Burnley: 2018/19 Premier League Preview

After silencing their critics last season, can Sean Dyche’s Burnley do it all again?

by Jon Mackenzie

REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

In the hyper-capitalised world of modern football, Burnley Football Club could be considered radical.

Of course, to look at the Northern club, you wouldn’t think this: a 21,000-seater stadium that was last upgraded in 1996; a manager who, for all his brilliance, looks out of place amongst the Colgate smiles of the Premier League’s elite; a squad which, according to Transfermarkt, is valued at around the same figure as Kylian Mbappe.

For owners Mike Garlick and John Banaszkiewicz, this relative minnow status is not an issue but, rather, a strength. It certainly didn’t hold them back in 2017/18 when the Clarets held off challenges from newly-ennobled Everton and past Premier League winners Leicester City to earn the title ‘The Best of the Rest’ with their seventh-place finish.

Much of this comes down to their manager, Sean Dyche, who, in six years at the club, has taken them from the Championship into the Premier League, making them a very good mid-table team in the process.

Even despite another lean transfer window – there have only been minor outgoings at the club so far – expect Burnley to return to the mid-table mix this season. With a European place being contested for, Dyche will find himself with a new challenge to face. But don’t be surprised if he comes through again in his own inimitable way.

2017/18 Season Review

As far as Burnley’s Premier League campaign last season was concerned, the watchword was ‘consistency’. After 26 of the 38 gameweeks in the league, Sean Dyche’s men maintained the seventh-place spot that they eventually finished in.

Despite the challenge from Everton and Leicester as well as a few weeks where they crept into the top six – Burnley never looked under threat. 

Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

However, that is not to say that they caused a few surprises along the way. Their Expected Goals Against figure (the number of goals you would have expected them to concede given the quality of the chances created) came in at a hard to believe 13.16 over what they actually conceded. 

Much of this was down to Sean Dyche’s ability to coach his team to anticipate defensive actions – particularly blocks – and offer an often impenetrable shield in front of their goalkeeper.

This performance was undoubtedly helped by early exits in domestic competition – a Third Round exit in both the FA Cup and the League Cup – but the reward was great: a qualifying place for the Europa League to put Burnley on the brink of the sort of success they saw in the 1960s.

Who’s In?

As of yet, the Clarets have not signed anyone going into the 2018/19 season. However, there are strong indications that Dyche might bolster his squad with the wily goalsmanship of Peter Crouch who is currently on the books at recently relegated Stoke City.

At 37-years-old, the former England international could be somewhat of a risk. However, given the paucity of the fee – rumoured to be around £500k – and the wealth of experience that he possesses, Crouch could yet prove to be an integral bench player for the North West club.

Who’s Out?

Although a raft of players have left the club on either free transfers, having been released by the club or taking up loan deals at other clubs, Burnley’s squad will not be too greatly weakened going into the new season.

Most notable departures are Scott Arfield, who goes to Steven Gerrard’s Rangers on a free transfer, and Dean Marney, released by the club after eight years at the club.

Predicted Lineup

With Nick Pope suffering a dislocated shoulder during Europa League qualifying, the England international is set to be out for up to six months. This will furnish Tom Heaton with a chance to regain his place between the posts.

In front of the goalkeeper, Dyche will field a back four of Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Stephen Ward. Although Charlie Taylor was signed from Leeds United last year as a left-back option, he has failed to break into the starting XI so far.

Steven Defour, Burnley’s Belgian midfielder, has struggled to regain fitness this summer. However, once he does, expect to see him partnering Jack Cork in the central midfield area. With Cork sitting slightly deeper, these two will be flanked by Aaron Lennon and Johann Berg Gudmundsson.

Tending to adopt a 4-4-1-1 formation, Dyche will position Jeff Hendrick as the number 10 behind the striker who, in this case, will be Chris Wood. Using this system, Burnley will look to be defensively compact and hit teams on the counter-attack.

The Key Question: How will Europe affect them?

We saw it with Everton last season: despite the attractiveness of a European proposition, the reality is often more trouble than it is worth.

Aberdeen head to Turf Moor on Thursday with Burnley holding the upper hand in their Europa League qualification clash. After that, another two-legged fixture awaits. Should they come out on top, then Burnley will have added an extra six games to their season’s schedule.

Action Images via REUTERS/Lee Smith

Given that they only played 41 games last season, Burnley should be wary of the fact that they will have a guaranteed 50 games (including their Europa League qualification) to contend with this time around if they get into the competition.

How will they cope? Could the additional ten-plus games have a negative effect on them? Will the lack of transfer activity this summer come to haunt them?   

Prediction

Best Case

Seventh place again.

Worst Case

Losing a couple of players to injury and dropping into a relegation battle. 

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With Everton and West Ham strengthening, and Leicester having kept a manager over a summer, Burnley’s challenge to retain their Best of the Rest accolade will be tough this season. Add to this an increased schedule should they make the Europa League and Burnley’s season looks to be an intriguing one.

Seventh place might be beyond them but expect them to finish in the top half at least unless the contingencies prove to be too much for them to cope with. 

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Jon Mackenzie

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