Burnley at a glance:
Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 2 (Last: 1959/60)
FA Cups: 1 (1913/14)
League Cups: 0 (best finish: semifinals four times)
FA Community Shield: 2 (last: 1973)
Top Four finishes: 11 (last: 1965/66)
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The ultimate goal for every club, top to bottom, should be tangible improvement. Nobody wants to step backwards, whether it means relegation or otherwise.
So here Burnley sits, after its most successful season in club history with a 7th place finish in the Premier League table last season, qualifying them for this year’s now-underway Europa League campaign. Where do they go from here? What are reasonable expectations?
The Clarets were hard to get a bead on last year, going through numerous winning and winless streaks. Still, Sean Dyche was rightfully lauded for his leadership and organization that kept Burnley compact and defensive-minded yet still able to poach a goal or two up front.
Still, there are worrying signs. The squad is navigating a potentially dangerous Europa League qualification campaign that threatens to derail the early portion of the league season as it has to so many other mid-table Premier League clubs. On top of that, the club hasn’t purchased a single player this transfer window, a precarious position for a team in desperate need of depth. Will Burnley stake its claim as a consistent top-half contender, or will they fade after a one-season fling?
Burnley will repeat last year because….they have Sean Dyche. The manager has warded off interest from bigger clubs to continue leading the Clarets, and if anyone can protect this squad from overuse in the first half of the season its the 47-year-old former Premier League defender. He’s a first-class manager, and will do everything in his power to lead this team through the inevitable low points to keep them in a contending position.
Burnley will end up fighting relegation because….the squad is just too thin. They have not added a single player this transfer window, while newly promoted sides get better every summer day. They always say if you’re standing still you’re falling behind, and with the Europa League sapping players of their summer rest and energy required to compete in the long Premier League season, this squad could be in real trouble. Star goalkeeper Nick Pope has already gone down with a 3-month long injury while playing in Europe, while midfield rock Steven Defour recovers from a calf strain suffered in early preseason training. If they take more hits to important pieces, things could go downhill fast.
Best possible XI:
Transfers In: NONE
Transfers Out: Dean Marney (Fleetwood Town, free), Chris Long (Fleetwood Town, free), Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers, free), Scott Arfield (Rangers, free).
Ranking their offseason: D+
Burnley narrowly avoids a failing grade this window for keeping James Tarkowski despite a wave of interest from the bigger clubs after a stellar season at the back last campaign. However, failing to add anyone to this point despite a Europa League campaign is downright unacceptable. Sean Dyche plays the unfair prices card, but the club earned a total of $156 million from its seventh place finish last year, rendering the excuse untenable. Burnley has been rebuffed most notable in a bid for West Brom pair Jay Rodriguez and Craig Dawson, but otherwise the club has barely even registered among the rumor mill. It’s worrying to say the least.
Star player: Only on Burnley would the star player be a center-back, but that’s most certainly the case. Tarkowski had a fabulous season last year, topping the Premier League charts in multiple defensive metrics. It’s stunning that, at age 25, Burnley has been able to ward off all suitors rather than cash in, but the Clarets have managed not only to keep Tarkowski aboard, but wipe his name almost completely out of the rumors completely; an English defender in his prime commands top dollar in today’s market. He has the talent to crack the England national team at their deep center-back position if he continues to play this well.
Coach’s Corner: Sean Dyche is a star and no matter what happens to Burnley this season, he is destined for a step up sooner or later. His loyalty to Burnley to this point has been admirable, and it’s only a matter of time before he earns a move elsewhere in the Premier League. If Burnley sinks this league season, it likely won’t hurt his stock. Dyche’s ability to neutralize an opponent’s strength has been proven time and again, grabbing points last season in matches against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool, among others.
PST Predicts: It’s crazy to bet against Dyche, but it’s also hard to overlook the failed transfer market. It would be sad to see such a likeable club relegated to the Championship, and that seems to be an extreme result, but Burnley could most certainly end up sucked into a battle. Ultimately, they should hang on to their safety, but it’s likely only downhill from last year’s result. A 14th or 15th placed finish seems about right for this season’s finish.