Your chance to quiz Lee Hoos and David Baldwin

Before tomorrow’s match we’ll be sitting down with CEO Lee Hoos and COO David Baldwin.

It’s a rare opportunity to put your questions to the club’s decision-makers.

We’re planning to ask about areas such as transfer strategy and ticket prices.

But if there are any burning issues you want to us ask the club about, this is your chance.

Comment below with your Qs, tweet us, or email us – blog@nonaynever.net.

Barnes’ aggression is key to his play

Having seen an article based on the issue, I thought I’d pose an argument for Barnes to continue in his aggressive style of play.

The following may sound harsh but it is undeniably true – in terms of quality and ability, Ashley Barnes is a player who would struggle to get in many, if any, top half Championship teams.

He doesn’t have a rapid burst of pace, he’s not renowned for his killer passing or finishing ability and doesn’t have a great deal of skill, with the utmost respect. Put it this way, how many Burnley supporters would have placed them in their starting line-up after his half a season stint with the Clarets in the promotion campaign? I doubt it would be very many, simply because he was a run-of-the-mill footballer who only breached the starting positions because of Sam Vokes’ serious knee injury.

The reason why Barnes has been a revelation this season is largely down to his physical attributes. He frequently shows aggression when scavenging for the ball in the final third and he riles defenders. Inevitably, they take their frustrations out on him and a free kick is won, relieving the pressure. One could argue this is taking the “dark arts” of football and utilising them to their advantages.

To take away the controversy of Barnes’ game would be to take away the player’s most important attribute. It’s comparable to playing David Silva but asking him not to pass, playing Harry Kane and asking him not to shoot.

Similarly to Diego Costa, if you take away the aggression from the player, you are taking the soul out of his game and the fearsome forward will be tamed. Costa angers defenders which makes them more reckless in their game and in truth Jose Mourinho is right, he should win more fouls for his team. Barnes works in a comparable manner but obviously without the £32 million worth of talent.

While Barnes is far from a top quality player, he is integral to the Burnley team. He leaves one behind on defenders, wins cheap free kicks for his team and is overall just a complete and utter nuisance to defend against.

However, I must stress that he can’t be making too many more tackles like the one at the weekend or he’ll be facing lengthy suspensions. So I would say he should apply the same mentality to his game without asking the referee to reach for his back pocket.

Podcast 69: Mourinho and his antics

Jamie is this week joined by James Bird, Michael Bailey, Jordan Eyre as well as Chelsea fan Joe Tweeds.

After discussing the match in general the panel discuss the much-publicised refereeing incident involving Ashley Barnes and Nemanja Matić in the game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. (Spoiler: Joe gets a bit of a battering).

They also look ahead to the upcoming game against Swansea.

This weekend, we’ll be interviewing Lee Hoos and David Baldwin. If you have any questions you’d like us to put to them, please direct them to blog@nonaynever.net or mention us on Twitter @nonaynevernet (make it clear that you’re suggesting a question). We’ll try to ask the majority of them.

As always feel free to email any feedback about the podcast to podcast@nonaynever.net.

You can listen online here or in the player 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. Check out our guide if you’re not sure what any of this means.

Thanks to our sponsors at Neville Gee and to Joe for being a great sport and putting up with us disagreeing with him.

Barnes must rein in aggressive play

Ashley Barnes revels in playing on the edge, but he went too far in his aggressive approach at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho has successfully manipulated the media into making the story all about Barnes’ “tackle” on Nemanja Matic, rather than his side’s inability to beat the 19th placed side in the Premier League, and it is pathetic how he has the press wrapped around his little finger. No other top flight manager would be able to barge their way on to a TV highlights show to deliver a half-hour monologue, listing their many complaints and laying out their agenda.

But Barnes has been walking on thin ice for much of the season and it would have been no surprise if he had received an FA charge and a subsequent suspension in the wake of Mourinho shining the spotlight on his latest antics.

The collision with Matic is an extremely difficult one to call, even with the benefit of replays and slo-mo. It all happened extremely quickly and in the eyes of the referee, Martin Atkinson and the FA, Barnes did nothing wrong. However, Atkinson got at least three other major calls wrong on the day, denying Chelsea two clear penalties and failing to punish Barnes for a bad late challenge on Branislav Ivanovic.

