Should Burnley employ a striking coach? - Sean Dyche gives his thoughts

After the defeat at Manchester City, Burnley boss Sean Dyche mused on the chances his side squandered.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 10:30 pm
Allan Russell on England duty

He said: "It's frustrating, it's the hardest thing to coach, the moment of truth - as a manager we want to get them in the right areas and produce chances, but the moment of truth is someone putting it in the back of the net, and it's the hardest thing to coach."

It posed the question, in an era where there are specialist coaches for just about every aspect of the game, can it not be coached?

Goalkeeping coaches are virtually a pre-requisite in football, while Danish former athlete Thomas Grønnemark raised a few eyebrows when asked to become Liverpool's throw-in coach.

And from 2017 until he joined Aberdeen as assistant manager earlier this year, England employed Scotsman Allan Russell as striker coach.

Russell earned much praise for England's effective set plays at the World Cup in Russia in 2018, with captain Harry Kane adding: "Allan does finishing sessions with us, tells us about opposition defenders, goalkeepers, and tells us maybe where we can exploit a weakness."

But striker coaches are a rarity, certainly in Britain.

Former Clarets strikers Andy Cole and Ian Wright have done bits and pieces lower down the EFL, but they are few and far between.

So, with Burnley having only scored five goals in eight Premier League games so far, with only one of those netted by a striker, in Chris Wood, has Dyche ever pondered using one?: "There's been all sorts of thoughts on things like that down the years, if you imagine how many different things have been tried in football, then if you think about it rationally, why aren't there loads of striker coaches?

"If it's that easy to just teach people to score a goal, get a coach in and you score loads of goals, let's face it, there'd be loads of striker coaches across the country, and there's not.

"It's not an exact thing. I've spoken to some of the best strikers, and when they're really on it, they can't actually describe to you why they are.

"I remember Dean Saunders talking about Michael Owen, saying it's not just that he was quick, but he saw the picture quickly.

"So how do you coach someone to see the picture quickly?

"These are things we've talked about, absorbing information and delivering - in, see the picture, activate, finish.

"It's not that you don't attempt to coach these things, we've talked about strikers hitting key areas of the box, statistical areas of the box, analysis of areas of the box...I remember showing Peter Crouch when he was here, I said 'Where do you think your goals come from?', and he said 'I always try to get to the back stick'.

"But he scored most of his goals from middle to back, I said 'don't just think it's the back', you have to be attacking the key areas.

"For him to attack those key areas, it's not as simple as saying 'now!' and they run there, you're in a live game, so it becomes very fluid."

There is an instinctive side to finishing, certainly, as there is in other areas of the game, as Dyche added: "Strikers become fluid in their learning from a young age, some just naturally adapt to it, but that's not just strikers, goalkeepers have amazing reflexes.

"Defenders have an instinct to defend and see pictures quickly.

"Bobby Moore wasn't quick, but read the game like you'll never know.

"These are educational things, a lot of coaching at first team level is about guidance, self-learning - some do that very early, strikers scoring early in their careers - and some learn it and adapt, their movement, understanding of the game, the importance of different roles.

"So do we work with the strikers on hitting key areas, tactical understanding, the benefits of hold up play, attacking certain areas of the box? Yes.

"Can you deliberately make someone score goals? Not that easy.

"Everyone around the world would have striker coaches, saying 'I'm going to guarantee your strikers will score so many goals'.

"Doesn't happen like that. If there is anyone out there, write in!"

Around the same time of the season last term, Burnley's strikers were again questioned, with the side having only scored three in the first eight games, and Dyche backed them then, with Wood going to to hit double figures for the fourth-successive season.

He feels they will come good again: "As you can imagine, when we're being questioned, like currently, and last season early on, history doesn't guarantee you a future, but it's a strong sign, when you have a consistency of scoring double figures in the Premier League.

"Certainly three out of the four, Jay Rod, Barnesy and Woody - Vyds not so much experience of the Premier League as the other three - but they have regularly scored double figures at this level.

"That adds to my belief in them, not just my belief in them as people and players, but the fact history, their record, their consistency suggests they will score goals.

"Sometimes it's offloading that. You wrote about it this week, we're sixth in terms of best quality of chances in the Premier League...that's high.

"I'd be more worried if they're not getting in those areas to score, if they get in those areas, the rest is down to them.

"It's when they're not getting in those areas when I start saying 'right lads, we need more than this'.

"But we are getting in the areas, it comes down to the moment."

Different combinations of the four senior strikers have shown they can blend well together, so what is the thinking behind who gets the nod - who is hot, or is it horses for courses?: "Depends, Barnesy came on at Man City in that slightly deeper role, defend to attack, make it a bit more uncomfortable for them - didn't quite work, but that was the thinking.

"Jay Rod was unfortunate to hurt his hamstring when it was fair to say he was knocking on the door after scoring four against Rochdale.

"Slightly different mover, he can drift wide and we want him to stay more in the middle of the pitch.

"Woody historically has shown he can score goals, he's played up there on his own, as a two.

"Vyds is still kind of nearly there, every time he gets there, he's been injured, which has disrupted his pattern.

"They all have different traits that we try and use wisely, but they still have to try and fit into the team, so the team can work the best it can."