Burton Albion will struggle to survive in the Championship because of the negative tactics employed by manager Nigel Clough so far this season.
The Brewers have earned just ten points. The East Midlands club has two wins, six draws and seven defeats with a minus 19 goal difference in 22nd position.
Nigel Clough’s Tactics Confirms Burton as Championship Strugglers
Keeper Stephen Bywater has let in 25 goals. Burton is level with Sunderland for the most goals conceded in the league to date.
Five teams have scored four or more goals against them in a game so far this campaign. In the recent 2-0 defeat to Forest, Nigel Clough bemoaned his side’s lack of clinical touch and said the home team was fortunate at the City Ground last Saturday.
Lucas Akins and Lloyd Dyer came perilously close to scoring. But Nigel Clough should not be placing the blame on the team’s attack for the recent poor run of form.
Some would argue he is a realist with the caliber of player and budget he has at his disposal. But the former Derby man’s tactics have demonstrated naivety and a lack of imagination.
A Middling Style
Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion are playing football which would make the late Brian turn in his grave. Brian Clough was a leader who always stuck to his principles. He advocated teamwork, and entertaining possession-based football during his 28-year long managerial career.
His son’s current team is the complete antithesis. Nigel’s team ensures there are always ten men behind the ball. The opposition is allowed possession freely. Bristol City and Nottingham Forest (Burton’s most recent opponents) had more than 70 percent of possession in their last two games.
The Brewers torment the opposition with strong organization and a packed midfield in the 3-5-2 formation Clough likes to deploy.
But while on Saturday Burton denied Forest a shot on target until the 43rd minute, they registered a mere one shot on target themselves. They haven’t scored in their last five league matches.
‘Clough’s teams are set up to stifle and frustrate’. That’s according to ex-Brewers midfielder Jamie Ward prior to Burton’s 2-0 defeat away at Nottingham Forest last weekend.
They have shown a little more adventure recently at home. But this left them exposed in the 4-0 defeats to Aston Villa and Wolves at the Pirelli Stadium.
Defenders Kyle MacFadzen, Jake Buxton, and Stephen Warnock have been caught out on numerous occasions. The 3-5-2 enabled Villa and Wolves to break quickly and penetrate Burton down the sides of the pitch.
Clough needs to find consistency for a side doing better than expected in their second successive season in the Championship. They secured their status back in April with a 1-1 draw against Barnsley and finished 20th in the 2016/17 campaign.
Burton is slowly climbing the football league pyramid. Albion still played non-league football in 2009. The Staffordshire club has undergone a meteoric rise, and Nigel Clough will want to continue the momentum.
Punching above their weight is an understatement. But the same could be said about Bournemouth, Huddersfield Town, and Brighton in seasons gone by. The Championship throws up surprises. There is no reason why teams like Burton aren’t able to challenge with the ‘big boys’.
But in order to do that, their flair players Sean Scannell, Luke Akins and Lloyd Dyer need to step up their game in front of goal. Nigel Clough needs to find the equilibrium between pragmatism and ambition when it comes to Burton’s playing style.
This system is currently in a state of quagmire. It will be a challenge to avoid the drop once again. But Burton’s fighting spirit and togetherness is the same kind of asset which has seen teams come from nowhere to reach the top flight in recent seasons.
BRISTOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 13: Nigel Clough the manager of Burton Albion looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and Burton Albion at Ashton Gate on October 13, 2017 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)