First of all, it’s important to make the distinction that Barnes on Matic should not be described as a tackle. Barnes had the ball and although he did not have full control of it, he got to the ball first and knocked it away from the Serbian midfielder. Matic is trying to tackle Barnes, although the suggestion from some Burnley fans that it was Matic’s fault are laughable. How dare he attack Barnes’ foot with his shin?

The issue is whether or not Barnes deliberately left his studs up on Matic on his follow-through, which the Chelsea player evidently felt was the case. His reaction was furious, but it is worth pointing out no other Blues players were interested in making a fuss about it until Matic chased Barnes and shoved him roughly to the ground. Ex-pros have queued up to proclaim it a potential leg-breaker and had Matic’s leg been planted at the time of impact, he could well have been seriously hurt.

Examining the footage is only useful to an extent as only Barnes knows if he deliberately made contact with Matic’s leg. If he did, then he should have been sent off. If he did not, then it was purely an accident. It is natural to follow through to an extent when passing the ball, but was it necessary for Barnes’ studs to be that high when Matic arrived? Matic arrives from Barnes’ side and it is possible the striker did not see him coming at all, although he may well have been in Barnes’ peripheral vision.

Barnes’ record does not look good for him here. During a staggering stage-managed interview on Goals on Sunday yesterday, Mourinho cannily brought up Barnes’ lengthy ban for attempting to trip a referee during his time at Brighton, although the Portuguese manager, cleverly covering his backside, said this should not count against the striker. It could have though – the FA has been known to take into account previous bans when setting suspensions. Barnes received a seven-game ban for that incident.

Barnes has committed more fouls than any other player in the Premier League this season, although he has only received four yellow cards from his 24 appearances. His approach is certainly a physical one, even if it shouldn’t be described as dirty.

He was named Burnley’s man of the match after another excellent performance leading the line and it is a shame the Matic collision and his heavy challenges on Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma in the first half have overshadowed it. Barnes seems to excel in the toughest circumstances; his best performance of the season came in the Clarets’ classic fightback at the Etihad Stadium.

Barnes versus Ivanovic was one of the game’s most unseemly moments, but it did not reflect well on the terrific Serbian defender either after he screamed in apparent agony, rolled about on the floor for a bit then jumped up, evidently unhurt, to complain to Atkinson. Barnes had clattered him though, nastily going in studs first after the ball had gone. Mourinho was right on this one – Barnes certainly could have seen red for what was a dangerous and unnecessarily reckless piece of play. The ball was long gone and this one was much worse than the Matic incident. The foul on Zouma, with Barnes kneeing the defender in the back, is less dangerous but still unnecessarily strong.

Taking the aggressive edge out of Barnes’ game would change him as a player, but Burnley cannot afford to lose him to a long ban. Even though any suspension would have largely been the fault of Mourinho for making the back pages with his accusations of a “criminal” tackle on Matic, Barnes has put himself in that situation and must also take a share of the responsibility.

The way Barnes throws himself around is always likely to invite attention from referees and Mourinho’s intervention this weekend may result in him being a marked man for the rest of the season.

To take an example, Diego Costa was wrongfully booked for diving at Turf Moor on the opening weekend of the season and has had a reputation as a cheat ever since. Costa has shown an ugly willingness to go to ground too easily at times, but referees are now well aware of that and he was denied another clear penalty against us at the weekend when Jason Shackell put a rare foot wrong and pushed him over in the box. That incorrect decision by Atkinson could prove decisive at both the top and the bottom of the table at the end of the season.

If Barnes does not alter his approach he may find referees are far keener to hand out cards like confetti when he makes his trademark physical challenges on defenders. There is a balance to be achieved between winning the physical battle with defenders and being too aggressive.

Luckily for Sean Dyche, up front is one of the areas he has good cover and if the worst happened and Barnes did get a suspension – though the FA announced yesterday there will be no action taken over the Matic incident – Sam Vokes would have been raring to go and ready to step in if required.

