TALKING TACTICS: Burnley FC and the January transfer window

TOP TARGET: Goal ace Jay Rodriquez is bound to attract attention during the transfer window.
TOP TARGET: Goal ace Jay Rodriquez is bound to attract attention during the transfer window.
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SCOUT Phil Smith looks ahead to what impact the January transfer window could have upon the Clarets.

The January transfer window opens soon and it is fair to say that with it comes Eddie Howe’s biggest challenge as Burnley manager thus far. Additions are needed to the squad, regardless of any potential sale of prized asset Jay Rodriguez.

I challenge all readers to show me a more complete withdrawn forward in the Championship, because, quite simply, you will not find one. Jay must only be sold if we attract an unfathomable fee, which can be used to strengthen several areas of the team. Granted, he is a different type of player, but if Connor Wickham can be sold for a fee potentially rising to twelve million pounds, then we have to be looking for something similar, particularly as silly money tends to be thrown around in January.

I firmly believe that Jay has the quality to play for England in the future, but he needs regular Premier League football in order to fulfil his potential. We would all love that to be at Turf Moor, which is why the next month will provide a clear indication as to the short term aspirations of Burnley Football Club.

I would go as far as classing January as a true test of our ambition. However, selling Jay does not necessarily represent a lack of it, as long as two or three signings of genuine quality are made in return. By quality, I refer to players who will make an instant impression on the side, genuine first teamers. Quality not quantity needs to be the motto, signing a few squad players will not cut the mustard.

If Jay is to unfortunately leave the football club, it has to be at the beginning of the window, in order to allow Eddie maximum time to seek out any transfer targets. The last thing we want is for it to happen close to the deadline, and thus any plans previously formulated being thrown out the window.

Should Rodriguez remain a Burnley player then serious consideration must be given to the 4-4-1-1 formation, in order to best harness his ability and talent. For the purpose of explanation, he will be deployed as a withdrawn forward behind Charlie Austin.

I would instruct him to play between the lines of defence and midfield, dictating play during our offensive transition. His off the ball movement is the key, and a purposeful diagonal run into the box can create a genuine goal-scoring opportunity. Meanwhile, Austin would act as the lone forward, a true goal poacher. He would be instructed to float around the penalty area, waiting for any deliveries which come his way. With the ball at his feet in the box, we are all acutely aware of the likely outcome!

Looking at defensive transition, it would be my suggestion to instruct each midfielder to mark their opposing man, in order to restrict distribution from opposition full-backs, as nobody would be able to come short and receive the ball. This would likely result in a direct out ball towards their attackers. Evidently, a strong defensive pairing of Duff and Edgar would be favoured to win the resulting aerial battle.

Regular readers will recall my praise towards Eddie Howe for the effort put in on the training ground in relation to set pieces. Our recent record before his appointment had been poor, to say the least. 4-4-1-1 allows ourselves to make a conscious effort to press high up the pitch. Pressing directly and adopting a high line will, more often than not, increase the likelihood of a defensive mistake, and thus the ball being cleared for a corner. If we have a particular strength from set-piece delivery, why should we not adopt a system to exploit this?

May I please take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy 2012!