Sean Dyche has admirably led his Burnley side, with comfortably the league’s lowest budget, into every chance of survival, despite the bookmaker’s vast doubts.
Burley began the season as relegation favourites at just 1.25/1, and after twenty games that has drifted out to 1.55/1, they remain the primary choice. Even now, few outside Burnley seem to honestly believe they can stay up, which appears extremely harsh on a side who have improved as the season has progressed.
The Clarets had a terrible start, gaining just four points from 10 games, but, since their first win -a 1-0 success at home to fellow strugglers Hull – they have not looked out of place in the Premier League. Thereafter a Danny Ings double secured a first away success at Stoke, before a run that incorporated beating high-flying Southampton and four credible draws. Burnley have shown great character, equalising late against Aston Villa and more recently mounting a stunning comeback to draw 2-2 at the Etihad. The Clarets backed this up by equalising three times against Newcastle recently, with opposition manager John Carver admitting the away side deserved to win.
The contrast to their early season form is marked, with the only real disappointment being a 2-0 loss at fellow strugglers QPR. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur could only narrowly beat the Clarets, who have developed into a difficult test for the top teams. In contrast, Burnley lost four of their first 10 games this season by two goals or more, most humiliatingly going down 4-0 at fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion. The Clarets gained just four-points across this period, but have more than tripled this return, gaining 13 points from the following 10 matches. This has seen them move from rock bottom, and five points shy of escaping the relegation zone, to being inside it only on goal difference.
Sean Dyche has been a huge part of this turnaround, through trusting his methods and backing his players, who have responded magnificently. Fellow strugglers appear to already be panicking, seen by managerial changes at West Brom and Crystal Palace, with potentially Hull City and/or Leicester set to follow this trend. In contrast, Burnley will benefit from the stability of their faith in Dyche, who deserves this chance, having magnificently guided the Clarets to promotion last season. They began the campaign fifth favourites for relegation – Burnley and Dyche enjoy defying the bookmakers.
Dyche has helped his players to find the confidence that they can perform at this level, particularly offensively, where they appeared to have major problems. In early season Burnley failed to score in six successive games in all competitions. However, the Clarets have scored 12 in their last 10 games, primarily through talismanic Danny Ings, though George Boyd has also been excellent. The attacking midfielder has scored crucial goals, such as the third and final equaliser at Newcastle recently, whilst working hard to keep his defensive discipline. Boyd ran 8.1 miles on both Boxing Day against Liverpool, and just two days later against reigning champions Manchester City, and is unmatched in this regard.
Striker Ashley Barnes has eventually settled nicely into the Premier League, taking the burden off Ings by scoring an important winning goal at home to Southampton, and equalisers at the Etihad and White Hart Lane. Moreover, Burnley striker Sam Vokes, who was vital in last season’s promotion with 20 goals before a bad injury, is only now returning to add further firepower.
In summary, Burnley’s recent performances and obvious improvement suggesting definite capabilities of Premier League survival. This has been aided by an excellent manager in Sean Dyche, an improved attacking threat and players continuously gaining confidence that allows them to match the division’s best teams. The Clarets now face fellow strugglers QPR, Crystal Palace at West Brom at Turf Moor and also travel to Sunderland. By replicating their current performance levels Burnley can gain the necessary results to climb comfortably out of the drop zone. The momentum is very much with the Clarets, so you’d appear foolish to write them off anytime soon, no matter what the bookmakers might tell you.