Sean Dyche is often labelled by fans as a ‘long ball manager’ who coaches his teams to hoof it up the pitch every ten seconds in some sort of anti-football hodgepodge of boringness.
Truth be told, there is a seed of truth at the source of those stereotypes because we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t say that his Burnley team played a tightly organised and pragmatic brand of football that wasn’t always entertaining and inspiring to watch.
However, taking that fact and running with it has led to some unfair presumptions about Dyche that are frankly disrespected to one of the most underrated Premier League managers of the last 10 years.
Dyche’s achievements at Burnley
Not only did Dyche manage to keep the Clarets in the top-flight for six years, but he astonishingly raised the club as high as a seventh-place finish in the 2017/18 season that propelled them into Europa League football.
And while Burnley did eventually lose momentum under their long-serving manager on the way to relegation last season, there were countless memorable results that highlighted his ability to grind out brilliant results against the odds.
Yes, Burnley picked up a lot of points against mid-table opposition at Turf Moor, but Dyche was also able to snatch wins on the road at ‘big six’ clubs as part of away days that the club’s fans will never forget.
Burnley ending Liverpool’s Anfield streak
In fact, Dyche has put one such game under the microscope this week with The Coaches’ Voice as he provided a fascinating tactical analysis on Burnley’s 1-0 win at Anfield in January 2021.
Now, beating Liverpool in their own backyard just months after they won their first ever Premier League title is impressive enough, but the result was all the more remarkable for the fact that it ended the Reds’ epic unbeaten run at home.
When the Merseyside club welcomed Burnley to Anfield on that winter’s night, they hadn’t lost a single Premier League game in front of the Kop since Crystal Palace secured a 2-1 win in April 2017.
All in all, Liverpool had gone on a 68-game invincible streak which could only be bettered by the 86 matches that Chelsea went without defeat at Stamford Bridge between 2004 and 2008.
So how did Burnley achieve a feat that no side had in almost four years? Well, that’s exactly the question that Dyche answered as he broke down his tactics across an engrossing video that you can check out down below:
“Crunching the pitch”
Dyche brilliantly explains how he set up his Burnley side to make things feel a little bit different for Liverpool, ‘crunching’ the pitch to try and force Jurgen Klopp’s men to play long and turn the game into a battle of second balls.
And if Liverpool did manage to start playing out from the back, then Burnley would pin them against whichever side of the pitch they chose by ‘locking on’ to players and pressing them hard to make the space feel small.
This, in turn, would often encourage players like Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold to switch the play, at which point the pendulum would swing and Burnley were poised to suffocate the opposite touchline as quickly as possible.
If the Reds were too swift with their diagonal balls to close down, however, Burnley would then retreat and protect the back four to mitigate the ground made up by the Reds.
“Protecting the V”
When Liverpool made their way into the final third, Dyche wanted his back four to stay compact and within the lines of the penalty area, protecting the so-called ‘V’ which is the space projecting out from the goalkeeper and widening the further out into the pitch it goes.
If the ball is played out wide, then the full-back will engage, but the three other members of the back four will remain within the ‘V’ in order to populate the area of maximum opportunity that players like Andrew Robertson look to cross into.
All in all, this was to force Liverpool to play as many crosses, as opposed to central through balls, as possible that James Tarkowski and Ben Mee could mop up with their aerial dominance.
“Turning defence into attack”
However, it is interesting to hear Dyche talking about how he always set his team up to win and at Anfield, that revolved around overcoming what he called the ‘five-yard fury’ of Liverpool’s press whenever possession turned over.
When Nick Pope had the ball, he would often play it up towards Chris Wood and the Burnley players around him would then ‘crunch’ that area of the pitch to make it a scrappy battle for the second ball.
The Clarets would try to play over Liverpool’s midfield as they were up against a 2vs3 overload and then look to exploit their high defensive line by playing incisive long balls that Ashley Barnes could run onto.
So, lambast and caricature Dyche all you like, but the simple fact of the matter is that he achieved incredible things with very limited resources at Burnley.
From elevating the club into the Europa League to ending Liverpool’s historic unbeaten run, Dyche simply got results in the results business and frankly it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t always beautiful along the way.
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