He has had to be patient, waiting for his chance with Barnes’ form making him undroppable, but the Wales international seemed particularly sharp in his cameo at the Bridge and it might well be the ideal time to unleash the Vings partnership that tore open Championship teams on a weekly basis last season.

What do you make of Barnes’ physical approach? Should he have been banned? Comment below.

Analysis: Chelsea 1-1 Burnley

Manchester City’s title aspirations were given a boost on Saturday as Sean Dyche’s Burnley pegged back current leaders Chelsea, giving themselves an equally important boost as they bid to beat the drop.

When Branislav Ivanovic slotted home the opener in the first half many would have predicted a whitewash but Burnley didn’t have to weather much of a storm and kept themselves competitive right until the last, with Ben Mee rising highest to head home a Kieran Trippier corner late on to divide the points.

It was, however, a game defined by the sending off of Nemanja Matic and the controversial dirty antics of Ashley Barnes (though I have tried to ignore the latter in my analysis as it is a topic which will no doubt be crossed over various pieces in the media).

1st half highlights

– Chelsea’s recent £27 million buy Juan Cuadrado came close to opening his account for the Blues with a well directed header from Filipe Luis’ cross, forcing Tom Heaton to tip over

– Michael Kightly got the better of Ivanovic down the left flank and his deflected cross teed up Barnes, whose volley from the edge of the box was powerful and accurate, but straight into the gloves of Thibaut Courtois

– CHELSEA 1-0 Burnley (Ivanovic, 14)

A mixture of pure class and poor defending summed up this opening goal.

Initailly, when Kightly has the chance he has to hoof the ball downfield or out of play to relieve the pressure from his defence. However, the hard-working Cuadrado beat the Clarets winger to the ball near the byline and in turn found Eden Hazard. The Belgian genius then weaved out of numerous Burnley challenges in the box before cutting the ball back to Ivanovic who continued his impressive goal-scoring streak by turning the ball in away from Heaton.

Hazard’s trickery is top, top class and I don’t lay blame to Burnley defence for not dealing with him. You would have to be a top drawer centre half or defensive minded player to stifle him. However, I would expect when he’s cutting the ball back that one of the four Burnley players in and around the six-yard box could take note of Ivanovic for they were doing nothing other than admiring Hazard’s talent and marking thin air.

– Immediately after the goal, Hazard stormed forward against a terrified Trippier before squaring the ball to Oscar, whose shot was fumbled by Heaton

– Jose Mourinho’s theory that there is a ‘campaign’ against his team were no doubt strengthened when referee Martin Atkinson ignored legitimate claims for a handball after Ivanovic’s shot hit the outstretched arm of Kightly, before the referee waved away further appeals for Jason Shackell’s shove on Diego Costa in the box

2nd half highlights

– The lively Barnes reacted quickest to a half-cleared free kick and his improvised hooked effort took a deflection and forced Courtois into an awkward one-handed save at his near post

– Ivanovic looked to turn provider with a glancing header from Cesc Fabregas’ outswinging corner but Scott Arfield’s presence at the far post denied Matic a simple tap-in

– Costa’s excellent first touch took him clear of Michael Keane though the forward’s finish was scuffed and easily blocked by Heaton

– Costa was again proving difficult to handle, weaving in and out of challenges before teeing up Matic for a skidding shot across the floor which Heaton easily collected

– Courtois was justifying his selection over Petr Cech for the second game in a week, denying Barnes’ awkward effort from the edge of the box with a smart turn around the post

Chelsea 1-1 BURNLEY (Mee, 81)

It was a goal with a large irony attached to it.

Arguably the worst team at scoring from corners scored against the team arguably best at defending them in the division. Trippier’s lofted cross was hardly his best – he’s hit better ones no doubt – but the sheer determination and physicality of Ben Mee over his marker Ramires allowed him to reach the ball first and get his head on it. From there, Courtois has little chance and for once, can ask questions of his defenders in front of him who are usually so reliable.

