Written by Danny Ward
While it is still early days in this Premier League season, the all important question on many Burnley fans lips will probably be “Can we stay up this time?”. In their two previous top flights campaigns, the Clarets finished 18th and 19th respectively, each time ending up just a few points adrift of safety. So having now played 8 games – of which they’ve won 2, drawn 1 and lost 5 – does this Burnley team look like it will still be playing in the big time again next season, rather than dropping back down to the Championship?
credit Burnley Football Club
Reasons to be hopeful
The quality within the squad – This Burnley squad is arguably the strongest in terms of the quality of players they have amongst their ranks, particularly when compared to any of their previous Premier League seasons. Summer signings Steven Defour and Jeff Hendrick bring with them important international experience and add bite to the midfield with their willingness to get stuck in. Going forward, the strike partnership of Vokes and Gray should have more goals in them than the Barnes-Ings combo of 2014/15, as they complement each other well in terms of physicality and directness. Meanwhile, the back line does look well settled; Michael Keane is one for the future, while Ben Mee is massively underrated and looks to have formed a solid partnership with Keane at centre back. Tom Heaton is a safe pair of hands in between the sticks and deservedly holds the captaincy.
credit Jon Candy
Making Turf Moor a fortress – It may sound cliché, but Turf Moor can be a fortress and could play a crucial role in ensuring Burnley maintain their Premier League status. As we saw during the victories over Liverpool and Watford, once a home goal goes in, the noise decibels rise and the tempo is subsequently raised on the field to match. Just like on a cold, wet night in Stoke, teams do not enjoy visiting this inhospitable old school ground, particularly when the weather takes a turn for the worst. Although they can’t exactly rely on the climate in Lancashire, it will be vital that the Clarets, who are yet to record an away victory, continue to pick up points when they are at home.
Sean Dyche – In Sean Dyche, Burnley have arguably one of the best young British managers in the country. Since his arrival in 2012, he has quietly gone about his business in Lancashire, transforming an average Championship side to one which has had two brilliant promotion seasons during his tenure. The club’s fans hold Dyche in high regard as a result and there is a large amount of mutual respect. He has carried out all his good work on a relatively modest budget – it is only this season that he broke the transfer record with the £10.5m capture of Hendrick. Dyche is destined for bigger and better things, but he can certainly enhance his reputation further by keeping Burnley in the Premier League.
Reasons to be fearful
The depth of the squad – With only 23 first team players for the manager to select from, the lack of depth in this side is alarming. Towards the end of each match, it is noticeable that the team requires a change of pace, some fresh legs to inject a bit of pace and create more goal-scoring opportunities. However, unlike many other Premier League sides, options on the bench are limited. At the moment, Patrick Bamford is the only recognisable backup striker, so Burnley will have a hard time altering their lineup and coming back into a game in which they are behind.
credit dom fellowes
Lack of pacy wingers and any real creativity – During the summer many Burnley fans thought that wingers would be near the top of the shopping list, and the exciting potential signing of Polish winger Kamil Grosicki from Rennes would have gone some way to allaying these concerns. However, the deal fell through at the final hour and the club had no time to look for a suitable replacement. Icelandic international Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson offers the most creativity and whips good crosses into the box, but on the opposite wing, George Boyd is not an ideal wide man, despite the remarkable distance he covers each match. The team is crying out for a direct threat, someone who likes running at his defenders. If this problem is not resolved in the January transfer window, Burnley will continue to find it difficult to create goalscoring opportunities from the wings.
Good form at home needs to be carried over to away games – Having conceded 9 goals in the last 3 away games, it is clear that Burnley are struggling away from home. Most recently, with Andre Gray’s imposed ban from the FA, Dyche has been setting his team up in a 4-5-1 formation. With an over-reliance on Sam Vokes as a lone target man, the Clarets have rarely created goal-scoring opportunities as they are often pressed back in their own half. If they don’t start picking up points on the road soon, the end result will be a similar away record to that of the 09/10 season in which Burnley only managed to pick up a pitiful 4 points.
How do you rate Burnley’s survival chances? Let me know in the comments.