked by Arsenal's on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, who, in discussion with Henrikh Mikhitaryan on the bench, seemingly gestured 'boom, boom, boom, over the top'.

However, Arsenal were only a point and a place ahead of the Clarets before the league was put on hold, with Ceballos having almost disappeared from view since his excellent debut.

Norwich, meanwhile, under Daniel Farke, also have a desire to play, play, play, although it sees them sitting bottom of the Premier League before lockdown.

The Canaries have played 51% of passes in their own half - again targeted by Burnley in their 2-0 win at Turf Moor in September, when both goals came from winning the ball close to the Norwich goal.

Third are Graham Potter's Brighton, again with relegation worries, at 49.4%.

Next in the list are two sides on 48.1%, who tend to play on the counter-attack, using pace - Wolves and Bournemouth.