In a thrilling opening weekend of Premier League football, two results well and truly stand out from the pack. Burnley’s 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge and Huddersfield sweeping aside Crystal Palace 3-0 at Selhurst Park.
But where did these shock results come from? Were the two home sides simply too poor on the day or indeed arrogant? The short answer is ultimately yes.
However, both Burnley and Huddersfield came with solid game-plans and tactics which enabled them to dominate against opposition, who many considered to be above their pay-grade.
Huddersfield approached their first game of Premier League football in much the same way as their Championship campaign of last season: a fierce pressing game and iron-cast team spirit.
David Wagner knew that Frank de Boer had implemented a new style of tactics on his team which they would not be fully comfortable with and he exploited this weakness for all it was worth. Palace have a potent attacking line, consisting of Christian Benteke, Wilfred Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Huddersfield were set up so that this threat was more or less completely nullified.
Whenever a player in an attacking position for Palace would get the ball he would be immediately swarmed by the Huddersfield defence and the threat nullified. On the few occasions when Benteke or Zaha would break through Huddersfield’s Danish keeper Lossi was always on hand to ensure that his clean sheet was kept intact. Lowe and Mooy both deserve special recognition too for their tireless work throughout the afternoon.
As impressive as their defence was Huddersfield owe it to new record signing Steve Mounie for his two goals which ensured their win. Players often struggle in the lone striker position because they feel that they’re not getting the service they deserve (see Diego Costa). Mounie however, ran all afternoon to ensure that he was given chances and his hard work was rewarded with a brace on his club and Premier League debut.
When Burnley travelled to Stamford Bridge most people were predicting a routine win for the Premier League champions. Yes, there might be rumblings of discontent from Antonio Conte but surely, they wouldn’t drop points against historically bad away from home Burnley would they?
Fast forward 45 minutes and Chelsea are 3-0 down and new club captain Gary Cahill has gone for an early bath following his sending off. The red card was undoubtedly a turning point in the game but it would be unfair to credit Burnley’s win to simply a numerical advantage.
In the first half especially, the Clarets were impeccably well-drilled, steadfast and clinical in front of goal. With Sam Vokes looking especially deadly as he bagged himself a brace. There were rumours that Burnley would struggle to score goals this season with the sale of Andre Gray to Watford highlighting a potential lack of goal-scorers in their squad. Vokes however quashed these rumours, helped along by a stunning Stephen Ward goal.
Burnley may have gone on to concede 2 goals in the second half but this should not take away from their dominance in the game. Dyche had set his team up with a 5-man midfield which gave them the necessary cover to ensure that for great swathes of the match the likes of Willian and Batshuayi could not break through.
It also enabled the two wingers, Brady and Gudmundsson to provide ample service to Sam Vokes up front without leaving the backline too exposed. This may not be the most ‘fashionable’ way to set up a team nowadays but it is certainly effective and Burnley showcased the benefits it can bring.
Both Burnley and Huddersfield have 37 games remaining so it is best not to get too carried away, however, these two results could well be indicative of things to come. I wonder what the odds for Huddersfield to win the Premier League next season are…?
Written by Dom Clarke.