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Arsenal Opposition Scout Report – Burnley


Burnley play host to Arsenal in the 25thgame of the season. Arsenal who showed resilience and class to draw with Chelsea in their last Premier League fixture, rested key players in Mondays 2-1 FA Cup victory over Bournemouth.

This tactical analysis will analyse Burnley and all of their facets of play. It will look to break down their overall play, strengths, weaknesses and what Mikel Arteta could implement in order to beat them.

Form guide

 Both Burnley and Arsenal currently sit on 30 points out from there 24 games this season. Burnley have amassed nine wins, three draws and 12 defeats out of these games. Arsenal have won just six of their 24 matches, drawing 12 and losing six. Burnley’s last five matches in all competitions have seen them win three and lose two. Two of the three victories came against Leicester City and Manchester United. They did succumb to a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, however, this has not been too detrimental to their most recent of form.

 Match ups

 Sean Dyche generally accepts that he will not have the lion’s share of possession and therefore makes the most out of it when he does. Quite often Dyche will look to create favoured matchups against his opposition. Against Manchester United, he targeted Phil Jones. who was drawn into 17 aerial battles in this game, nine more than his centre back partner Harry Maguire. As you can see from the image below, Burnley looked to put pressure on Jones in order to force errors. They also looked to win second balls by positioning the left-hand side of their team higher up the pitch as to latch onto any loose balls. Fred who was the right side of the midfield pivot is not renowned for his aerial ability. Dyche knew this and tried to ensure his team could capitalise.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

The image shows the average positions taken up by Burnley’s players with both the strikers pressurising Phil Jones, whilst the midfielders pressed for loose balls.

Attacking shape

 When Burnley attack, they progress the ball out to the flanks. Dyche knows that if his team loses the ball in midfield then the likelihood of them conceding a high risk chance is increased. If they do lose the ball on the flanks then they have men back and their shape isn’t compromised. Dyche likes for right-back Matt Lowton to play a more reserved role in attack. He almost becomes a third centre back. This allows for Charlie Taylor to progress forward from left-back, whilst maintaining balance and defensive stability. When Taylor does cross, Burnley like to overload the box with four players.

Attacking transition

As mentioned in their attacking shape, Burnley like to play the ball out wide. They want to expand from their tight narrow shape and maximise the strengths of their team in the air. One way they look to do this is through the progression of the ball from the right flank to the left. They look to draw their opponents in narrow before either switching the play to the opposite flank or passing through midfield. If they choose to pass through midfield, the four midfielders often play rather narrow. This minimises the risk in the pass and helps the team stay connected. Often Dwight McNeil receives the pass in the half-space, before playing it to the onrushing Charlie Taylor, who has space and time to cross.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

In their 2-1 victory over Leicester, Charlie Taylor puts a cross into the far post with four Burnley players attacking the box. Jeff Hendricks positioning is very important. He essentially negates Mendy and Evans from the attacking the cross. He simply sits between them not even attempting to go for the cross. This then allows a 3v2 at the far post. Jack Cork who made a run from midfield attacks the near post, while Rodriguez takes the centre of goal and Wood takes the far stick up against the Christian Fuchs.

Defensive transition

 In defensive transition, Burnley aim to get behind the ball as fast as possible. They don’t look to press or counter press until they know that they are compact in their shape. They look to press as one unit. Burnley aim to get their strikers between the defenders and the midfielders. This is so that they can cut the passing lanes into midfield and keep solid and sturdy. They want to channel the passes into the wide channels rather than allow the play to progress through them centrally. Once the ball is deep in their half out wide, they will constrict further and begin to apply greater defensive pressure. This makes it very hard for teams to play interior passes or accurate through passes. Burnley are happy for teams to cross and back themselves to deal with second balls.


Defensive shape

 Burnley’s defensive shape in their 4-4-2 allows for them to drop deep to remain compact, whilst creating defensive pressure. Their passes per defensive action against Manchester United was 15.82. This means they allowed United to have the ball 15.82 passes before meeting them with a defensive action. Burnley coach their players to use their cover shadow as a way to prevent passes through the lines. Denying opponents a passing route allows for Burnley to create indecision and capitalise on mistakes and too many touches. Against a defence such as Burnley’s creating central numerical advantages would allow for the team to lure Burnley’s players out and create spaces in behind. Alternatively, it would help drive Burnley back and condense them in their own half.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

This image shows Burnley after they had lost the ball. They sprinted back into position to get behind the ball, before pressing as a medium block as a unit. The midfielders used their cover shadow to kill the Manchester United players who were in the pockets of space behind them. The strikers then positioned themselves between the pivot midfielders and forced the ball back to the centre backs.

