Football

Burnley face tough season on Premier League return

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On the back of a strong season in the Championship during which they lost the least games (just five), conceded the fewest goals (37) and boasted the second best goal difference, Burnley return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1976.

Following an almost two-month spell at the top of the table from October to late November, they found themselves knocked off by a rampant Leicester and saw out the season fighting off stiff competition from Derby County and QPR to finish strongly in second.

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With one of the smallest transfer budgets in the league and a small squad bolstered mainly by free transfers, manager Sean Dyche has managed to implement a system of sheer determination and unceasing effort, backed by the vigorous support of the club's passionate fan base.

They may not be the fanciest outfit playing in the Premier League this coming season, nor the highest quality, but they will certainly fight for every game with a tenacious attitude and could go on to surprise a few.

Squad Analysis

Burnley operate with a small but highly motivated squad, due to their lack of funds, which worked well in the Championship. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton had a superb season, dominating his penalty area and making a number of important saves, having seemingly found his comfort zone having found himself at nine different clubs throughout his career.

Unless the club bring in anybody new, then he will operate as the unchallenged number one, with his presence between the sticks being instrumental in dealing with the vicious finishing of the Premier League elite. 

Burnley's defence is particularly strong, demonstrated by conceding the fewest goals in the league last season. Captain Jason Shackell led a defensive line that rarely crumbled, while young right-back Kieran Trippier received praise for his work-rate and maturity.

There is no doubt the defence will struggle more this year but their emphasis on maintaining a structured and determined line is not only commendable, but will also become an absolute necessity once they face the stronger teams in the league.

Perhaps the most impressive players for Burnley last season were their strikers, with Player of the Year Sam Vokes and Player's Player of the Year Danny Ings scoring 47 goals between them in all competitions. At just 24 and 22 years old respectively, both are developing all the time and should easily adapt to the demanding pressure of the Premier League.

The biggest issue is that other clubs could soon take notice should they continue their terrific form in the Premier League.

The downside to Burnley's squad is its' small size. Rotation is important in the Premier League and they could find they lack the players required to play efficiently in the league, as well as the cups.

Transfers

To help increase the size of his squad, Dyche has brought in some talented players this transfer window - many with Premier League experience. Michael Kightly joins permanently having spent the previous season on loan with the club and will continue to provide experience, goals and dependability.

Ex-Premier League duo Matthew Taylor and Steven Reid have both arrived for free (from West Ham and West Brom respectively) in order to provide back-up and top-flight experience. However, it is up front that Burnley have really made a breakthrough, bringing in the highly rated Marvin Sordell from Bolton and Lukas Jutkiewicz from Middlesbrough.

Both have had Premier League experience and will help provide back-up for Vokes and Ings. While their new signings are not particularly exciting or revolutionary, they are all experienced and will help flesh out Burnley's small squad.

Pre-Season

Burnley have had a decent pre-season, having won three, drawn one and lost one, with one match still to play. A resounding 8-0 victory over Austrian outfit Großklein saw new forwards Sordell and Jutkiewicz capture a brace each. A tight 1-0 victory over Accrington Stanley was then followed by a disappointing defeat to League One side Preston, who came from behind to snatch a late winner.

Sordell grabbed another goal to dispose of Blackpool, who had been forced to play with nine trialists in their squad, before Jutkiewicz scored another two in a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo. It has not been a bad pre-season, with the new signings demonstrating their skills early on, but the level of competition will be raised immensely when the newly-promoted team begin life in the Premier League with a tough fixture at home to Chelsea.

Summary and Prediction

Burnley, with their small but determined squad could very well prove difficult to overcome in many matches this season. Their recent acquisitions are either highly experienced or highly promising and all have had some form of Premier League experience - a necessity if they want to challenge for survival.

Their form last season was superb and promotion far exceeded expectations, but they may well struggle to cope with the financial power and talent of the established Premier League teams.

It seems unlikely they will be able to avoid relegation, simply due to the talent available to many clubs in the Premier League, as well as their weak financial power. They will fight for every point and could win a few surprise victories, but they simply lack the quality and squad depth required to compete at Premier League level.

Sheer determination will only take them so far before they are overwhelmed by the incredible talent on show in the top flight.

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Topics:
Premier League
Football

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