Podcast 51: West Brom post-mortem

Jamie Smith is joined by Adam Heap, Kevin Robinson, Ian Creamer and Dan from West Brom website Baggies Facts.

They discuss the shocking performance against West Brom, and begin to wonder where it all went wrong. They also discuss potential solutions to the problems we saw on Sunday.

As well as this, the panel pick their candidates for this month’s POTM. Burnley next play Leicester, which Jamie and co also preview.

You can listen online here or below. To listen to all previous episodes of the NNN podcast, please visit our mini-site, where you can also find links to subscribe on iTunes. If you have any feedback, please email us at podcast@nonaynever.net.

No reason to panic

It was a deflating afternoon for Burnley at The Hawthorns. But the result has been overinterpreted.

The Clarets produced their worst performance in a long time. Seemingly nothing went to plan. West Bromwich Albion first outmanoeuvred Burnley at two corners and then took advantage of additional space to complete their impressive victory. Meanwhile, Lukas Jutkiewicz was isolated and dominated up front. The team desperately struggled in attacking transition. And again didn’t score.

Sean Dyche was without both David Jones and Dean Marney for this game – his key, well-balanced central midfield partnership. In fact, it was the first time since the former joined the club over a year ago that he didn’t start a league match. As a result, the Burnley manager opted for a change of formation from 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1) to 4-1-4-1. For two probable reasons.

First of all, without the legs and understanding of his usual pairing, he felt he needed to give extra protection to the back four. Thus, Steven Reid was asked to screen the defensive line with Scott Arfield and George Boyd ahead of him.

Secondly, perhaps less likely, Dyche might have tried to nullify the opposition’s numerical advantage in this area of the pitch. West Brom deploy an extremely narrow 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1) system with their widemen – Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans – operating as effectively additional central midfielders. By having more numbers in midfield, Burnley created a 5-v-5 situation.

WBA

The approach worked well. The Clarets defended in a narrow and compact shape forcing Albion to attack down the flanks through their full-backs and were then doing well to stop or clear resulting crosses into the box.

Even going forward Burnley began the game promisingly. In their first attacking move, when Jutkiewicz moved out wide with the ball, three players – Boyd, Arfield and Ross Wallace – made their way into the penalty area. Boyd and Arfield also made some energetic runs into the channels, whereas Kieran Trippier supported Wallace actively on the wing.

Problems started to appear after about 20 minutes when West Brom took hold of possession. The hosts were very patient on the ball, switching play from side to side rather than attempt to force the issue. When they lost the ball, Burnley weren’t able to turn defence into attack, though. One, as Jutkiewicz was the only passing option. Two, because he was completely dominated by Albion centre halves Craig Dawson and Joleon Lescott. Tellingly, the Clarets made the least attacking third passes (88) and the lowest percentage (52%) of forward passes this season in this match*.

However, despite their dominance, West Brom hardly threatened the goal and Burnley long looked relatively comfortable. Tom Heaton made two saves all game as Albion struggled to penetrate. It was the two well-worked set pieces that ultimately provoked the outcome of the match.

And goals change games. In the second half, when the Clarets went back to 4-4-2, the contest opened up. West Brom used extra space in midfield to keep the majority of possession and finally put the ball in behind Burnley’s back four for another two goals.

It could, of course, be argued that Dyche made a mistake by changing the system and, arguably, going against his usually attacking principles. Yet, his defensive strategy worked well until he had to react to two set-piece goals.

It’s been a difficult Monday, but it’s also only one game. We go again Saturday.

* Stats are credited to FourFourTwo.

Sean Dyche needs to take responsibility

“In the Championship, you can get away with it if 3 or 4 players have a bad game, but not in the Premier League – it’s relentless.”

So says Sean Dyche.

But not me.

I fully appreciate that Dyche had a bit of an injury nightmare – missing the two partnerships that formed the backbone of last season’s success in Vings and Jarney – but I don’t think that’s an excuse for some of yesterday’s biggest problems. Nor is blaming individual error.

And I don’t think you would ever get away with a performance like that at Championship level – not at any level, in fact.

For me, the blame for our comprehensive humiliation falls flat at the feet of the manager.

I have lots and lots and lots of issues with the way we set up, but here are my biggest concerns.

The lineup

Okay, so losing Ings, Marney and Jones was always going to hurt us – but Dyche’s hand certainly wasn’t forced into naming the XI he did.

Amazingly, we started the game with five wide players in midfield – George Boyd, Ross Wallace, Michael Kightly, Steven Reid and Scott Arfield – while a promising central player sat on the bench.

