The FourFourTwo Preview: West Brom vs Burnley
Contractual Obligation Super Sunday Relegation Dogfight! Please Don't Watch The Ryder Cup!
WEST BROM FORM
- WBA 3-2 Hull (LC)
- Spurs 0-1 WBA (Prem)
- WBA 0-2 Everton (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 WBA (Prem)
- WBA p1-1 Oxford (LC)
- Burnley 0-0 S’land (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Burnley 0-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Burnley 0-1 Sheff Wed (LC)
- Swansea 1-0 Burnley (Prem)
Lots of options on telly at 4pm this Sunday. Songs of Praise features the Gospel Choir of the Year awards, Downton Abbey's on what we must now call ITV1, Comedy Central screens the 17th of 25 consecutive Friends episodes, film buffs can choose between She's the Man, Homeward Bound 2, Despicable Me and Out of Africa, and sports fans can watch canoeing's world slalom championship highlights (BBC2) or the vinegar strokes of the Ryder Cup.
If all you want is football – and there's nothing wrong with that attitude, my friend – there's a potential belter on Sky Sports, as fourth-placed Heerenveen host 19-goal leaders PSV. Or you could watch West Brom versus Burnley.
The stats aren't promising. The Baggies have won one home league game since New Year's Day, while the Clarets haven't scored since the 14th minute of the season and have drawn their last three games 0-0. All the Skyperbole in the world can't make this into a must-watch.
But it could be a genuinely important game. It's a relegation six-pointer, not just in today's nascent league table but probably the final shake-up too: most top-flight fans looking down rather than up will have named these among the three clubs they'll have to finish above. And depending how other results go, it might leave Newcastle, who go to Stoke on Monday, two points adrift at the bottom, which would make things interesting for Alan Pardew.
Last time Burnley went three top-flight games without conceding they survived with ease, coming 14th in 1968/69… but they won those three games.
Sean Dyche perceptively pinpointed the problem – "We have to score goals" – after the latest washout against Sunderland, in which Lucas Jutkiewicz was evidently hardy and Marvin Sordell hardly evident.
With last season's 20-goalers Sam Vokes and Danny Ings still out, Dyche will hope Burnley continue to improve their accuracy: against Sunderland they got half a dozen efforts on target, which is twice what they'd managed in any other league game this season.
To do so again they'll have to find a way around Joleon Lescott, who finally made his West Brom debut at Spurs and promptly inspired their first win at White Hart Lane since the Miners' Strike.
But they did it with only 36.9% possession while watching Spurs complete 411 passes to their 228, with Craig Gardner, Chris Brunt and James Morrison alone contributing 22 tackles. Although the stifling pressing of their 4-5-1 worked last weekend, they'll need something more expansive to break down Burnley's well-drilled defence… and to give the wider world a reason to turn the telly over.
The biggest blow in Baggies' belatedly exciting 3-2 win over Hull in the League Cup was that record signing Brown Ideye hobbled off soon after scoring. His substitute Georgios Samaras will fancy a start, but Irvine may opt for the brawnier Victor Anichebe to partner Saido Berahino, who has only missed one minute of league action this term and came off the bench against Hull to score the winner.
Burnley weren't busy in midweek – they were out of the League Cup before the transfer window shut, beaten 1-0 at home by Sheffield Wednesday. Dyche isn't one to tinker much but may bring Chelsea loanee midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah into the matchday squad. "We're just bringing him up to speed with the way that we work physically," said the manager. "We're getting him used to the group."
Key battle: Joleon Lescott vs Lukas Jutkiewicz
Boy, did the Baggies need a defensive leader: before the Spurs shutout, they'd managed just three clean sheets in the 24 games since New Year's Day. But although Lescott looked impressive and led the way with 10 clearances, he didn't attempt a single tackle, only made 2 interceptions (Vlad Chiriches made 5), and only won 1 of his 6 aerial duels. Which might sound promising for Jutkiewicz: against Sunderland, Burnley's targetman won 7 of his 11 aerial battles.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Burnley 3-1 WBA (FAC, Feb 09)
- WBA 2-2 Burnley (FAC, Jan 09)
- WBA 2-1 Burnley (Ch, Feb 08)
- Burnley 2-1 WBA (Ch, Aug 07)
- Burnley 3-2 WBA (Ch, Apr 07)
Top-tier virgins Alan Irvine and Dyche may both be (as managers, at least – Irvine played for Everton in the Canon League First Division as a winger with a mop of black hair) but they are labouring under very different expectations. A pre-season Forza Football fans poll showed that while 89% of Burnley fans had confidence in Dyche – topped only by Nigel Pearson and Louis van Gaal – only 56% of West Brom fans backed Irvine, making him less trusted than every top-flight boss bar Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce.
Facts and figures
- West Brom have conceded a league-high 4 goals from outside the box this season.
- Burnley have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 19 games against West Brom (all competitions).
- The only teams to draw 0-0 for 4 Premier League games in a row are Arsenal (twice) and Tottenham.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Europe to retain the Ryder Cup, Joey Tribbiani to say something accidentally hilarious to Chandler Bing, and West Brom to slog to a 1-0 win.