16th position. Relegation avoided. Decent. All phrases associated with Burnley’s 2016/17 Premier League season where they finished six points above the relegation zone, winning eleven, drawing seven and losing 20. Fast forward to this season and already after 17 games they have almost equaled last season’s total number of wins, having already won nine games. The Clarets currently find themselves sitting pretty in sixth.
While it’s far too early to give a comprehensive review of this Burnley side’s credentials, it is safe to say they have drastically improved this season under, as ever, the excellent tutelage of Sean Dyche.
Losing only four times this season, Burnley are already within nine points of their total at the end of last season. It is a testament to the resilience of this Burnley team that they have the third best defensive record in the league, behind only Manchester United and Manchester City.
They have conceded only 12 goals in 17 Premier League games so far this season. Amazing when you consider they finished last season with a goal difference of -16. Whilst they have struggled up front, scoring only 16 goals so far, it matters little when you can rely on the likes of James Tarkowski and Stephen Ward (now injured), who have both been in fine form this season. Chris Wood has provided the main threat up top, scoring four goals to date in the Premier League.
The real mastermind though is Dyche. Affectionately referred to by fans, as the ‘Ginger Mourinho’, it’s not hard to see why the comparisons are made, however tongue-in-cheek they might be intended to be. The rigid defensive style he employs is Mourinho-esque and makes Burnley an incredibly tough team to break down. It’s a credit to Dyche, that even following relegation in the 2014/15 season, he was able to ensure his team bounced back to the Premier League ranks at the first time of asking, finishing second in the Championship.
Since then it can only be said Burnley have enjoyed an upward trajectory, from a 16th place finish last season, to their current position of 6th. For the rest of the season, many questions will be asked of this Burnley team. Will their defence be able to keep up their current performances? Will their strikers find form? And, most crucially perhaps, Will they be able to deal without their current injuries?
With the likes of Robbie Brady, who had been in fine form, set to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury and the recent loss of Stephen Ward, it will be up to some of the fringe players to slot in and adapt. With Dyche at the helm though, fans of the Clarets shouldn’t be too fearful, as he has shown he is able to get the best out of any players at his disposal.
While 6th position may be absolute dreamland for Burnley supporters, any finish in the top half of the table should scream success for a team with such limited resources. A solid 8th place position should be well within their grasp, should they maintain current form.
With the addition of a few fresh faces in January, who knows, Europe may come a-calling for this impressive Burnley side.