I respect that Sean wants Nathaniel Chalobah to settle in, but when he’s the only available central midfielder (which is an issue in itself, considering this summer was supposedly all about adding depth) I’m struggling to see any justification for not putting him in from the start.

Let’s remember that he is only here until January and there are only 13 games left in 2014. If there are fitness worries, why have we signed someone on a short-term deal who is so far away from being ready to play?

I’m one of many who have been calling for a change to 4-5-1, but Dyche chose completely the wrong game to do it. It makes no sense at all – why switch to a system that demands more midfielders when you have none available?

For what it’s worth, I’d have played Marvin Sordell or Ashley Barnes alongside the Juke; with Boyd, Chalobah, Arfield and Kightly in midfield. Okay it’s not perfect, but I reckon it’d be a hell of a lot stronger than what we actually got.

No desire to score

We’ve spent so much time debating why we can’t score. Is it the formation? The system? The personnel? The opposition?

Well, yesterday we found out once and for all – we don’t actually have any interest in scoring. Our set-up at The Hawthorns was one of the most extreme defensive systems I’ve seen in a long, long, long time.

The 4-5-1 formation we’ve been calling for was supposed to turn into a 3-4-3 when we had the ball. Kieran Trippier joins the midfield, while the two wide midfielders join the attack.

What actually happened is… well… nothing. We flooded as many players as physically possible in front of the ball to stop West Brom breaking forward, but then when we won it that shape didn’t adapt at all. We just pretty much stood still and whacked the ball up to Lukas Jutkiewicz, who was about half a mile ahead of the next most advanced Claret. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d pulled out some binoculars to help him try to spot the nearest claret shirt.

Early on in the match I remarked that you can’t play the counter-attack without any pace, but it soon became apparent that we weren’t trying to play the counter at all. It’s now more than ten hours since we last scored – and our second goal of the season is looking further and further away.

In the photo at the top of the page, Dyche stands by a list of key philosophies. “If you would like to win, but think you can’t… it’s almost certain that you won’t,” it reads. Check.

It’s very, very rare I feel angry about a performance.

In fact, I think I have to go all the way back to Steve Cotterill’s spell to remember the last time that happened. But yesterday I was angry at the way we approached the game – and I still am.

We had no intention of winning it. It was an insult to the fans, the players and the game. Quite frankly we absolutely deserved the thrashing we received.

Set pieces

‘We never score from corners’ is a fun little catchphrase we use on the live blog – but the reality is we are absolutely hopeless from set pieces.

It’s a weird anomaly, because under Dyche we’ve largely been a very organised unit – but we’ve always struggled from dead balls. Heck, last season, we even managed to concede directly from our own corner!

We got away with it on the whole last season, but we’ve already learned this season that the margins are so thin in the Premier League.

Quite simply, our defending from corners was abysmal and embarrassing at best. The Baggies had ten in all – and every single one gave me a nightmare. The BBC should cancel Doctor Who and stick a compilation of those on a Saturday evening – it’ll have kids and grown ups across the country trembling behind their sofas. That’s where I was.

The first goal was bad. Sticking with the Saturday night BBC theme, Tom Heaton looked like he was auditioning for the Russell Grant slot on Strictly. He stepped forward with two left feet, got all tangled and confused and could only watch hopelessly as Jason Shackell invited Craig Dawson to climb above him and head the ball into the back of the net.

The second was worse because it was exactly the same. I almost thought Sky had chosen to run a replay of the opener. I can forgive one mistake, but to leave big gaping holes from a corner just 15 minutes after that first one is completely unacceptable.

This is something that Sean Dyche needs to work on with the team. We must improve this area of the team if we are to stand any hope of stopping up.

We’ll move on

So, Sean Dyche – you can blame the players all you like, but I really hope you’re looking a lot closer to home in your post-match analysis.

There were, of course, individual errors and poor performances (certainly more than 3 or 4) throughout the field. But that’s much more difficult to fix – here, I wanted to address some of the tactical approaches that were not quite right.

Yesterday was diabolical, but we will move on – we have to. I don’t so much expect us to ‘forget’ that performance, but we do need to learn from it.

It’s easy to feel all doom and gloom right now, but there is a lot of football to be played and we absolutely can rescue this season yet.

The reason I’m so upset about yesterday’s approach is because I know we’re good enough to compete. I know we’re good enough to stay up.

I believe in our team – and I believe in our manager too. We all make costly mistakes – I certainly have. That’s what I’m putting yesterday down to: a mistake.

Dyche got it very, very wrong against West Brom, but I’m hopeful that he can take away the right lessons and those same problems won’t rear their ugly heads again.

