With the 2020/21 Premier League season on the horizon, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at Burnley and their prospects in the upcoming campaign.
A team that epitomises team spirit like no other. Burnley are, as a squad, perhaps the worst in terms of overall quality and depth in the league, with a defence-heavy unit in that perspective. However, Sean Dyche continues to work his magic at Turf Moor and keep Burnley safe from relegation year-in-year-out.
Leading a side like Burnley to a historic seventh-placed finish in the 2017/18 season and the club’s highest points tally of 54 along with matching it in the tumultuous 2019/20 season, Dyche has managed to live up to and heighten the fan expectations of the club at the same time with his managerial skills and tactical nous.
There has been turmoil of late, though, with the manager even reported to be on the verge of exiting the club over differences with the board, and one can only assume it is because of a lack of investment into the squad despite overachieving every season.
Prelude: The Backdrop
The 2019/20 season was always going to be a tough ask for Burnley, with the newly promoted clubs spending to improve their squad as the Clarets cashed in on some of their stars without any real replacements.
Burnley started well, with 12 points from the first ten games along with spirited defeats at the hands of Arsenal, Liverpool, Leicester City and Chelsea. The Clarets continued to chip off wins every now and then amidst every couple of failures in the Premier League and were ideally, in the running to be safe from the relegation scrap.
A run of 7 games without defeat at the turn of the year, with wins over Manchester United, Leicester and Southampton along with draws against Tottenham and Arsenal meant that Burnley were never in danger of being relegated and actually gunning for another top-half finish.
A 5-0 defeat to Manchester City did rock the boat a bit, but Burnley returned with vigour to notch up wins over Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Norwich City as well as draws with in-form clubs like Liverpool, Sheffield United and Wolves. Even though their season might have ended with a 2-1 defeat to Brighton, their performances were credible enough to earn a 10th placed finish in the Premier League.
Burnley have shed a bit of weight from the salary cap, with the likes of Aaron Lennon, Joe Hart and Jeff Hendrick all leaving on a free transfer. Adam Legzdins also ran his contract down and is without a club as of yet. As far as incomings are concerned, there have been no real signings.
Will Norris has arrived from Wolves on a free transfer but is unlikely to be anything more than a third-choice goalkeeper. Aiden O’Neill has returned from his loan at Brisbane Roar. However, the 22-year-old is far from a first-team player and might just be able to get a look-in, if at all this season.
Shockingly, Burnley have no real rumours about signings, with the biggest one being of a potential departure, with academy graduate Dwight McNeil on the radar of a host of top European clubs. The only positive thus far is Ben Mee’s contract extension.
The main problem at Burnley is perhaps something to do with Sean Dyche. The manager seems to be at crossroads with the board in terms of signings and investing back into the squad. So much so, the Englishman has been linked with a departure from the club that he has led to overachieving finishes in the Premier League, despite minimal investment every transfer window.
If Burnley do end up getting some new players in the squad, Dyche might just stay. But, at the moment, things look gloomy at Turf Moor.
The initial four fixtures will be crucial for Burnley. The Clarets go up against the likes of Leicester, Southampton, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, with at least six points the minimum expectation for the club and the fans. The festive period will be very tricky for Burnley, with fixtures against Wolves, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Fulham in around 14 days, with perhaps cup fixtures to be added as well.
There is a glimpse of hope of another creamy run at the end in the 2020/21 season as well, with a run of 9 fixtures to close out the season featuring just Manchester United and Liverpool among the ‘Big Six’ as their opponents along with Leicester as the only teams from last season’s top six.
One of the mastheads for Burnley’s 10th placed finish in the 2019/20 Premier League, Pope kept 15 clean sheets in the league, conceding 50 goals in the process. Pope was the best goalkeeper this past season in terms of saving percentage, with over 70% of the shots being thwarted.
— TheOther14 (@Other14The) August 25, 2020
The 28-year-old was linked with a summer departure, but the rumours seem to have cooled down. Pope will be essential, especially if Burnley fail to improve their squad for another season and more so if Dyche ends up leaving.
The fate of the defence depends on Pope, Tarkowski and Ben Mee. Tarkowski had a blinder of a season after his reported move to Leicester to replace Harry Maguire broke down. The 27-year-old was arguably one of the best defenders in the league and was in most people’s Premier League Team of the Season.
Tarkowski averaged more than five aerial successes and clearances each per game, with no errors leading to a goal. He even contributed for Burnley on the attacking front, with two goals and as many assists. The only problem area might be his discipline, with ten yellow cards accumulated in the 2019/20 Premier League season.
The left-footed midfielder has been the find of the last couple of years for Burnley. Industrious in midfield with a good work-rate when off the ball, McNeil is a manager’s dream. The midfielder still has to add more goals and assists in his repertoire to be considered one of the best ones in the league.
However, the amount of interest that has been generated in his services is only a testament to just how good the 20-year-old is, and he is only going to improve, with age on his side.
Burnley are in turmoil, perhaps the most out of any Premier League club at the present moment. Sean Dyche’s potential departure might be more than what the club can take, especially with how influential the manager has been in shaping the stature and future of the club.
However, even if Dyche stays, there is the question of just how many times he can weave his magic with a threadbare squad, wherein any injury to a starter can spell trouble for Burnley. Burnley need investment into their roster, and it is difficult to see them survive if either of the above situations end up happening.
No signings or no Sean Dyche would make Burnley the favourites to go down this season. The Hard Tackle predicts the Clarets to save themselves by the skin of their teeth, perhaps alluding to the fact that Dyche might end up staying. The author, though, is of the opinion that if the former caveat comes true, the latter will as well and in such a case, Burnley will not be able to survive.
THT Prediction: 17th
Author Prediction: 18th (Relegated)