By Simon Evans
BURNLEY, England (Reuters) – Burnley manager Sean Dyche has long railed against the modern obsession with statistics and possession football and England’s win away to Spain in the Nations League this week has left him feeling vindicated.
Dyche’s team face one of the masters of possession football, Premier League champions Manchester City, at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and he appears to be drawing inspiration from the way Gareth Southgate’s side overcame Spain on Monday.
England won 3-2 in Seville with just 27 percent of ball possession, something which clearly delighted Dyche, a long-time critic of the view that there is only one ‘right way’ to play.
“The beautiful game? No. Did we win? Get in, British bulldog, we… did, let’s have a bit of that. Deep down football fans want to win. You can talk until the cows come home but they want to win,” he told a news conference.
Spain dominated in terms of several key statistics — possession, shots on target, corners and passes — but England led 3-0 at halftime with their only efforts on goal.
“Statistically we got battered, by the way, but we won. I was so pleased with that. So pleased,” said Dyche.
“We just beat Spain, we didn’t go: ‘Oh we didn’t keep the ball this much’, or ‘We didn’t play enough passes around the back, we didn’t do this, didn’t do that.
“I know the stats (70 to 30 percent possession, 25 goal attempts against five, 12 corners against zero, 774 passes against 267) and we were lauded – brilliant what a performance.
“…we won in a different way, we won with organisation, we won with counter-attack, we won, by the way, with kicking it more than… 10 yards, we did that a lot, and everyone went ‘brilliant!’”
Dyche, 47, believes there has been too much emphasis on style as well as statistics and too many supporters have got caught up in that approach.
“Underneath we want to win. Number one – want to win. Every fan… has been drunk by all the madness out there: ‘You are not winning the right way’, folk want goals, ball going in that end and not going in that end, and that’s it in a nutshell.
“Now if there is some beauty in it, fantastic. I was marvelling at the fact that, for once, everyone went: ‘Hold on, sod all of that, did we beat Spain away? Yes we did.”
Burnley finished seventh in the league last season with the highest number of long balls but with only two teams playing fewer passes overall.
One of the club’s biggest wins since promotion in 2016 was a 2-0 victory over Liverpool that year when Juergen Klopp’s side had 80 percent possession.
Dyche said England had also shown the value of a mixed approach.
“We played different football, we didn’t just play… we put it long, we put it in behind, we asked questions, we used our pace by the way. The best place to use pace is where? Behind the back four.
“Quality but statistically annihilated – that is why you can’t get drunk on stats…
“You can win beautifully but you can still just win and it is not a bad thing if you just win.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Ken Ferris)