– Having been given a yard of space by the Clarets, Fabregas summed up his below par display at the Bridge by lashing a bouncing ball wildly over the bar. Though not an easy opportunity, a man of his quality you would expect to make more of these half opportunities

– On the counter-attack, Danny Ings nearly won the match for Burnley in added time, striding away from substitute Ramires before checking inside. With George Boyd in support, Ings opted to go for the spectacular from 20 yards but sliced it wide of the far post with his left foot

Corners prove decisive

Well, they have been a topic of conversation for a number of weeks now but on this evidence, it seems Burnley may finally have addressed surrounding corner kicks.

The one incident that highlighted this was midway through the second half when Ivanovic nodded a Fabregas corner across to the far post. Matic positioned himself a few yards from that far post in a routine obviously constructed to see the Serb turn the ball home from point blank range. In previous set-ups, Burnley have neglected the traditional ‘defending corner composition’ in which you have your keeper in the middle of the goal and two men on the posts to protect those particular corners. As it was, with Arfield already occupying the far post, he could shepherd the ball away, preventing a goal that would have surely seen Chelsea seal all three points.

The irony was that Burnley snatched a share of the spoils from a corner themselves. Though it wasn’t that the delivery was absolutely amazing, more that the departure of Matic was being exploited.

Matic is Chelsea’s most vital player with only one loss this season when the man-mountain has started in midfield. His presence was filled by Ramires though it was inevitably him who lost out to Ben Mee for the equaliser. Ramires himself is an athletic, rapid midfielder but he looks distinctly average when compared to Matic’s shielding of the defence. He lacks the height and the bulk of his counterpart and both these qualities were evidently missing as Mee overpowered the Brazilian to win his header.

City now Chelsea? Coincidental or not?

Not particularly. The statistic that Burnley have outrun their opponents in every top flight match this season says all you need to know about their work ethic and desire. It means that opponents must be giving close to their maximum in order to beat the Clarets. Quite simply, neither Chelsea nor City in December were anywhere near their peak in terms of performance.

As I have said in my awarding for Chelsea’s man of the match, Hazard at times was carrying the Blues up the pitch and making things happen in the final third all by himself. He single-handedly carved out the opener. Costa also looked menacing with his movement and showed why he is being touted as one of the division’s best strikers. Other than that, the attacking talent on show looked like they were in an exhibition match with slow passing and an apparent lack of effort. Yes, the dismissal of Matic was the key but you’d expect with the talent available for Chelsea to be two or three up by the time he was dismissed.

Narrow focus

Although it may have cost them at numerous times throughout the season, Burnley’s narrowness was effective in stifling Chelsea on Saturday afternoon. In Hazard and Cuadrado, Chelsea have two wingers who like to advance into the box rather than take the ball to the corner and cross the ball. Generally, opposition full-backs also overlap into the spaces which are left if Kightly and Arfield aren’t backtracking efficiently though Felipe Luis and Ivanovic (apart from the goal) were not busting a gut to get in behind and contribute to the hosts’ offensive play, as one would expect them to do.

So in turn, Chelsea’s narrow attacking style coupled with their lethargic attitude on the back of their Champions League tie meant that they found Burnley difficult to break down.

Burnley MOTM

Ashley Barnes 8/10: Very fortunate in my opinion to be on the field for that reckless challenge on Matic though the Serbian’s ridiculous antics will no doubt overshadow Barnes’ late challenge. As it was, Barnes was an absolute nuisance and never looked like the occasion would dwarf him, Always looked to be positive and physical.

Tom Heaton 6/10: Next-to-no difficult saves to make but did well on crosses

Kieran Trippier 7/10: Decent deliveries from corners and held his own down his side against the Chelsea rearguard

Michael Keane 7/10: Lost Costa a few times as you would expect but on the whole a very impressive display

Jason Shackell 7/10: Fortunate not to concede a penalty for a naive push on Costa but excellent otherwise

Ben Mee 7/10: A much better display from the left-back, who focused on the defensive side of his game rather than the offensive side

George Boyd 6/10: Lots of endeavour and graft as ever

Scott Arfield 6/10: Quiet game but still held his own in the middle

David Jones 7/10: A struggle in the midfield but a struggle which he relished

Michael Kightly 6/10: Quiet afternoon for the attacking-minded winger and passing wasn’t always great

Danny Ings 6/10: Outshone in terms of quality and controversy by Barnes but always lively and lung-busting run at the end just lacked that decisive finish

Chelsea MOTM

Eden Hazard 8/10: Mesmeric for large period of the match. A wonderful dribble created the opening goal and often looked like he was carrying a lethargic Chelsea team through the motions with some brilliant footwork and ideas in the final third.

