Prophetic Burnley boss Sean Dyche receives a lesson from Liverpool, masters of transition - Chris Boden’s match verdict

Nick Pope saves from Mo Salah
Nick Pope saves from Mo Salah

Sean Dyche said in 2013 that “transition is the future of football.”

How prophetic he was.

On top of his mantra that “pressing is the new passing”, Dyche long felt that the ability to turn defence into attack, and vice versa, would be critical to teams’ success.

And his Burnley side received a lesson from the masters on Saturday night.

Dyche’s Clarets have enjoyed plenty of success - two promotions, and a return to European competition, in a time where they are playing their fifth season in six in the Premier League.

Disciplined and supremely well-organised in their defensive framework, to limit their vulnerability when caught in transition, Burnley have been clinical enough when the boot is on the other foot, playing with freedom from their shape and forcing mistakes with their pressing and high tempo football.

However, European champions Liverpool and Premier League winners Manchester City have taken the art to the next level.

The pair are far and away the best sides in the top flight, and potentially the continent, ruthlessly punishing the slightest mistake.

Dyche said in 2016, after a 2-0 win over Liverpool, which came courtesy of two clinical moments, in a game where his side had 19% possession: “I said transition is the future of football three years ago, not because I had a crystal ball, but I felt that was how the game was going, how quickly you can turn attack into defence, defence to attack.

"Reforming your shape to defend, breaking from your shape to attack.

"I spoke many times about that need for transition – but obviously, I’m Sean Dyche!”

The Reds are a more formidable force three years on, Jurgen Klopp adapting the “heavy metal football” he brought to Borussia Dortmund, so admired by Dyche, to Anfield with great success.

As he said six years ago: “Some teams keep the ball for the sake of keeping the ball. I want quick, passing football through the units in order to open the opposition up, particularly on transition."

Liverpool were likened to the Red Arrows on their run to the Champions League Final in 2018, but last season, as Virgil van Dijk’s influence took full effect, the Reds became more patient and defensively solid.

City reacted to a disappointing first season under Pep Guardiola by working on transitions, to trying to win the ball back within five seconds after losing it, or conceding a tactical foul.

Dyche said on Saturday night: “Liverpool and Man City are the best. If you turn the ball over in a bad area, the number of times they capitalise, or at least get a chance, and change the flow of the game, the tempo and mentality of the game.

“So, you learn from these top teams, and that’s one thing, your moments of quality on transition. It’s a massive thing.”

Judging yourself and learning from the best in Europe is not easy, especially given the disparity in finances.

But it shows how far the Clarets have come that that there was an element of frustration that Burnley could not take anything from Klopp’s men, who were crowned European champions for a sixth time back in May.

Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League table as they did what no other Reds team has done in their glory-laden history - not under Shankly, Paisley, Dalglish, Houllier or Benitez - and earned a 13th-successive top flight win.

The previous best was 12, set by Dalglish’s side between April and October 1990, during which time they claimed their 18th, and last, league title.

At that time, Burnley had just finished 16th in their fifth-successive season in the Fourth Division.

Wind forward 29 years, and Burnley are now renowned for making life tough for the elite, although wins are harder to come by than ever against the Big Six.

There was nothing in this game until a fluke opener for Liverpool, who then punished any lapse with ruthless efficiency.

The Clarets, looking to play forward quickly as ever, crafted a great chance as Matt Lowton fed Chris Wood, who cut inside the newly-anointed UEFA Player of the Year van Dijk, only to see Adrian save his effort.

That was a sign of Burnley’s confidence as they looked to exploit a high Liverpool line.

And they certainly gave as good as they got in the opening half hour, with James Tarkowski continuing his impressive start to the season with an unruffled display, while Dwight McNeil continued where he left off at Anfield in March, giving England right back Trent Alexander-Arnold an uncomfortable evening with his deceptive speed down the left and ability to find a cross under pressure.

But once Liverpool fortuitously took the lead after the half hour, as Alexander-Arnold’s harmless looking cross looped off Wood’s back and deceived Nick Pope, a finely-poised game ran away from Burnley, with the Reds controlling the remainder of the game to run out convincing 3-0 winners.

A rare slip from Ben Mee moments later gave Roberto Firmino the chance to tee up Sadio Mane with a perfectly-weighted pass to clinically slot in a second with a delightful first-time finish.

And Liverpool kept Burnley at arm’s length in the second half, before Firmino netted his 50th Premier League goal to kill the game.

Dyche extolled the virtues of Liverpool’s feared front three, the masters of transition, but despite this defeat, Burnley can be pleased with the way they have begun the campaign, in terms of performances, and with four points from four games, in which they have faced three of last season’s top seven, two of which away.