For Premier League football fans, the advance of Burnley is one of those things that just seems to have happened without permission and without much comment. An opening day victory at Stamford Bridge was applauded, with the caveat that Chelsea would obviously have won the day had they not seen their captain sent off after 14 minutes. Soon enough, it was assumed, Burnley would be doing what Burnley do — winning home games, losing away and finishing around the middle of the bottom half.
We’re now more than a third of the way into the season, and Sean Dyche’s men are still inconveniently clogging up the European spots like a team that doesn’t know when enough’s enough. “Better” managerial jobs have come up during the season, with Leicester and Everton both being linked with the Burnley boss, but he’s still there and so are the Clarets– sixth at the time of writing. The longer this goes on the more the question has to be asked: what can Burnley achieve this season? Also, why are they doing so well?
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
16th place, where they finished last season, was considered an over-achievement for a club with Burnley’s limitations. With not much money to spend and few real stars, the departure of Michael Keane to Everton and Andre Gray to Watford meant an influx of funds but left two gaping holes in the squad that avoided relegation in 2016/17. Other managers might have sought to panic-buy expensive replacements or changed the way the team played, but Dyche isn’t that kind of manager.
With Keane gone, James Tarkowski slotted straight in at the back alongside Ben Mee, and has performed excellently. Tarkowski has actually played more like Keane than the actual Keane has this season, which is a major reason why Burnley are increasingly strongly backed in Bet And Skill’s free weekly tips and predictions; the former Brentford man never loses concentration, so the likes of Harry Kane have found it hard to get the better of him.
Vive La Resistance!
By keeping the same shape, Burnley have been able to operate a system in which every player knows what they have to do, and does it in every game. After fourteen games, they have only scored 14 goals– but because they’ve only conceded 11, they rarely lose. Three of those goals conceded and one of their three defeats came against Manchester City, who are doing the same to everyone this season. The Clarets are exceptionally hard to beat, and when they do lose they tend to bounce straight back with a win.
Few Frills, But Plenty of Thrills
It’s fair to say that Sean Dyche’s tactical approach would make Pep Guardiola shake his head sadly and need to sit in a dark room for awhile, but Burnley’s obstinacy has led to some euphoric moments for supporters this season. Last term’s away record, which saw the side pick up just seven points on their travels, has already been exceeded with ease, featuring wins at Southampton and Everton as well as Chelsea.
With record signing Chris Wood working hard up front and Jack Cork dovetailing with Jeff Hendrick in midfield, Burnley can always nick a goal, which means that in close games — which most of them are for the Turf Moor side — there’s always a chance of an exciting finish.
In short, there’s no rocket science behind what Burnley are doing, but until someone can stop them doing it they’ll keep picking up points– and that’s what makes them this season’s most intriguing story.