TALKING POINTS: Aston Villa 0, Burnley 0
Villa had the lion’s share of possession and territory, registering 27 shots, but Nick Pope was only really seriously tested once, producing what manager Sean Dyche felt was a ‘world-class’ save from an Anwar El Ghazi free kick.
Courtney Hause also headed against the post, although it was hard to tell how much he knew about that as the ball rather hit him.
But Burnley had chances of their own, particularly in the first half, but a lack of goals remains a concern.
Here are the talking points:
Much of Burnley’s success under Sean Dyche has been built on a defensive base, and while his sides have often allowed opponents a lot of efforts on goal, the number of shots on target has been significantly lower.
They restrict the quality of opponents’ chances, and if they can’t do that, they have had a top-class goalkeeper on hand to earn his corn.
Nick Pope produced fine stop to deny El Ghazi, but the rest of his work was par for the course, as Dyche said: “It was a top save, it’s up there, a proper save, world class in my opinion.
“The rest of the night mostly I felt he handled himself as I’d expect him to because he’s a top keeper.
“Most of the other work he did is what you’d expect from him, a couple of clean takes from distance, I was pleased a number of their efforts were from distance, which showed good defensive shape.”
Villa had 27 shots at goal, and El Ghazi in particular was wasteful, but Dyche noted: “I think the key with chances...we all throw stats out there, including myself, but there has to be detail in the stats, and a lot of their efforts were controllable efforts, I call them, when the team have controlled the situation.
“They did have some good chances as well, as you would expect from a home side who have generally been going well.”
I wrote before the game that pressing in the Premier League has slightly changed this season, in that the league as a whole has seemingly preferred to let opponents have the ball and steal it in midfield.
Dyche said: “I think there’s a mixed bag, you’ve got the change in football, the tactical viewpoint, teams deliberately leaving teams with the ball because they’ve got 100 metres to go and score – teams are saying ‘you have the ball, pass it around your box, that’s fine, help yourself’. So maybe there’s been a tactical shift.
“We certainly want to press when we can, we’ve made that clear in our intentions at Arsenal, we want to press the best we can.“
Burnley were particularly aggressive in their press at Arsenal, and again at Villa, with Dean Smith noting afterwards that central midfielders Josh Brownhill and Ashley Westwood were pressing higher than they had anticipated.
That have Jack Grealish the chance to get in between the lines, however, so there has to be that balance between Burnley being on the front foot, or more passive, in order to affect the game higher up the pitch, while maintaining that defensive solidity.
But Brownhill in particular has been a major asset in Burnley’s press, recording more interceptions than any other player in the Premier League so far this season.
Just watch in the next game how many times he nicks the ball, wins a clean tackle, or hassles an opponent into making a mistake - it is the ugly side of the game that often goes unnoticed, but makes a huge impact.
We’re going back to something of an old trope, but clean sheets are worth their weight in gold.
Burnley are still searching for that clinical nature at the other end which would further reward their defensive work, but four clean sheets in the last six Premier League games is some going, and all since Ben Mee’s return to the side alongside James Tarkowski.
Nick Pope missed out on the Golden Glove by one clean sheet last season, to Ederson, and he already has five this term, one of five keepers in joint second, behind Villa’s Emi Martinez, who collected his sixth shut out against the Clarets.
No doubt Sam Allardyce will go into West Brom and look to start with the basics, collecting clean sheets, and build from there, and if you are at the wrong end of the table, clean sheets are priceless.
Burnley just need to get things right in the attacking third now...
LACK OF GOALS
A lack of goals remains an issue, with Burnley only having scored six in 12 Premier League games, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s own goal winner at Arsenal.
The side have created more and better chances of late, but that clinical nature has been lacking.
Chris Wood has squandered chances against Everton and at Arsenal, but was denied by a fine save from Martinez at Villa.
Dwight McNeil has also looked capable of providing, or taking, chances, but a lot of the side’s play has floundered on the last pass, cross or finish.
As Dyche said: “First half particularly we had some brilliant moments, but this is where we’ve got to tidy up, we had a couple of key moments when the final moment of a pass or finish, they are the things we have to tidy up on.
“We got in some really good areas, and we have done over the season so far, but those final moments, we have to be more clinical and detailed, because we have a base to work on, not only the way the team are operating, but we have bodies coming back and they are getting truly fit.
“The defensive side of it we’ve altered and they’re doing well with it.
“Now it’s that balance, getting our strikers firing.
“But we want to make it happen rather than wait for it to happen, that’s the key.”