Burnley Season Preview: maturity and knowhow

Burnley stayed up by six points last season, when during their previous top flight stint, they had been relegated by five. What ingredients did the team have last term that were perhaps missing during the 14/15 relegation campaign? Supporter Robbie Coppack has the answers.

It might sound a bit cliché, but we just had a bit more maturity and knowhow on how to manage games, certainly at Turf Moor. The Crystal Palace and Everton games at home always stick in my mind when I think of examples. The final minutes of the game and you could feel the crowd getting anxious and nervous as we hang on for a point, only for us to counter attack and score the winner ourselves. I think those would be games that we would lose from our previous Premier League campaign. I think it also built a bit more belief from the crowd too that we could snatch results without really playing well.

Your away form was a negative aspect of the season, with seven points from 19 games. On the road, does the midfield need to get 15-yards further up the pitch?

I think it’s difficult to pinpoint the main problems of our results on the road. After Christmas, the performances did pick up and we did begin to get a few more plaudits however that win just never wanted to come. The game at the Emirates and our trip to Liverpool are games that I felt we never deserved to lose but did. I don’t think there was an awful lot wrong with the displays, but I think the early performances did take a toll on the players and the pressure to get that win grew from there. But to eventually get the win in a six pointer away at Crystal Palace made it feel all worth it as it all but sealed our survival.

Tom Heaton was named Supporters’ Player of the Year for 16/17. Deserved?

Probably, but any of our back five deserved it. Matt Lowton and Stephen Ward were probably two of our most consistent performers and Michael Keane and Ben Mee would put their bodies on the line in any situation and all of them deserve tremendous credit. But Tom Heaton probably just edged it due to his individual performance at Old Trafford in what was our first away point of the season, we’ve all the seen the saves so I won’t go into detail. But his saves kept us in games and some were match winning saves. His double save against Southampton at Turf Moor to deny Jay Rodriguez and then Josh Simms on the follow up is one of my favourites for Heaton’s highlight reel.

The impressive Michael Keane has left for Everton. With no centre-backs yet signed, is there an opportunity for James Tarkowski to get a run alongside Ben Mee at centre-back?

I think the club anticipated the interest in Michael Keane to grow back in the Championship season when we signed James Tarkowski from Brentford. We prepared for it so we had a readymade replacement waiting in the wings. Towards the end of the last campaign, both Keane and Mee missed the final couple of games through injury which forced us to blood Tarkowski and Kevin Long who also did very well, which probably has benefitted us in the long run as it as maybe taken the pressure off to seek reinforcements. But I think bringing in an experienced Premier League defender might just give the fans that confidence at the back again. Michael Dawson is a player that was been linked which would probably benefit us. Somebody to sit on the bench and have the experience when called upon.

Matthew Lowton had some good games last year. Has he made the right-back spot his own?

Definitely, as I mentioned above he was one of our most consistent performers last season. I had a few doubts about his ability to play at this level consistently and he more than proved me wrong, his crossing can sometimes let him down but that could be down to a lot of us comparing him to Kieran Trippier whose final ball was always 10/10. But his desire and passion has won him many plaudits and has become a bit of a fan favourite at Turf Moor.

Another full-back who finished last season in good form was Stephen Ward. Are you surprised by the signing of left-back Charlie Taylor?

Not at all, we need good competition in that area, we had Jon Flanagan on loan from Liverpool last season and many of us considered that Flanagan would be first choice left back for us, but Ward started the season there and kept it his own. Charlie Taylor looks a good fit for us. He wants to get forward and loves to put a foot in which Dyche always requires. I expect Stephen Ward to remain first choice, however long Charlie Taylor term should still develop in his shadow.

Veteran forward Jonathan Walters joins from Stoke while midfielder Jack Cork returns. With a combined 389 top flight appearances to their name, are you pleased to add Premier League experience?

With releasing Joey Barton and Paul Robinson we had to fill the void they left. I think both Walters and Cork give us something a bit different and still have plenty of years left in them to make an impact for us. We previously had Jack Cork on loan under Brian Laws and Eddie Howe and he quickly became a fan favourite and all Clarets speak of their disappointment when he joined Southampton. But to get him back will be brilliant for us. Jon Walters is probably the Oxford Dictionary definition of a Sean Dyche player. Runs around a lot, versatile, physical and will bully opposition defenders. Sean Dyche will continue to get the best out of him, I don’t expect him to score hatful of goals for us but he should make a big contribution.

Sam Vokes and Andre Gray were your two top scorers while Ashley Barnes was one of the most fouled players in the Premier League. Good seasons for your strikers?

I think so. For Sam Vokes in particularly. After missing a large chunk of the last Premier League campaign he settled into this one brilliantly. Getting a goal against Liverpool early in the season played a huge part in his confidence in carried for the rest of the season. Andre Gray’s season was a bit hit and miss, scored massive goals for us against Sunderland and Middlesbrough but the service he received for the majority of the season was very poor, therefore it felt like he never got going and he became a bit of scapegoat from fans when goals and opportunities dried up.

Aside from the aforementioned trio, nobody scored more than twice. Does the 4-4-2 Sean Dyche favours limit the goalscoring potential of the midfield?

Possibly. I don’t expect goals from our central midfielders too much, however our wider players probably need to contribute to our goal tally more. But our midfield can be so narrow it is very difficult for them to get more than a yard of space to have a shot at goal.

Your record when midfielder Steven Defour started in league and cup last year read 10 wins and two draws in 19 games. Should he have played more?

Of course, he is by far our best player but for whatever reason Sean Dyche began to lose trust in him after the New Year. He adopted him to play wide left instead of the middle which didn’t quite fit and after he went off injured against Leicester at the end of January we didn’t see him again. His future with us is a little uncertain, he’s played a fair part of pre-season games this season which makes us think that he could still be a part of Dyche’s plans this season.

What are your thoughts ahead of the Premier League season as a whole? Who do you see as your relegation rivals?

I expect Brighton and Huddersfield to be down there with us, I can see Stoke, Swansea, Watford and West Brom also to be looking over shoulders and packing it out down there.

Where will you finish?

I’m not too sure to be honest, I’ve never liked making predictions about Burnley so I can’t really say.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Keane might have left, but Burnley retain three of a strong back-four as well as inspirational keeper Heaton, whilst adding top flight experience in Walters and Cork. If the combative nature of Turf Moor displays can be maintained on the road, they might just survive again. 17th 

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