When you think of the English clubs that are synonymous with playing European football, you automatically think of the “big 6,” but that could be about to change.
Lancashire outfit Burnley have been this season’s surprise package when it comes to the league, occupying a top 10 position for just about the entire season and showing off talents such as Nick Pope, James Tarkowski and Johann Berg Gudmundsson to name but a few.
These newfound talents may soon get the chance to prove themselves on the domestic, European stage thanks to a 7th place finish being enough to guarantee a Europa League qualification spot. I want to investigate, however, whether playing European football in the 2018-19 season, would be good for the Clarets, or whether it will just play a part in their Premier League demise.
The most important factor to consider when trying to figure out if a club will survive a European campaign alongside the already brutal Premier League fixture schedule is the size of the squad. This could be where Burnley fall down as they don’t have the kind of funds that are readily available to clubs like Manchester City, United, Liverpool and Chelsea so they won’t be able to attract the big name stars that are associated with Europe. This will surely leave Burnley looking to lower ranked Premier League teams (who won’t be too keen to sell to a club that they could be in direct competition with) for players to fit Dyche’s mould.
Sean Dyche’s philosophy will surely need to be altered a little if Burnley are to compete on two fronts as he is a very loyal manager. This loyalty is naturally a good thing when you are only having to play in one or two competitions, but Dyche will need to be more willing to alter the squad to fit in the tough fixtures you risk facing when competing on the continental stage.
Dyche will also need to improve the general quality of the squad as, despite having a first team that is more than capable of competing at a high standard, the quality of the squad players could be improved. Whilst players like Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor and Ashley Westwood are improving with every chance they get, players such as Nahki Wells, Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley are almost a step in the wrong direction in terms of the improvement that the Clarets need to be making. This is why the club needs to be adding to the squad with the profits that they have made from the sales of some of their biggest players. Not only would this add to the quality of the squad in general, but would also create more competition for places at the club, forcing players to be constantly improving.
There are two things that Burnley have on their side in terms of both the current players and the addition of more in the summer. The first one is experience. Currently in the squad are Aaron Lennon who tasted life in the Champions League and Europa League with Tottenham, Johann Berg Gudmundsson who not only reached the quarter-final of Euro 2016 with Iceland but has also played in the Europa League with AZ Alkmaar and finally fan favourite Steven Defour who has played European football at every previous club he has been at (Genk, Standard Liege, Porto and Anderlecht). This European experience will allow the rest of the squad to have more of an insight into the way that teams alter their tactics in Europe and how best to play when it comes down to the Europa League qualification matches.
The second thing that Burnley have on their side is that they must be an attractive club for a player eager for his chance both in the Premier League and in Europe. If you look at the fact that Burnley are a solid club in the Premier League with a strong backing from the board, combined with the talent on the pitch and in an up-and-coming manager in Dyche, there can’t be many better clubs to choose from in the league that somebody who really wants his chance.
If Burnley can get it right in the summer, European football would be huge for the majority of the squad, however, if it goes wrong, it could see the end of Burnley’s stay in the Premier League and maybe even worse. This is also based on the assumption that Burnley will end the season in 7th place as it isn’t over yet with Leicester only 9 points behind them with a game in hand.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image credit Huddersfield Examiner