Pressing triggers

 Once Burnley are in their tight shape, they look to press and move as a unit. One trigger for the press is back passes to goalkeepers. One of either Woods or Barnes will go to press the keeper and the other will take the open centre back. Burnley’s two midfielders will then press onto the pivot midfielders. This leads to the goalkeeper playing a rushed long ball which often can’t be held up by the forwards. It allows Burnley to win the ball aggressively and catch their opponents flat-footed.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

The image shows Burnley’s players pressing Manchester United’s right side of defence. Wood uses his positioning to kill any pass to Maguire and pressurise De Gea. Rodriguez prevents any pass to Jones. Westwood and Cork don’t go tight as to not compromise the space behind them, however, should the ball go into Matic or Fred, they are perfectly positioned to jump press them and catch United in a vulnerable position.



Burnley struggle against sides who aim to create numerical superiority across the pitch. If Arsenal can create superiority when playing out from the back and progressing the ball through midfield, then they will bypass Burnley’s press well.  A vice which many teams have when defending in a 4-4-2 shape is defending penetrative runners. This was very prevalent in Burnley’s 3-0 and 2-1 losses to Chelsea and Norwich respectively. Norwich and Chelsea tasked their players with making penetrative runs beyond the Burnley shape. The trigger for this was when they had the ball out wide. The aim was to drag Burnley’s players beyond the defensive line and open space either for an interior pass or so that the ball carrier could take his man on in a 1v1. Arsenal could utilise Nicolas Pepe very well if they create these situations for him.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

This image shows Azpilicueta making an underlapping run in an attempt to drag Lowton away. This then leaves Willian 1v1 with the winger who has tracked back to help. Willian precedes to burst past him and win a penalty.



 An area Arsenal may be able to exploit against Burnley is with variations in corners. Against Leicester, Burnley somewhat struggled from unpredictable movement. Leicester brought everyone central to make it look as though James Maddison was going to put the ball in centrally, however often Perez would make a late dart to the front post. They looked to make a matchup of Perez against Cork. This was so that they could not have to contend with Burnley’s bogger more dominant defenders who had taken Leicester’s known aerial threats. Burnley are usually very strong at defending predictable set-pieces, however, if Arsenal create interesting match-ups and put the ball into uncomfortable positions for Burnley then they may struggle. Nick Pope is a goal-line keeper. This means he prefers to stay on his line for crosses into the box and encourages his defenders to head clear the ball. When Arsenal put balls into the box they should bare this in mind. They may have a little more space to put the ball into.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

Perez’s late movement out of the pack, drags Jack Cork with him. This creates an unfavourable matchup for Burnley given Cork is having to react to the forwards unpredictable run. It makes more sense to do this than put the ball into an area where Burnley’s more aerially dominant players are.

Arsenal exploits

 Arsenal could look to exploit Burnley’s 4-4-2 by looking to create a structure in midfield. The structure will allow for the team to create numerical advantages and effectively progress the ball up the pitch. Arteta likes for Lacazette to drop deep almost as a false 9 and Pepe remain high. This could work perfectly with Lacazette finding space between the defensive and midfield lines. He would have time and space to turn and play. Pepe would be able to be in situations where is matched up in a favourable 1v1 situation as well.

Burnley vs Arsenal - Opposition Report

This U structure would allow for Arsenal to play through Burnley’s shape effectively.



 In conclusion, Arsenal must smartly adapt to Burnley to beat them. Potentially by playing a five at the back system, they could negotiate the press and progress the ball through the team more effectively. This would also help negotiate the 2v2 between the centre backs and forwards of Burnley. Attacking Burnley will require for Mikel Arteta to create 1v1 situations through good sacrificial movement from midfielders and fullbacks. They may not actually receive the ball, however, they will make valuable space for their teammates. Really, this game comes down to how Arsenal progress the ball and how the ball arrives to their players. Arteta will want for the ball to arrive to Pepe and co in the right area at the right time for them to be most effective. Pepe must trust that the ball will arrive for him to take his chance.


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