Säsongens sista bortamatch väntar Liverpool under onsdagen, det är Sean Dyches Burnley som ska försöka sätta käppar i hjulen för vår jakt på Champions League. Det kommer inte bli lättare av att Turf Moor får tillbaka publik på läktaren till den här omgången. Jamie Smith(@JamieSmithSport) berättar här om hur säsongen varit för våra motståndare.
1. We have two games left of the season, how has this season been for Burnley?
A mixed bag, to be honest. We started really poorly and only had a couple of points after about seven games – it looked like we were in for a serious struggle. But there were some key players injured, including our main defenders Mee and Tarkowski, and once they were back we started to improve. Recently we’ve been attacking a lot more, which has left us unusually open at the back, but it’s made us more entertaining to watch, at least. Our away form has also been much better than our home form, which is unusual. We’ve won at Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool – and hammered Wolves – but we haven’t had the strong home results against bottom-half sides that we typically pick up. It was also great to see Pope get some games for England. Strange one overall and one to forget in some ways. I’m relieved we secured safety with a few games to go.
2. What do you think is most important for Burnley to improve next season?
I’ve enjoyed watching us being a bit more gung-ho of late but I think a better balance can be struck between attack and defence. When we press as high as we have recently, it exposes our lack of pace in midfield. Teams seem to be getting through us far too easily. We’ve kept about 10 clean sheets but I’d like to see us increase that towards the 15 mark. In terms of the squad, pace is what is really missing throughout. If we added a quick winger and some more legs at full-back I think we have a solid enough base that we could be targeting another finish in the top-half. But a lot depends on how aggressive the new owners want to be in the transfer market and if we can keep our stars: McNeil, Pope and Tarkowski. Giving Bardsley another year isn’t a positive sign that we’re going to be splashing out, but we just have to wait and see what happens. Recruitment has been bad for years and simply has to get better.
3. Without spending a lot of money you have managed to stay up in the Premier League since 2016, how much is that up to Sean Dyche?
It’s almost entirely down to him, really. It’s hard to name many other managers who would have been able to do a similar job. Dyche has his critics and it’s fair to say our football isn’t always the most exciting – though we’ve played some great stuff in the wins at Everton, Palace and Wolves this season – and the fear is what might happen when he eventually leaves. For whatever reason he doesn’t seem to be getting linked with other jobs – though there have been noises about Palace in the past – and Burnley fans will be very happy if he sticks around for a long time. His relationship with the former chairman had obviously grown strained due to the lack of investment so it will be interesting to see if the new owners can improve on that.
4. Who has been your player of the season?
There are a few candidates but I’ll go with Tarkowski. He’s had a few dodgy moments in some games but the way we played at the start of the season when he was injured showed how important he is and I still can’t believe he isn’t around the England squad. He’s far superior to the likes of Coady and Mings – it’s not close. Unfortunately, he has indicated he won’t be signing a new contract – his expires next year – so we might be forced to sell this summer. I understand he feels he can play for a bigger club and wants to experience European football again but he could be a club legend if he stays for a few more years. It would be a risk to move on and potentially end up warming a bench instead of starting every week for us. Big decisions to be made.
5. You lost to Leeds with 0-4 in your last game, how did that happen?
Well, we don’t have anything in particular to play for now, and I think that showed. But it was an odd game, we created some very good chances and we didn’t take them, whereas recently we’ve been quite clinical. Vydra missed a sitter at 1-0 and if he scores that, maybe it’s a different game. Leeds had too much quality and desire for us though. We were really sloppy at both ends…and in the middle… and couldn’t really complain about the scoreline. There have been a few games like that one that have got away from us this season and it isn’t like Burnley to look like they’ve given up. To be fair, they said the win at Fulham to seal survival took a lot out of them, but I wonder if they celebrated that result a bit too hard!
6. What kind of game do you expect against Liverpool?
Fans being back at Turf Moor is massive and hopefully that will give the team a lift – they will want to put on a proper performance after playing for months in front of empty stands. But we have to be realistic, Liverpool are a much better team and more motivation given they are fighting hard for Champions League qualification. You never know though, nobody expected us to win at Anfield and that was before everyone else in the league started getting results there. Doing the double over the defending champions would be yet another astonishing achievement for Dyche and his side, but I can’t see it happening. I’m more worried about the prospect of Alisson getting a hat-trick.