Our next match, against Leicester, is now absolutely huge. More than ever before, we need a strong and positive performance.

Should Dyche have apologised for yesterday? Comment below.

Analysis: West Brom 4-0 Burnley

After a succession of 0-0 draws, Burnley were mauled in the Midlands as a combination of Burnley looking out of their depth and West Brom hitting the right notes culminated in the Baggies pasting the Clarets by four goals to nil.

A Saido Berahino brace and further goals from Craig Dawson and Graham Dorrans resulted in a third defeat of the season for Burnley but more worryingly, another game without victory and another game without a goal. It leaves Alan Irvine’s team in the top half of the table but Sean Dyche’s men languishing bottom of the Premier League.

First half

– Long balls to Lukas Jutkiewicz twice deceived Dawson and Joleon Lescott but he was unable to get a toe on either of them

– Michael Kightly hit the first shot in anger but volleyed over from the edge of the box

– West Brom went perilously close as Chris Brunt’s wayward volley cannoned off Michael Duff and into the side-netting

– Burnley gave the ball away and Berahino advanced with it, wriggled free of Jason Shackell and Ben Mee but dragged wide from a difficult angle

– Burnley were sleeping at a corner as the ball was kept in and drilled towards goal, only for Tom Heaton to scoop it behind. Foreshadowing here perhaps

West Brom 1-0 Burnley (Dawson, 30)

There is a double irony in the sense that Burnley were struggling from corners from minute one and it was the man who so nearly joined the Clarets in the summer that scored against them.

In all fairness to Dawson, it was excellent movement from the centre half who found the space in the box that no one is occupying, although Jason Shackell didn’t cover himself in glory with his attempts to neutralise him. It was a looping centre from Brunt away from the melee of players surrounding the six-yard box. Heaton should really be claiming the ball as when it reaches the dead of Dawson; he’s almost on the goal-line when he heads home. Much like the third Chelsea goal, I feel Heaton’s positioning was all wrong and it meant he was again vulnerable to a pretty average delivery.

– Berahino lost Steven Reid and Shackell but wass denied a one-on-one by a last-ditch Duff tackle

– Dorrans ascended up the pitch unchallenged and forced Heaton into action with a rasping 40-yard curling strike which needed turning over the bar

West Brom 2-0 Burnley (Berahino, 45)

It was almost a mirrored copy of the first goal and Burnley should be rightly tearing their hair out once again.

Chris Brunt has always been excellent from dead ball situations in his career at The Hawthorns and Burnley should have known this prior to the match. They should certainly have worked out his influence by this point in the half but apparently the message hadn’t sunk in. His delivery in was wicked and Scott Arfield was slow to track the run of Dorrans across the near post. Using the pace of the ball, he was able to guide the corner across the mouth of the goal where an unmarked Berahino could not miss. Again, I would question Heaton’s concentration a tad however the majority of the blame must go to the way the set piece was defended as a whole and to leave a man unmarked in the six-yard box is suicidal.

Second half

– Craig Gardner hit a fierce strike which took a deflection and skidded wide of a diving Heaton

– Stephane Sessegnon was given the freedom to crash a volley towards the net but Ben Mee was there to block a certain goal

West Brom 3-0 Burnley (Berahino, 56)

Many have given credit to Berahino here and rightly so although there is a great deal wrong with it from a Burnley perspective.

The England under-21 international peeled away from Shackell and raced on to a neat through ball from Dorrans before expertly finishing across a keeper whose confidence was quite literally on the floor. Heaton may have been slow out to challenge and out of position when Berahino did finish but this was legitimately not his fault.

Dorrans was given acres and limitless amounts of time to stroll forward in possession of the ball unchallenged. He was a nuisance first half – as were much of Albion’s attacking players – so it beggars belief why he wasn’t offered a challenge of some sort. Equally disappointing is the lack of communication in the back-line as Mee played deeper than his counterparts, allowing Berahino to peel away from Shackell and remain onside.

– Jutkiewicz did well to rise highest to a deflected delivery from Kieran Trippier and his header was easily – if dramatically – parried by Foster. It was Burnley’s first shot on target and it came on 64 minutes

– The first shot on target was followed up with two quick fire efforts from substitutes. First Marvin Sordell from distance with a strike which went well wide and then Ashley Barnes with a half-decent opportunity from 15 yards which he skied

– Dorrans gave Mee the slip and was not picked up. He had a clear sight of goal but slipped and turned the ball into the side-netting

– George Boyd had a fierce attempt blocked and Kightly’s follow up is easily gathered by Foster. A second attempt on target

West Brom 4-0 Burnley (Dorrans, 90)

It was an excellent team goal reminiscent of that from Andre Schurrle on the opening game of the season.

