After only 45 minutes of football, this season already felt vastly different for Burnley.
The Clarets came to Stamford Bridge with a game plan, attacking the home side with purpose and intent, and due to a little help from Gary Cahill early on, they were able to execute it to perfection. Never before had this team gone to a side with the prowess Chelsea possess and attacked them in this manner, dominating the first half leaving Conte and Co. stunned. Despite a late blues revival, Burnley were able to ride their luck and leave Stamford Bridge with all three points – this performance would set the tone for what was to come.
It’s not like Sean Dyche has had an easy ride since then either, plenty of issues have arisen since, yet his ability to problem solve with possibly the most stringent finances in the league, acts as further evidence of a man who’s not out of place amongst the Premier League’s managerial elite.
Major departures this summer, both their second top scorer and best centre back from the previous season appeared on the face of it, huge voids to fill. Last weekend’s opponents Swansea have also adopted the same strategy recently, regularly disposing of their most talented individuals, appearing to have ultimately failed to replace the potency Sigurdsson and Llorente provided.
In contrast Burnley have flourished, Chris Wood making an immediate impact to scramble a late point whilst Spurs were still finding their feet at Wembley. Whilst at the back James Tarkowski has been nothing short of a revelation, slotting into Keane’s role seamlessly, undoubtedly benefiting from having forged a partnership with Ben Mee before his breakthrough. Having the faith to promote a less senior squad member, rather than acquiring a new replacement needing time to adapt, requires courage and intelligence Dyche has shown in abundance.
As well as this, losing captain and goalkeeper Tom Heaton to injury spelt all kinds of trouble, with his commanding performances last season rightfully earning him an England call up. Yet somehow despite having never made a premier league start before being substituted on in the first half against Crystal Palace, Nick Pope has been a colossus guarding the Burnley net, keeping clean sheets in six of his nine games played. It’s easy to forget that along with all this, Joey Barton was exiled from the club with relative good grace, despite serially disrupting changing rooms up and down the country throughout his career.
Despite all this, Dyche’s meticulous attention to detail when it comes to defensive organisation has led to Burnley becoming a near unstoppable force inside the fortress of Turf Moor. However, to say they struggled on their travels last season would be an understatement, picking up a measly 7 points, yet with a greater attacking mentality their troubles on the road have been addressed already managing to eclipse that figure this term.
Maintaining a squad based largely around Great British players can only act to improve communication on the pitch, alleviating the issue of a language barrier. As well as this, the group is comprised of players mostly deemed championship quality, yet they’ve been able to flourish working tirelessly to create a side far greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Overall, Burnley should be praised for maintaining faith in the manager who took them down three seasons ago, learning from his mistakes to vastly improve his side and avoid the drop last season. Thus far it appears Sean Dyches managerial masterplan is coming together, Burnley fans should enjoy this while it lasts, as surely it can’t be long before the bigger clubs come circling for their most prized asset.
Written by Harvey Sayer.