Burnley manager Sean Dyche achieved a feat that hadn’t been accomplished at the club in the Premier League era: Survival.
The club managed to stay up, surviving relegation by six points with a 40 point total in 2017, giving Dyche and Burnley a second-consecutive season in the Premier League. The last two times the club had been in the Premier League, in 2009-2010 and 2014-2015, it had gone straight down.
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The goal again this season will be survival, and considering the signings made, Dyche is more worried about his defense than signing a striker who can create a moment of magic that could excite fans and lift the team on the field.
After selling top centerback Michael Keane to Everton in a big-money move, it will be difficult to see Burnley remain in the Premier League, but Dyche is an expert motivator and tactician, and it’s expected that Burnley will be fighting for a top-17 place in the table until the last day of the season.
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Best, worst case scenario: Burnley will finish 15th after improving its defensive form and finding a new scoring outlet other than Sam Vokes, or seeing Vokes have a breakout year with 15 or more goals. More likely, Burnley will sit in the relegation zone for most of the season, and it will be a mental grind to see if they have what it takes to pick up important points.
Best possible XI is…
—– Heaton —–
— Bardsley — Long — Tarkowski — Mee —
—- Gudmundsson —- Cork —- Defour —- Brady —-
—– Vokes —– Gray —–
– 16th place in Premier League
– Second round of EFL Cup
– Fifth round of 2016-17 FA Cup
Star player: Tom Heaton – The 31-year-old goalkeeper was once again Burnley’s savior, producing many fine saves and keeping the club in a position to stay up. Heaton, who’s form has lifted him into the England National Team squad, earned 10 clean sheets and 11 wins last season along with 141 saves including one on a penalty kick. With such an inexperienced and light defense, Heaton will be as important as ever this season if Burnley wants to stay in the Premier League.
Coaches’ Corner: One of the few English managers in the Premier League, Burnley’s management has shown tremendous faith in the former centerback, sticking with him when the team was relegated from the Premier League in 2015 all the way through now. Dyche has a knack for organizing his team tactically to make them tough to break down, but at times last year when they were broken, the floodgates were open. Dyche will have another rough challenge on his hands this season, and he’ll need to guide his team mentally through the grind of the Premier League.
PST predicts: Burnley will have a tough time dealing with the loss of Michael Keane from the backline, as well as facing the other sides, many of which have improved more this offseason. The club will likely be in the relegation dog fight all season long, but if the team can improve its road form, they can have a path to survival, provided the club’s home form remains the same.