Cristian Gamboa on the flank played a neat one two with Georgios Samaras, cutting apart Mee and Kightly on the Burnley left side. The full back played a great cutback into the path of the excellent Dorrans who arrowed a drive into the far corner.

Certainly there were faults in the build up from Burnley. A one-two shouldn’t really cut open an entire flank and Duff was for once showing signs of his age as he lethargically closed down Dorrans although credit where credit is due and it was a fine team goal from the hosts.

What went wrong?

In my opinion there’s only so much you can blame players for in football and if they simply aren’t good enough, you cannot accuse them of playing below par and rubbish, because they simply can’t perform to the expectations people bestow upon them.

There will be much criticism for the likes of Ross Wallace, Reid and others out on the playing field but there must be a moment when you realise these players just aren’t good enough at this moment in time. The simple reason as to why Burnley got beat against West Brom is because they had a good blend of pace, flair and workhorses. Burnley only have the latter. You cannot fault any of their attitudes or their work ethic but there is a real lack of creativity, invention and quality in general. It is not their fault they quite simply are not equipped to perform at this level yet, the finger of blame can only be pointed at the chairmen for not backing Dyche with credibility financially.

Experts have said that Burnley are hard done by due to the injuries of Sam Vokes and Danny Ings. Everyone with a smidgen on interest in the club was aware Vokes had a long term injury and would not be back until the Christmas period. Many people would have been aware of Danny Ings’ injury record it has been something that has continuously derailed his career. It beggars the question where the money was to buy a Lewis Grabban or a Britt Assombalonga, or even an Adam le Fondre.  Instead, prayers are being asked for one of either Barnes or Sordell to find a rich vein of form and score goals via the assistance of Jutkiewicz but it really isn’t looking like happening.

It’s not just the strikers in general that are the problem though – it’s the service given to them. Long ball after long ball after long ball will be followed by a hopeful cross from the flank. In short: there is just no creativity or craft, no midfielder who can weave his way into space before playing an intricate through ball into an attacker. I can’t even remember the last time a player went one-on-one or was played in behind.

The tactics are far too hit and hope which many will say is down to the manager when actually it’s down to what the manger has to work with. It says a lot for the likes of Wallace, Arfield and Boyd if there are no attempts to play through the middle. But why are they even there if this is the only hopeful route to Jutkiewicz and company? Why not just play an 8-0-2 formation?

You can’t defend set pieces in such a manner and expect to win a match however the problem is far greater than the issues regarding corners. If any manager is capable of bringing this team back to life then Sean Dyche is certainly the man of miracles. Conceivably, Dyche could turn this situation around. He has the full backing of the fans, the owners and the players and therefore can challenge the odds. Look at Sunderland last year after their wretched start. However, Burnley need to turn this form around fast or certain relegation may not be such a pessimistic thought after all.

Burnley MOTM

Ashley Barnes 6/10: The energetic front man caused a few problems when he came on at half-time. Lescott and Dawson were struggling at times to cope with his runs in behind and turn of pace. Had a spell of good link up play with Jutkiewicz and later substitute Sordell before blazing over Burnley’s only decent chance all game, and even then it would have taken an excellent strike to score from it.

Tom Heaton 4/10: Poor for the first goal, partly to blame for the second and slightly to blame for the third. Not his day.

Kieran Trippier 5/10: Persistently giving the ball away and wasteful going forward. Alright defensively.

Michael Duff 5/10: Had a very good first half but deteriorated in the second and slow to Dorrans for goal four.

Jason Shackell 5/10: Confidence was rocked after losing Dawson for the opener and had a hard afternoon from then on.

Ben Mee 5/10: A little more assured on the ball than Trippier oddly though lacked the means to cope defensively.

Ross Wallace 4/10: Virtually no impact on the game on the right but how could he when tactics were hit the long ball.

Scott Arfield 5/10: He’s Burnley’s Mr Reliable but he played as well as he can. He needs more quality around him.

Steven Reid 4/10: The game passed the former Albion man by and he looked every day of his 33 years.

George Boyd 4/10: Couldn’t affect his game with the tactics. He was trying to give his all but had little incentive to do so.

Michael Kightly 5/10: One of the brighter sparks in the midfield for endeavor but looked out of his depth on first start.

Lukas Jutkiewicz 5/10: Ridiculous what was being asked of him. He is a grafter but not a miracle worker.

