A few things annoy me in football. Players not celebrating scoring against their old clubs, defenders wearing attacking numbers, Thierry Henry as a pundit, Karl Oyston, goalkeepers who wear tracksuit bottoms, The Europa League, the pre-match handshake between two teams and third kits to name a few. Sean Dyche’s insistence with 4-4-2 is currently putting blue in my claret.
It’s mildly annoying, like having a tiny stone trapped in your shoe. The persistence with this formation is grating on me, it’s a blot on Dyche’s copybook, an ever so slight lack of imagination. Burnley are very rigid, all the possession but not even half as many attempts as Reading on Saturday as we were put to the sword by the Royals. Yes, 4-4-2 won the Clarets promotion, but it also got the club relegated.
The Friday night lights see Burnley head to South Yorkshire for a glamour tie against Rotherham in front of the Sky cameras. Joey Barton should be handed his first start with a change of formation to add fluidity and more width to our attack.
Personally, I would go 4-2-3-1 with a base of Barton and David Jones – with Dean Marney not yet in contention these two now pick themselves. In a five-man midfield, Jones – who has started 91 of 93 league games since his arrival – can keep the ball moving whereas Barton and Marney can dictate play higher up the pitch.
When Barton came on against Reading it lifted Jones as he finally had a specialist central midfielder alongside him for the first time since Marney ruptured his ACL. I firmly believe Jones will get better and better this season with Barton putting out fires with him in the middle.
Further down the line I would start with all three of them in the middle to gain control of away matches, with a pacy outlet up top to stretch home defences. I think it’s naïve of the Clarets to go into every game with the same formation and to the naked eye what seems to be the same game-plan. An away game at one of the Championship minnows is a perfect opportunity for Dyche to move his cones about.
Record signing Andre Gray is the focal point of the attack, yet not integral to this system. If the new man hasn’t shaken off his thigh injury, Sam Vokes, Rouwen Hennings or Chris Long can play at the point of the attack.
This allows for an interchangeable three-man attacking midfield behind the front man which could include George Boyd, Scott Arfield, Michael Kightly or Matty Taylor. Arfield could be the man that this benefits the most, when out wide against Reading he looked far more potent after being shackled to a central midfield birth for most of this season.
Front men Hennings and Long could also adopt a role in this trio as the formation can easily be switched to a more attacking 4-3-3.
Another option for Dyche could be to move full back Tendayi Darikwa up to right wing, accommodating Matthew Lowton at right-back. ‘Derek’ as he has been dubbed by the Burnley faithful, scored his first goal of the season against Reading and could form one of the strongest right flank partnerships in the division with Lowton as he has the pace and trickery to operate further forward.
Now a 160-mile round trip to deepest Rotherham on a Friday night when the game is on Sky will test even the most ardent Burnley fans’ resolve. One could think of many things that could trump an October night in South Yorkshire. So please Mr Dyche, don’t annoy the travelling Burnley faithful by not putting in a performance worthy of the three points. I am making that trip, so don’t annoy me Sean!