How Sean Dyche uses £10m Jeff Hendrick could define Burnley's season

Sean Dyche almost always sets his team up in a 4-4-2 formation, but the club-record signing of Jeff Hendrick gives him a lot of different tactical options.

With a fee of around £10 million paid to sign Hendrick from Derby County after a summer-long chase for the midfielder, it is clear Dyche made the Republic of Ireland international one of his top targets in the transfer window. Hendrick was on the bench for the 1-1 draw against Hull City on Saturday but impressed enough in a brief cameo from the bench to suggest he will be in the team sooner rather than later, perhaps even for this weekend's trip to Premier League champions Leicester City.

The versatility of Hendrick is presumably one of the main reasons Dyche wanted to sign the 24-year-old, who is equally capable of playing in a central midfield two or in a wide midfield role. As the Clarets do not line up with traditional wingers -- playing on opposite wings, they instead look to cut inside and make room on the overlap for the full-backs -- Hendrick might well find himself ostensibly on the wing when he breaks into the team.

But perhaps the key benefit of Hendrick's arrival is the number of doors it opens for Dyche in terms of formations, with Burnley now seeming to have players who could thrive in a 4-3-3. Dyche is understandably wary of switching from his preferred shape -- when he used 4-5-1 at West Brom two seasons ago, with his squad disrupted by injuries, and they were slaughtered -- but playing the same system and tactics for each game can quickly grow predictable in the top flight.

Hendrick and fellow big-money buy Steven Defour both like to get forward, so they might not be the best fit in a central pairing in the heart of the midfield. With ever-reliable Dean Marney having done very little to warrant being dropped, all three could be selected in a trio instead.

That would mean the strike pairing of Sam Vokes and Andre Gray being joined in a three-pronged forward line by either George Boyd, Johann Gudmundsson or Scott Arfield, who would have a lot more freedom to attack than they do currently from the wing.

The benefits of this shape are numerous. At times Burnley's attack has looked worryingly isolated, with Gray barely having a kick of the ball against either Hull or Chelsea, where Dyche's side were easily beaten 3-0 before the international break. Boyd and Gudmundsson in particular could thrive given a free role behind Vokes and Gray with licence to roam and create, which should increase the number of chances the Clarets make.

A lack of creativity has been one of the main bugbears for supporters in the early weeks of the campaign, although there are no complaints about a solid start to the season that has seen the team take four points from four games, albeit with three of those matches played at Turf Moor. Remaining solid at the back has always been a key priority for Dyche since he was appointed as the club's manager, and it is easy enough to argue that if the 4-4-2 formation was good enough to see the team romp to the Championship title last season, it can work again this year.

However, Burnley's relegation two years ago, when 4-4-2 was used by Dyche for almost every game, suggests that a more flexible and adaptable approach might be necessary to survive.

With Defour having excelled last weekend against Hull, scoring an early contender for the club's goal of the season with a stunning long-range drive, the temptation for Dyche to throw Hendrick will be great. But a bit more imagination might be the best way forward for Dyche, with Leicester's pace in attack likely to be a strong concern for the manager following their 3-0 demolition of Club Brugge on their Champions League bow on Wednesday.

With Burnley likely to sit deep and deny the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez the chance to get in behind, pace on the break is going to be key, with Gray the only player in their usual front four with genuine speed. Defour has scored one goal and created another with powerful breaks down the middle of the pitch, but teams will soon get wise to his threat and Dyche cannot rely on the Belgian midfielder being able to blow through teams on his own every week.

Having options in midfield is something of a new experience for Dyche, having fielded centre-back James Tarkowski and teenager Aiden O'Neill in that area as substitutes at Stamford Bridge, but Hendrick is currently a £10m selection headache. How Dyche chooses to use the new jewel in his crown might well define Burnley's season.