West Brom MOTM

Saido Berahino 8/10: He may be the third choice striker at The Hawthorns but with Brown Ideye and Victor Anichebe out he certainly made a good claim to a regular starting berth today. Burnley’s defending was far from impressive but he took full advantage when given opportunities to do so, being in the right position for his first and keeping his composure for his second. A constant threat with excellent chemistry with his attacking team-mates.

Foster 6, Wisdom 6, Dawson 7, Lescott 6, Pocognoli 7, Morrison 7, Gardner 7, Dorrans 8, Sessegnon 7, Brunt 7

Where next?

It’s the quite daunting task of Championship champions Leicester City in the Foxes den. Last season this fixture would have felt difficult however this season it seems like an enormous task. There is no sign of any goals coming soon and in general it looks a very depressing prospect for Burnley. All supporters would like to think an upset is on – after all Sean Dyche remains manager so the impossible remains possible. For me though, I’m struggling to see beyond a second successive defeat, albeit a lesser one at that.

Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Burnley

What’s your assessment of yesterday’s game? Comment below.

Vote for September’s player of the month

Voting is now open for the No Nay Never – Burnley Express player of the month award for September.

How to vote

This season there are three ways to lodge your vote.

You can vote on Twitter by tweeting your nomination and reason why you’re voting for him, with the #claretsPOTM hashtag. We’ll include the best ones on the site.

And you can now vote by text message. Text the squad number of your nomination to 07520 615 224 – for example, to vote for Scott Arfield, your message should be “37”.

Alternatively, you can vote online below.

[yop_poll id=”12″]

What happened in September

Crystal Palace 0-0 Burnley

George Boyd made his debut at Selhurst Park, but he couldn’t inspire a first win. Danny Ings had an awful afternoon, picking up a yellow card for an early dive before being forced off with an injury that will keep him our for a number of weeks.

We really should have won this one though, after Mile Jedanik pulled down Lukas Jutkiewicz in the box – but Scott Arfield’s late penalty was saved.

Burnley 0-0 Sunderland

With Danny Ings missing Marvin Sordell was handed his full debut, but he lasted just over an hour before being withdrawn.

Burnley had two strong penalty shouts – both for fouls against Jutkiewicz – but neither were given, and the closest we came to a goal was a deflected Ashley Barnes shot that hit the crossbar.

West Brom 4-0 Burnley

Well – it was all going so well. Burnley were frightfully poor from start to finish. With Jones and Marney out, we set out far too defensively and without organisation. Dawson and Berahino scored from corners in the first half, then Berahino and Dorrens doubled the lead in the second half. And the score flattered us.

Who have you voted for? Comment below.

The small-print: You can vote up to once by Twitter, once by text message and once on the website. In the case of multiple votes, your latest vote will be used and earlier votes discounted. Voting closes at 23:59 on Wednesday 1 October 2014.

Preview: Clarets seek scoring touch

Jamie Smith previews tomorrow’s clash at Turf Moor.

West Brom v Burnley

16:00 – The Hawthorns – Barclays Premier League

A third Premier League stalemate in a row last weekend meant Burnley passed the 500-minute mark since their last goal.

Sean Dyche also has injury concerns over three of his regular starters with a further three ruled out. Matt Taylor’s Achilles keeps him out of the reckoning and while Sam Vokes and Danny Ings are making progress neither is ready for a comeback yet. David Jones has been struggling with the thigh injury picked up in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland and Dean Marney and Kieran Trippier have also missed training with niggles.

Burnley will be extremely stretched if none of that trio are passed fit and Nathaniel Chalobah may come in for his debut, while ex-WBA man Steven Reid and Michael Kightly are other options. But the Clarets look light in the centre of the pitch with Taylor, Jones and Marney all potentially unavailable.

Up front, Dyche must consider whether to keep faith with Marvin Sordell after his disappointing display last weekend or bring in Ashley Barnes, who impressed in a cameo off the bench and hit the bar with a late deflected effort. The trip to the Hawthorns might have been a good chance to play five in midfield, but a sheer lack of numbers may prevent that option from being available to Dyche.

Alan Irvine is expecting WBA’s record signing Brown Ideye to be fit despite the striker picking up an injury in their midweek league cup win, a game in which Ideye scored his first Baggies goal. But he is expected to be without utility player Chris Baird, who ended last season at Turf Moor.

Victor Anichebe is likely to be out too, meaning Saido Berahino could lead the line on his own with support from Stephane Sessegnon. WBA have a plethora of classy midfield ball-players and Chris Brunt, Graham Dorrans and James Morrison are also dangerous with shots from distance, while the Baggies ought to also be a threat from set pieces.

