The 5th installment of this series takes us to a team that has been both hailed and criticized in their quest to remain in the Premier League. Chelsea defender David Luiz has been quoting saying that they play “anti-football”. But regardless of how you view the clarets, Burnley has managed not only to stay up in the Premier League but […]
The 5th installment of this series takes us to a team that has been both hailed and criticized in their quest to remain in the Premier League. Chelsea defender David Luiz has been quoting saying that they play “anti-football”. But regardless of how you view the clarets, Burnley has managed not only to stay up in the Premier League but have also finished as high as 7th.
Burnley, like most Premier League sides, have a storied history. The club is over 130 years old and has played at the Turf Moor since 1883. They have the longest tenure at a single stadium of any of the clubs to have ever competed in the Premier League. They are also one of five English clubs to have won all top four professional divisions.
Burnley have been managed by Sean Dyche since 2012. He has been promoted twice to the Premier League with Burnley. He is known to have a very tightknit squad, playing with 23 players one season and 25 players in another season. Financially, Burnley doesn’t spend a lot of money but is able to maintain its Premier League status in a league where clubs are shattering their own transfer records yearly.
Last season, Burnley finished 15th. They scored 45 goals and conceded 68, as well as a staggering 20 losses in the league. They lost the same amount of games away from home as they did at the Turf Moor. Burnley does play in a very defensive, regimented way under Dyche and I doubt that will change.
The defensive side of the ball is very English, with big, strong center backs who love to challenge for the ball. James Tarkowski won 273 duels, 169 aerial battles, and had 235 clearances. Ben Mee, their captain, had very similar numbers. Even with two solid center backs, they still conceded 68 goals.
So Burnley has to address so of their solidity on the flanks. Having signed Erik Pieters literally as I was writing this, (Timing couldn’t have been better), they bring in a very experienced fullback to help with the defensive cover.
Going forward, the midfield seems to be lacking some pace. Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, and Steven Defour aren’t blessed with pace. Perhaps a new signing who could be very mobile in the middle of the park could help Burnley.
Unfortunately, Turf Moor isn’t the most appealing destination, but perhaps a good loan move from a top-six club could help them sure up the middle of the park. Since Spurs signed Tanguy Ndombele, maybe a loan move for Winks would fit. He’s a young English midfielder who could use the games to further progress his passing range and defensive output. His industrious play fits the Dyche mold and adds some freshness to the side.
Even signing Fabian Delph on a permanent could be good business, as the midfielder can play in various positions and has the stamina to play a full 90 minutes. Danny Drinkwater on loan would be a risk, given his lack of minutes in recent seasons. However, it might be a sneaky chance for him to regain his form that made him a key player when Leicester defied all the odds to win the Premier League just a few seasons ago.
I think Burnley need to be smart with their business. They almost always are, getting players for cheap or for free. It is tough to figure out who they are going to sign because they play in such a rigid system. The biggest thing that goes against them is that they always set up defensively. If that is always the case, they are going to need more help in the middle of the park. They have big center forwards and big center backs which makes them a threat on the set-piece. Burnley scored just one goal on the counter-attack last season, which makes them vulnerable. If they can get those numbers up, they could be that side to sneak into a European spot again.
My predictions for this season is that Burnley finishes 14th. They have the solidity to be more compact off the ball, paired with the danger of set plays and one cheeky forward in Ashley Barnes on the attack. They will need to concede fewer goals surely, but without a more mobile center midfielder, they will be easy to pass around. I think that Dwight McNeil will have a breakout campaign, showing glimpses of a talented winger towards the end of last season.