Courtois 7, Ivanovic 7, Terry 6, Zouma 6, Luis 7, Matic 4, Fabregas 5, Cuadrado 6, Oscar 6, Costa 7

Where next?

Buoyed by the point against Jose Mourinho’s men, Sean Dyche’s players will welcome a team equaly buoyany following this week’s set of results in Gary Monk’s Swansea.

This will be a difficult game for Burnley because, unlike the match with Chelsea, the onus is now well and truly on them to take maximum points if they are serious about surviving the drop.

These are the games that Burnley really need to up their game with and I think they have enough to edge an incredibly tight and tense affair. Prediction: Burnley 1-0 Swansea

Podcast 68: United performance and Danny Ings (again)

Jamie is this week joined by James Bird and podcast newbie Jordan Eyre.

They discuss the great performance, but bad result, at United. Once again the team talk about Danny Ings – which we seem to be doing every week at the moment – including his apparent trip abroad and a potential England call up.

Also discussed is the possibility of Burnley playing in Europe next season, should they remain top of the fair play league, depending on how the Premier League ranks as a whole in terms of fair play.

As always feel free to email any feedback about the podcast to podcast@nonaynever.net.

You can listen online here or in the player 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. Check out our guide if you’re not sure what any of this means.

Thanks to our sponsors at Neville Gee and our editor, Stephen Long.

What’s our best defence?

Browsing through the web during a bored hour at the weekend, it seemed like the blame game has started for who is responsible for our goals conceded.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion (though Michael Keane has been bearing the brunt of recent criticism) and simply looking at goals conceded per match is flawed because errors are often made by teammates, rather than the player in question.

So I decided to watch every goal back again this season and make a few notes as to who seemed to be the culprit. I have set a very high bar so a slack bit of defending leading to a goal has been tagged as an error, when in fact official stats say we are one of the best sides in the division at preventing goals from direct defensive errors, believe it or not.

I have also awarded errors for a goal to two players at times, so the error count exceeds the goals conceded count (for example Keane and Kieran Trippier for losing Charlie Austin at QPR). It seemed fair.

The table below relates to errors leading to a goal in the league up to and including Manchester United.

 

table 1

Some interesting findings, some of which have surprised me:

  • Tom Heaton, though he is superglued to his line, has not made one major mistake (such as a spill) leading to a goal (I ignore Raheem Sterling’s winner, as the error was initially Keane’s for losing him).
  • Trippier and Stephen Ward look by far our most solid full backs, though to be fair to Mee, five of his errors came in early games and he has been more solid since.
  • Duff has been very solid, and some of his error allocation could be viewed as harsh, because for three of the goals (against WBA, Leicester and Arsenal) I have judged one of his colleagues equally responsible.
  • Keane I had previously rated but we concede over one goal every two games due to his own culpability so unfortunately this analysis suggests he is (so far) the weak link. Remember when he was done by the quick Spurs free kick; the recent headers from corners; playing Joe Cole onside; falling over twice and letting Papiss Cisse nip in for Newcastle? Sadly most of these goals have cost us one or two points too.

I have also studied Keane to see why he seems to suffer so much more than his teammates. Five goals have been scored by opposition headers, five shots. Four of the ten from corners to which I attribute a bit of ball-watching and a lack of physical presence. The main reason for the rest seems to be thinking a little slower than opponents and not spotting the danger (for examples Sterling, Austin and Cisse’s runs). Maybe due to being new to this level.

The most counter-intuitive of this bit of analysis is that of physical presence as Keane seems to tower over players and often when seen in the tunnel is far taller than his teammates.

