Clarets boss Sean Dyche believes his side haven’t been “tactically outmanoeuvred” this season - more often that not, it has been the opposition’s extra quality which has proved the difference.
Burnley prop up the Premier League, five points adrift of safety going into the final four games, with West Ham next up at Upton Park.
The margins are tight and we’ve just been on the wrong side of themSean Dyche
The Clarets were widely predicted to not just be relegated, but finish bottom, and while Dyche feels there is a reality in their situation, he defended criticism from some quarters of tactical inflexibility.
Dyche has sent his side out in a positive manner all season, been brave with two strikers on the pitch in a 4-4-2 system, or slight variation of.
Of late, he has been deployed Ashley Barnes on the left to accommodate a third striker - ironically co-inciding with a run of five and a half games without a goal.
Ahead of the game, Hammers boss Sam Allardyce - not for the first time this season - spoke of his own flexibility, taking more of a “horses for courses” attitude to facing certain teams.
He has mentioned Everton’s Roberto Martinez and Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini as managers who like to stick to their preferred way of working regardless of the opposition, and said of Dyche: “Sean is his own man and knows what he wants from his players. He’s sticking to his original plan because he thinks that’s the best way of doing things.
“Maybe I’m a little bit more flexible in terms of adapting to the teams that we play and the threats that the opposition face.”
But Dyche has no regrets over the way he has sent his players out to perform: “I think we’re the only team in the Premier League to play every game with a 4-4-2, two strikers on the pitch, trying to attack as your best form of defence.
“It hasn’t worked as well as we would have liked. Then you get the question of ‘why haven’t you played five in midfield?’. It’s got to fit your team.
“The margins are tight and we’ve just been on the wrong side of them.”
Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing, and, had he had the right options, he admits he may have tinkered with the formation: “We’re all the best managers in the world after the event.
“All those things go through your mind - ‘Can we play him there, can we do this, can we do that?’
“Sometimes it’s only yardages so there are certain things that we have changed, but the general map of the pitch - a 4-1-4-1, a 4-4-1-1, a 4-5-1 - of course we debate all that.
“We’ve looked at that but it’s still got to fit your players. I’m very pragmatic with how I manage and the players have to be given the best chance of performing, and the best chance of performing is playing in slots that they know or they can deliver in. It has to fit the model.
“The team does have a good way of working, and when you think the Premier League can become very tactical, we haven’t really been tactically out-maneouvred this season. It’s more been the quality of the opposition players and certain occasions.
“Against Chelsea in the first game of the season I thought we actually delivered a good performance, they were just absolutely terrific. And then you play Arsenal. There’s got to be some reality to the challenge. They’re a very good side but I thought tactically the players were top drawer. Arsene (Wenger) said afterwards.
“That’s why it’s frustrating because we’ve done a lot of good things, and we still are doing a lot of good things.”