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Burnley: is Europe to blame for the Clarets poor start to the season?

Burnley have got off to their worst-ever Premier League start, picking up just one point from their opening four games. They had already recorded two wins at this stage last season, including an incredible opening day victory at Stamford Bridge against the reigning champions.

Their poor league form has coincided with their return to European competition after 51 years away, taking part in the Europa League for the first time. After overcoming Aberdeen and Istanbul Basaksehir, they were eliminated by Greek giants Olympiakos in the play-off round.

Before they travelled to St Mary’s to kick off the new Premier League campaign, Burnley had already played three competitive games. The hectic European schedule stretched their squad and forced Sean Dyche to heavily rotate his starting eleven in the early stages of the season.

Is the Europa League to blame for their lacklustre start or are there more serious problems arising at Turf Moor?

Lack of signings?

The Clarets were expected to make significant additions over the summer to help combat the challenges posed by Europa League participation. While they brought in Joe Hart, Ben Gibson and Matej Vydra, many supporters felt that they did not do enough on the transfer front to be competitive across all competitions.

Finishing in the top seven last season was a massive overachievement considering the size of Dyche’s squad, and important first-teamers Robbie Brady and Steven Defour are still out of action. Dyche is also without backup midfielder Scott Arfield after the Canadian international signed for Rangers.

Additionally, former Claret Jay Rodriguez was heavily linked with a return to Turf Moor throughout the window but Burnley reportedly refused to match West Brom’s £18 million price tag. Alfie Mawson was also reportedly close to a move up north but was offered a more financially lucrative deal by Fulham and chose to relocate to London instead.

Perhaps Burnley were too cautious with their finances and should have taken more risks to strengthen their squad and help balance Premier League and European football.

More problems than just Europe?

Clarets fans will be hoping that European football was the cause of their slow start and their form will pick up after the upcoming international break. However, there could be more problems at Turf Moor than just a stint in Europe.

Their league form declined at the end of last season when they picked up just two points from their final five games. When combined with their recent league run, this means they are now nine games without a win.

There could be a whole range of issues affecting Burnley’s league form; perhaps motivation is an issue after such a successful season last year, or maybe other teams have figured out effective ways of neutralising Dyche’s direct style of football.

The Clarets’ next four games will give us a good idea on how much of an impact European football had on their league form.

They will take two newly promoted sides and a relegation contender in Wolves, Bournemouth, Cardiff and Huddersfield which gives them a realistic chance of picking up points and getting their league campaign underway.

A good set of results in these games could bring an end to any worry around Turf Moor, but a failure to pick up points could indicate a tough season ahead for Sean Dyche’s men. Only time will tell whether European commitments hampered the start of Burnley’s campaign or whether a lack of signings and poor form are to blame instead.

Dan Barnes

Sports Journalism student at the University of Central Lancashire

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