Youssuf Mulumbu made his comeback from injury in midweek and might be available to Irvine, but he could prefer to keep faith with the same XI that won at Spurs last weekend. Irvine was able to pick former England defender Joleon Lescott for the first time at White Hart Lane and it was no coincidence the Baggies recorded a rare clean sheet with him in their back line. He is likely to play alongside Burnley’s summer target Craig Dawson in the WBA defence, although Gareth McAuley is pushing for a place as he continues his return from injury.

West Brom have a more solid look about them with their key defenders back from injury and with Ben Foster in goal they will be tough to break down on Sunday. But the Baggies have struggled at home all year and have only won twice at The Hawthorns so far in 2014.

Possible line-ups

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Barnes; Jutkiewicz

WBA: Foster; Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli; Dorrans, Brunt, Gardner, Morrison; Sessegnon; Berahino.

Form: WWLLD

WBA have shown the inconsistency that blighted them last season again in the new campaign. A 1-0 win at Spurs was excellent and the Baggies have also progressed to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup after wins against Hull City (3-2 at home) and Oxford United (on penalties after a 1-1 draw at home).

Those successive wins came on the back of three league matches without a goal and the Baggies appear to lack firepower, just as they did last season when they missed the previous campaign’s loan star Romelu Lukaku. Record signing Brown Ideye is yet to score in the league but did find the net for his first WBA goal in the team’s midweek cup victory.

Dangerman: James Morrison

Underrated Scotland international Morrison’s versatility has made him a fine asset for West Brom in the last seven years since the club signed him from Middlesbrough.

Morrison can play anywhere in midfield and offers a useful goal threat from deep, scoring around once every ten games for the Baggies.

His first goal of the new season came last weekend in a shock 1-0 win at White Hart Lane and Morrison is not to be confused with the singer-songwriter of the same name.

They are different people.

Manager: Alan Irvine

Irvine was a surprising choice to take over at West Brom this summer and five points from five games won’t have convinced a lot of the doubters so far.

Spells at Preston North End and Sheffield Wednesday were fairly unimpressive and Irvine had been out of management for over three years, working at the Everton academy, before the Baggies came calling.

Irvine had a win record of a touch over 40% at both Preston and Wednesday and is the head coach at The Hawthorns rather than the manager.

Previous encounters

Burnley’s last trip to The Hawthorns came in January 2009 when the teams played out a 2-2 draw in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Burnley won the replay 3-0 at Turf Moor.

The Clarets’ last league game at West Brom was in February 2008 and the Baggies took the points thanks to a 2-1 win. James O’Connor had given Burnley the lead, but goals from Cesar and Roman Bednar completed the win.

West Brom have won 33 of their hosted meetings between the teams with 13 draws and 16 wins for Burnley. The Clarets have not won at West Brom since 1969.

Prediction: 0-0

It looks likely to be another tight game between two teams that lack firepower. Burnley’s lack of striking talent in the absence of Ings and Vokes and injury problems throughout the squad could lead to another stalemate.

How do you see the game going? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 3.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Baggies are looking forward to Burnley match

I’m looking forward to this one.

Albion have been on a slightly positive upturn following a 1-0 win and defensive masterclass at Spurs last weekend, which was followed up by a convincing cup win against Hull City on Wednesday.

A completely different Albion starting XI played in midweek and I remember thinking at the time that man for man the side really wasn’t ‘weakened’ as such. It just shows the size of the squad required for the top flight in modern football.

Alan Irvine has got us playing effective football in the last two games which is a contrast to the previous five. The former Preston North End boss has hardly been flavour of the month since his shock appointment but hopefully with results now looking a bit more positive he will be given a chance to shows us his managerial skills.

In terms of Albion players to look out for I’d say that our new signing Sebastian Blanco is one to watch, should he break in to the starting XI or appear from the bench. Everything good that happened against Hull City appeared to go through the Argentinian international.

I’ve no doubt Burnley fans will be looking at this game as one you could take points from.

You have been impressively solid at the back but up-front you’ve lacked goals, so there’s no doubt you’ll put that right at The Hawthorns on Sunday despite news that Danny Ings isn’t quite ready yet.

I just hope we can score more than you!

This game marks a return to the Baggies for former fans favourite Steven Reid and should he get any game time you’ll see him get a fantastic reception. He was nothing but a true gent during his time in B71.

I’m also glad that a not-so-glamarous fixture has been picked for the Sky cameras. It would seem that in recent years unless we’ve been playing a top-4 side or unless it’s a crunch game we’ve been well and truly ignored by our broadcasting friends.

Good luck in the hunt for safety, just not at our expense! Enjoy the game on Sunday, and if you have and questions regarding pubs or ground related stuff you can find me at @BaggiesFacts.

