Premier League Preview: Burnley

Last season Burnley defied second season syndrome to finish seventh and qualify for European competition for the first time in 51 years. The Clarets looked a far cry from the relegation fodder they were expected to be as Sean Dyche built a strong, rigid side with players giving 100% for the shirt. They started as they meant to go on last season by beating then champions Chelsea, 3-2, at Stamford Bridge. The big question mark hanging over the Clarets ahead of the new season is whether they can produce the same winning formula whilst juggling Europa League commitments. After a great win over two legs against Aberdeen, at the time of writing, Burnley have also recorded a fantastic 0-0 draw away to Istanbul Basaksehir in the first leg of the third qualifying round.


SUMMER BUSINESS

Burnley strategically planned their transfer window this summer as they took their time to scout the market and get great deals for players. All three of their signings came in the latter stages of the window as they added depth, experience and pace through the middle of the pitch. Following an injury to Nick Pope in the first leg against Aberdeen and with Tom Heaton still on the sidelines after a long-term injury; the Clarets where, perhaps forced into their first summer signing. In desperate need for a goalkeeper, Joe Hart was brought in from Manchester City for £5 million. After two underwhelming loan stints at Torino and West Ham respectively, Hart will be looking to regain his high reputation and return to the England fold after missing out on a place in Russia. Burnley then proceeded to spend a near £26 million pounds on two of the Championship’s stars from last season. Ben Gibson arrived from Middlesbrough to add more strength to an already physically strong backline whilst the Clarets also added goals as Matej Vydra was signed from Derby County; the Czech striker finished last term on 21 goals making him the Championship top scorer.


KEY PLAYER – JAMES TARKOWSKI

James Tarkowski rose to prominence last season as he recorded consistently robust performances across Burnley’s campaign. Comfortable on the ball whilst being able to dominate in the air made him one of the best central defenders in the Premier League last year and prompted Gareth Southgate to call him into the England squad for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy last March. Tarkowski made 1.5 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per match in the league last season whilst making 7.1 clearances per match allowing Burnley to execute their game plan expertly. A product of the Oldham Athletic academy, Tarkowski went on to make 72 appearances for the Latics which prompted an approach from Brentford. After helping the Bees to League 1 promotion and to the Championship Play-Offs the season after, Tarkowski was in demand from the top clubs in the Championship. The England defender eventually signed for Burnley on deadline day of the January transfer window and helped the Clarets lift the Championship title three months later. Following the capture of Ben Gibson, the two Englishmen could form a formidable partnership at the heart of the defence whilst helping Burnley progress in Europe.


MANAGER – SEAN DYCHE

Had Pep Guardiola not transformed Man City last season and blown away the competition to win the Premier League, Sean Dyche would have certainly won manager of the year. Prior to the season, Burnley were believed to be certainties for relegation but under Dyche’s leadership they were the furthest thing from it. Perhaps, one of the best things to happen to Dyche and Burnley was, funnily enough, their relegation back in 2015. Burnley’s board put their faith in Dyche to bounce straight back up from the Championship and he duly delivered. This allowed Dyche to build momentum whilst gaining Premier League and Championship experience and the club are now reaping the rewards from the decision. The worry for Burnley now is if they can keep hold of Dyche. After Ronald Koeman’s dismissal at Everton last season, Dyche was heavily linked to the vacancy at Goodison Park and now that his stock couldn’t be higher, a repeat of last season or close to it, Dyche may seek pastures new. Dyche deployed a combative, rigid system last year which looked to frustrate opposition whilst countering with long balls up to either Sam Vokes, Chris Wood or Ashley Barnes.


PREDICTION – 15TH

The main worry for Burnley this season is that they endured an 11-match winless streak which ran from December to March last season. The only reason this didn’t hinder them was because of the disastrous seasons the teams in the bottom half of the table had last campaign as West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City and Swansea City were relegated. As a result, they may struggle this season as this winless run highlights a lengthy frailty which teams won’t let them get away with this season. Being involved in the Europa League may also hinder them if they qualify for the group stages. Playing matches Thursday then Sunday is known to affect Premier League results as the likes of Newcastle United, Swansea and Southampton have suffered whilst playing in Europe. The main reason they won’t be relegated is down to Dyche, who will have the squad pulling in the same direction and as a result they will still get enough points to avoid the trap door. A fear for the Clarets is that they may become predictable to play against which will see teams often pick up points against them.


PROBABLE LINE-UP

Burnley 4-4-2 football formation

Sub-edited by Ciaran Wiseman

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