Why hard-working Burnley have what it takes to cause Spurs more home discomfort
Sean Dyche's Burnley side are notorious for their hard-work and dedication, tirelessly pressing and hassling the opposition; as Ronald Koeman said after Southampton's 1-0 defeat at Turf Moor, they have “unbelievable spirit”. Facing a Spurs team still struggling for cohesion, their chances of success are unusually high.
Burnley's ethos of hounding and harassing their opponents into mistakes is reflected in the defensive statistics of their midfielders; Dean Marney's 2.8 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per match is particularly impressive, as is George Boyd's 3.8 tackles and 1.8 interceptions, and David Jones' 1.4 tackles and 2.8 interceptions.
A good indication of their pressing is the high frequency of interceptions in the middle third, as Burnley look to break up their opponent's rhythm.
Continually struggling to integrate their players into a cohesive unit, Spurs are still highly vulnerable to defensive tactics that limit time and space in possession; Mauricio Pochettino's team are the second most dispossessed team in the league (14.1 times per match).
Spurs' disjointed performances can at least partly be explained by enduring positional/movement problems, and an absence of fluidity across midfield. Considering his tactical philosophy of short-passing possession based football, it is surprising to see only two central midfielders in Spurs' primary formation (4-4-2), particularly considering neither Ryan Mason (1.1 key passes per match) nor Nabil Bentaleb (0.6 key passes) are attack-minded or fluid in their movement.
Rather than field a third midfielder at the tip of a trio, Pochettino plays Harry Kane in a deep centre forward role. Unsurprisingly, his tireless work-rate does not make up for the control and creativity that an attacking midfielder would bring.
Kane - with 78.5% pass completion - is not a link-up player, as comparisons with Gylfi Sigurdsson indicate. Spurs must be regretting allowing him to leave in the summer.
Spurs' creative void directly relates to this lack of cohesion; with static midfielders and predictable sources of attack (Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen), they are unable to create chances or move the ball into dangerous areas. Of course, this is not helped by the abject performances of Roberto Soldado.
When his goals dried up, it became clear that Soldado offers very little in terms of build-up play.
With Harry Kane essentially being tasked with a dual role of link-up striker and goalscorer, and with no playmaker on the field to link the central midfielders together, Spurs look desperately disjointed. Dyche's Terrier-like Burnley side should ruffle a few feathers on Saturday.