I säsongens näst sista hemmamatch ställs Liverpool mot Burnley. Sean Dyches lag har gjort en stabil säsong och slåss om platserna i mittenregionen av tabellen, i dagens inlägg berättar Jamie Smith(@JamieSmithSport) om hur säsongen varit:
- Premier League just restarted after the corona break, how has it been to watch these first games?
I think it took some time to get used to it, but my view is football in these strange conditions with no fans and so on is better than no football at all. Burnley had a long wait to get started as we were the last game and obviously Manchester City away was always going to be a tough start. The White Lives Matter banner also overshadowed that match entirely, though the club has to be praised for their strong response to an extremely difficult situation
- How has Burnley played in the first games after the break?
Since the City game, an expected thrashing, Burnley have been excellent despite an injury crisis and contractual issues, with 10 points taken from the last 12 on offer to keep European qualification hopes alive. Defensively, the team has been superb with all three of those victories coming by the same 1-0 scoreline. Jay Rodriguez has really grown into his role leading the attack in the absence of Chris Wood, scoring two fine headers, and James Tarkowski has been excellent at the back, the defender taking the captaincy since Ben Mee got injured. The football isn’t always very entertaining but Josh Brownhill, a new signing in January who had to wait for his chance, looks good on the ball and considering how stretched the squad is, results have been fantastic. It’s a shame Burnley couldn’t hold on to beat Sheffield United, though, as that draw might be the difference getting into Europe and narrowly missing out by a place or two.
- Are you satisfied with what the team has achieved this season?
We have to be very satisfied. Survival is always going to be the first goal for Burnley and we look to be on track for a top-half finish at the very least. That’s despite various injuries – Mee and Jack Cork are out now and they’re two of our better players – and Jeff Hendrick leaving at the end of his contract last month. We had a bad run of 2-3 months where we didn’t defend nearly well enough but since the turn of the year we have been one of the form teams in the league. Nick Pope has the most clean sheets of any goalkeeper and if he can hold off Alisson to win the Golden Glove it would be an amazing achievement for him.
- Sean Dyche has been at your club for many seasons now, how has he developed over the years?
It’s a good question – it’s not easy to see where he’s evolved though he’s clearly done a brilliant job here. I do think Burnley play more football than we get credit for, especially in the last few games where we haven’t had the option of going long to Chris Wood or Ashley Barnes as both strikers have been injured. There are undoubtedly areas where Dyche can improve. Dwight McNeil is the only young player he’s brought through into the team since taking charge and his usage of substitutes is still a bone of contention for some fans, myself among them. We’ve used fewer subs than any team since the restart, I think, and while a lack of options is one of the reasons for this there have been times some lads have looked very tired but have been left on for the full game. Tactically, we have experimented at times – McNeil has been used as a 10 – but Dyche usually goes back to his tried-and-tested 4-4-2.
- What do you think Burnley need to take another step next season?
Without serious investment in the squad, it’s hard to see how Burnley can progress further. We could qualify for Europe for the second time in three years which is more than anyone would have ever predicted from this team. But right now we have about 13-15 fit senior players so Dyche is really down to the bare bones. Signing players is always a challenge as we can’t compete financially with a lot of teams in the league. But we have to replace some of the lads who have left – Hendrick and Aaron Lennon in particular. European scouting has been improved and shopping overseas is an obvious area to look at. We haven’t signed a player from abroad since Steven Defour a few years ago and while he had injury issues, he was brilliant when he was fit to play. But it does sound like money is going to be tight this summer (as it usually is at Turf Moor), which helps to explain why there have been so many questions about Dyche’s future.
- Who has been your player of the season?
There are a few candidates. McNeil is the creative hub of the team and he keeps improving, though he should have scored an easy chance against Sheffield United and in general he needs to add more goals to his game. But he’s only 20 and has a massive future in the game. Pope has been very consistent with hardly any errors, though his handling of high balls has been a little below-par of late. In my (biased) eyes, he should be England’s starting goalkeeper. But I personally think our best player this season has been Tarkowski. I can’t think of a bad game he’s had and he’s been brilliant on a regular basis. The Tarkowski-Mee axis is central to Burnley’s success and he’s probably the main player I’m worried about other teams trying to buy in the close-season period
- What kind of game do you expect against Liverpool?
A hard one! It’s natural that Liverpool’s levels have dropped a little since the title was secured, but that 100 per cent home record is daunting. Burnley have taken some heavy losses against the bigger teams in the league this season but we are in very good form, so we can head to Anfield in good spirits and with confidence of pulling off a shock result, even if everyone will still expect a Reds victory.