Prediction: Albion win 2-1.

What do you reckon? Will Alan Irvine continue to impress? Comment below.

Vings can only get better

Burnley’s dry spell is now long enough that the papers will be getting out the calculators and counting it in minutes in their previews this weekend.

Five league and cup games without a goal is a worrying sequence in anyone’s book and although Burnley did seem to be getting closer to scoring in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland, the stalemate should probably be viewed two points dropped rather than one earned, just as it was at Palace after Scott Arfield’s late penalty was saved by Julian Speroni.

September’s fixtures looked kind on paper and with two points from two eminently winnable fixtures, the pressure is on Burnley to get a positive result at West Brom on Sunday.

The Baggies were on most people’s list of teams for the drop and with good reason given how baffling the appointment of Alan Irvine was. But a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane last weekend against Europa League-fatigued Spurs indicated they cannot be written off as certainties for the drop.

Back-to back away games in the Midlands (Burnley’s following game is at Leicester) show just how tough it is in the Premier League. There are no easy matches, no gifts of three points, especially for a club as small as ours.

‘m reticent to pull out the ‘punching above our weight’ argument given this is our second season in the Premier League in five years, but we’re quite obviously up against it. Leicester’s 5-3 humiliation of Manchester United from last weekend perhaps showed Burnley the way forward.

Lukas Jutkiewicz in particular may be able to learn something from Jamie Vardy, who earned his side two penalties and turned the game by winning the first cheaply after a clumsy challenge in the box by Rafael da Silva. Vardy is a cheat, but he’s a cheat who had a hand in all of the Foxes’ five goals on Sunday. Perhaps Jutkiewicz needs to develop a nastier side and he admitted as much in his post-match quotes last weekend.

Sean Dyche has a headache over his misfiring strikers but the problem is arguably further down the supply chain given the rarity of good chances being created by his team. Last weekend Burnley probably had two.

A clearly devoid of confidence Marvin Sordell horribly flunked the first in the opening five minutes and Jutkiewicz shot too close to Vito Mannone after wrigging away from John O’Shea for the other. The rest of Burnley’s opportunities against Sunderland can probably be described as half-chances – although a late deflected Ashley Barnes effort looped on to the crossbar – and that has been the story of the season so far.

David Jones has had a decent opening in each match but shooting is a (rare) weak area of his game and he hasn’t really looked like scoring other than his glorious free-kick that hit the bar early on against Manchester United. Lukas Jutkiewicz had a decent chance at Swansea but was stretching for his header and other than Arfield’s penalty at Palace gilt-edged chances to score have been very hard to spot indeed.

Of course, Burnley are missing last season’s 47-goal ‘Vings’ partnership of Sam Vokes and Danny Ings and taking that amount of goals out of any team is going to hurt. Burnley fans are already looking forward to their pairing being reunited, but that could be after Christmas. There are a lot of points to play for before then.

It does raise the question of whether Burnley ought to have invested heavily in a more proven goalscorer than Jutkiewicz or Sordell, but it’s easy to put together better shopping lists in hindsight and the ludicrously high prices being quoted for the proven Championship goalscorers such as Watford’s Troy Deeney indicated how tough it was for Burnley to do business in the summer.

For instance, Britt Assombalonga might have represented a punt for Nottingham Forest, who paid £5.5m for a striker who had played no higher than League One, but his eight goals in ten games make him look a solid investment. Lewis Grabban signed for Norwich City for around £3m and has scored five in eight, while the man Bournemouth replaced Grabban with, Coventry City’s Callum Wilson, also has five goals already. Eddie Howe sure can spot a striker.

All of them might have been a better bet than Sordell this summer. But that’s hindsight for you.

Dyche will have to work with what he has and without the Vings boys, his options do look a little thin on the ground. Sordell was a passenger at times against Sunderland and while Barnes was an improvement when he came off the bench, few Premier League defences are likely to be worried by him. Barnes and Sordell look like middling Championship players at best.

Instead of playing either of them Dyche could use the trip to The Hawthorns as the ideal chance to switch formation to a five-man midfield. It might seem counter-productive to take a striker out of a team that is struggling for goals, but 4-5-1 can easily be 4-3-3 when the team is attacking and a shape that allows George Boyd and Arfield to push up closer to Jutkiewicz has to be considered. Given Arfield has regularly been Burnley’s best player, as well as the team’s main goal threat this season, getting him as far up the pitch as possible is a must.

Boyd already looks a key player for the Clarets and rightly so when he cost the club £3m to buy him from Hull City. Boyd’s work rate has been hugely impressive so far but there’s no doubt he could improve his final ball. It’s early days for the Scotland international but he’ll need to offer more than prodigious running and tireless tracking back if he is to justify that large transfer fee.

