Burnley’s 2017/18 Premier League campaign was nothing short of remarkable as they qualified for the Europa League with a seventh placed finish – how will Sean Dyche’s side fare in 2018/19?
Shrewd signings, steely performances, simple football and hard work – Sean Dyche’s football formula saw Burnley go from a team bravely battling relegation in 2016/17 to one of the most difficult teams to play in the division – mounting a challenge for the top six a year later.
Dyche became the ‘proudest man in proudsville’ when the Clarets’ early-season form saw them reach fourth place midway through December. In the same press conference, the gravel-voiced gaffer said that: “Football is about realities but also about dreams”, and European football would have been a pipe dream this time last year but on the August 2nd, it becoma a tremendous and heart-warming reality.
It’s difficult to pinpoint star performers from last season in this Burnley team – Ben Mee and James Tarkowski were unexpectedly but deservedly on the fringe of a spot on the plane to Russia, Jack Cork had his most fruitful season in midfield, and Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood both scored vital and consistent goals up front.
However, the performances of Nick Pope were the remarkable story of the season – 12 of Burnley’s 14 Premier League wins were by one goal; nine of the 14 were clean sheets. Back in 2014, the Burnley stopper was playing for York City, but after this incredible season he was one of the top goalkeepers in the league and on his way to a World Cup with England.
Manager and Tactics:
As has been the way under Dyche, Burnley continued to play simple, straightforward football. What is so impressive is that this team are defensively sound and strong; in the midfield they are steely but confident with the ball and up top they are combative, powerful and potent. You cannot really fault them from back to front.
4-4-2 was the preferred formation for Sean Dyche, who was unfortunate not to win Premier League Manager of the Season – losing out to Pep Guardiola. He had stuck with the same system three years previously when Burnley were relegated from the top division and was accused of not being flexible enough; however, since their return the ‘old school’ has seen a refreshing return with high pressing, quick ball movement with the option to mix it up and throw an early cross into Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes or Sam Vokes.
That’s not to say they can’t play in an expansive way – Jeff Hendrick scored one of the most free-flowing, well-worked goals of the season against Everton at Goodison Park and it was not a one-off – this flexible 4-4-2 has allowed them to play really attractive football when they want to.
Sean Dyche is limited by his £37m budget though has made three signings: Ben Gibson from Middlesborough, Matej Vyrda from Derby and Joe Hart from Manchester City – the Clarets had been linked with Alfie Mawson before his move to Fulham and Sam Clucas of Swansea – talks with the Swans over Clucas appear to be more advanced. Earlier in the window, the Lancashire club had their £25million double bid for West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez and Craig Dawson rejected.
Scott Armfield and Dean Marney were both released at the end of their contracts at Turf Moor.
Picking a key player in this side is impossible. The ethos is that there aren’t stars, or any primadonnas – there is one team, hard work and throwback football. Each bank works to protect and compliment the other – and do not expect that to change any time soon while Sean Dyche is at the helm.
Tom Heaton is Burnley’s captain. He’ll be returning to the number one spot at Turf Moor without the fight he expected, after Nick Pope sustained a nasty shoulder injury expected to put him out for half the season.
Heaton was out with an injury to his shoulder for almost the whole of last season effectively costing him a place at the World Cup – he is currently returning from a calf injury which kept him out of the Europa League qualifying opening leg at Aberdeen
Heaton was Dyche’s first permanent signing as Burnley manager arriving on a free transfer in 2013 and hails from a family of lifelong Burnley fans. He became captain in the summer of 2015 and will look forward to getting back in the fray after almost an entire year without regular football.
Expectations for the season – what would be a good season?
Where do you go from your best ever Premier League season? In truth, you would be surprised if the Lancashire club were anywhere near a relegation battle, but it would take a lot for the Clarets to replicate what they have done this season.
Fans at Turf Moor will want to see their side make the most of Europa League football but this extra set of fixtures and potentially considerable travelling have taken their toll on many very solid Premier League teams.