However, the Premier League official website says he is about 172cm (5 ft 8”) which seems crazy (maybe they have him mixed up with his brother), and also says he is 68kg, which seems more realistic as there isn’t much on him, and this makes him the second lightest player in our first team squad behind Ross Wallace according to the same figures. Other sites say he is 6 ft 2” which if true may make him capable in open play as it is a low to average Premier League centre back height, but susceptible against bigger centre backs. For example, Chris Smalling is two inches taller than that, but more importantly over 10kg heavier, presumably due to muscle.

No doubt I have my own “cognitive bias” in this because of my own views as to what constitutes an error, and also because I have read the debate about whether to play Michael Duff, Keane, Ward or Mee I will have looked at them the most, but I have tried to be fair.

Perhaps there is an argument that statistical saturation – studying average time between high intensity sprints – leads to the wood not being seen for the trees. Put simply – minor errors at this level lead to goals conceded, no matter what the level of haemoglobin oxygen saturation is.

Some may say that it is too negative to point at errors from individuals, but surely the main way one can assess a defence is to judge the error rate, just as it is goals and assists with forwards? The players are surely aware of this too so it is hardly new news to them.

Also, our young players may benefit from this “proving ground” in future seasons, but for this season, will that be too late? The debate therefore needs having now.

My own conclusion is this – we should play Trippier, Duff, Shackell and Ward and as soon as possible please, Mr Dyche.

Then stick the young guys back in again in August whatever the division. For now, experience seems to equate to a tighter defence.

What’s our strongest defence? Comment below.

Give Ingsy his England call up

Burnley fans have been blessed to see some talented strikers to wear the Claret and Blue shirt, especially since I’ve been going on the Turf anyway.

Back in the late 90s I was privileged to see the “Padiham Predator” Andy Payton score on a regular basis, he was a proper goal-scorer, and probably one of my all-time favourite Clarets since I grew up watching him. But in recent years we’ve been spoilt seeing some quality strikers, such as Martin Paterson, Steven Fletcher, Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin and most recently Danny Ings.

With Burnley fans now resigned to Danny Ings leaving the club in the summer, he will go with all our best wishes whether we stay in the Premier League or not. But with Ings still a Burnley player for the time being, he will be eager to let his football do the talking, especially with an England call-up being speculated.

I think everybody associated with the football club would love for Danny to put on an England shirt in the near future. But if that was to happen with him still contracted to Burnley Football Club, I feel that would give the whole club a lift. With a daunting fixture list coming up, Burnley are going to have to use all their belief to stay in the league. An England call-up for Danny could do this.

Seeing Danny Ings represent Burnley as a senior England player would be an incredible feeling. This was something which none of us would have genuinely thought was a realistic prospect. A Burnley player, playing for England. It still sounds ridiculous as I’m typing this up.

Obviously there is plenty of stiff competition in the striking department for England. With Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane pretty much certainties for call ups, how many other strikers is Roy Hodgson going to choose?

With the recent form of Charlie Austin and Saido Berahino, the England boss has a tough decision to make. Austin has gone off the boil in recent weeks and picked up an injury in QPR’s home defeat to Southampton. Berahino is another top young Premier League striker who has been West Brom’s most eye-catching performer this season, however he has been in the “naughty chair” after his recent comments to the press.  So I believe that Danny has a good chance for a call-up.

England face Lithuania at Wembley and then travel to Italy at the end of March, just as it is reaching the business end of the season. The remaining nine games of the season, against the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and West Ham could see the end of us. But with Ings coming back from international duty, doing the Clarets proud, it may give us an extra lift for the rest of the season.

Danny Ings is a superb professional, he will never let us down and will put everything he’s got into making us proud, playing a pivotal role in our promotion campaign and going on to win the Championship Player of the Year.

Earlier this week he became Burnley’s all time top goalscorer in the Premier League after his goal against Manchester United. An England call-up would be the icing on the cake for an incredible last two years. He doesn’t owe us anything. He’s been a joy to watch, hopefully he will continue to put the ball in the net for us and help us maintain our Premier League status.

But whatever happens, he will be one of my all-time favourite Clarets.

Is Ings ready to play for England? Comment below.