In the absence of Ings, Boyd looks like Burnley’s only chance of creating something from nothing and Dyche may also be considering using him in the number ten role to free up a place for the fit-again Michael Kightly on the wing. Kightly has been a big loss for the Clarets after an injury disrupted his pre-season, but if he can find the fine form he ended last season in he can be a huge asset for Burnley in the Premier League.

There are plenty of positives Dyche can take from his team’s performances so far and three clean sheets in a row is hugely creditable. Burnley are reaping the rewards of keeping faith with last season’s back five and Michael Duff is proving the doubters wrong every game, but the joint-second best defensive record in the Premier League won’t keep the Clarets up unless they start finding the net too. Burnley are arguably improving each week but that victory remains elusive.

Burnley have done okay so far but with everyone apart from north-east rivals Sunderland and Newcastle having a league win on the board, the Clarets can’t wait too much longer for that first three points without getting cut off at the bottom of the table.

And to do that, they’ll have to find a way to score a goal.

Why can’t Burnley score? How can Dyche fix it? Comment below.

Burnley can’t be accused of lacking ambition

Come half-time at The Hawthorns this Super Sunday, Burnley will be in the middle of a five-game spell that could conceivably shape their season.

Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Leicester City and West Ham United are the teams the Clarets are jousting with on this mini-run.

All five teams were among the favourites for the drop when the first ball was kicked this season, however after impressive recent wins for Leicester and West Ham, Burnley’s task looks that more daunting.

The Clarets need to pick up maximum points against the teams around them, but for Julian Speroni’s left hand they already would have done. In hindsight, the point at Palace looks even more impressive after the Eagles’ win at Goodison Park.

Burnley go into the next flurry of fixtures with the confidence that a single goal could be enough for victory. The Clarets’ defence have been busy this season, making 242 defensive actions – conceding just four goals – only Southampton have let in less. Compare that with a seasoned Everton backline – with 230 defensive actions – Roberto Martinez’s men have leaked 13 goals.

The defensive bug is spreading throughout the side. New signing George Boyd will have delighted manager Sean Dyche with his work effort and in his two starts he has been the Clarets’ top tackler with six out of seven won at Selhurst Park and eight out of 13 against Sunderland, alice band and all.

These games are sandwiched in between fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal in which any points picked up are generally labelled as ‘bonus’.

Optimists will say Dyche’s men are one win away from mid-table, while the pessimists that Burnley do not have the cutting edge to remain in the top flight. The realists will ask the Clarets to be judged when Danny Ings and Sam Vokes return to at least provide auxiliary support to Lukas Jutkiewicz, who left the pitch like a punch drunk boxer after his duel with John O’Shea and Wes Brown at the weekend. This was reflected in his stats from Saturday as the forward won the most aerial duels (seven from 11) and was the most fouled player (five) against the Black Cats.

The summer signing from Middlesbrough has won many Burnley fans hearts with his combative style, but he needs to find his shooting boots. The forward registered ten touches inside the area against Sunderland, firing in six attempts with three on target. At the five-game mark; Jutkiewicz sits second among forwards for shots (16) in the Premier League, with only four on target. He is the man most culpable for a side who have drawn a blank in their last three matches.

Saturday’s clash with Sunderland saw the most attempts on goal in a 0-0 draw in the last 12 months with the Clarets firing in the lions’ share, so at least Burnley can’t be accused of lacking ambition.

After poking the proverbial bear in Chelsea, the team have acquitted themselves well in the following fixtures. The trio of draws have been on a knife edge. Tom Heaton’s one handed save from Robin van Persie, Scott Dann’s header against the bar and Patrick van Aanholt’s missile shot can all be raised against David Jones’ sumptuous free kick off the woodwork, Scott Arfield’s desperately unlucky penalty and Ashley Barnes’ opportunistic effort that left Vito Mannone stranded. The pendulum has been swinging both ways.

In a game bookies Paddy Power have dubbed ‘redecorate your spare room Sunday’, the rest of the Premier League may not be taking much notice of the Clarets’ basement clash against Alan Irvine’s men.

If you fancy a flutter the pragmatists’ bet would be 0-0 at 15/2 (with Skybet). However, Burnley will have to buck the trend having failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 19 games against West Brom in all competitions.

As the old aphorism goes, offense sells tickets; defence wins matches. Sean Dyche is building his case admirably.

(*Stats from Opta and FourFourTwo)

What are you expecting from the weekend’s game? Comment below.