What a story is developing in the Premier League, as Burnley continue to go from strength to strength under Sean Dyche in the top flight, gatecrashing the division’s ‘big six’ this season and looking increasingly like an outfit capable of mounting the most unlikely challenges for European football.
Following promotion from the Championship in the summer of 2016, survival was Burnley’s sole focus during the 2016/17 season – something that they went on to achieve. For all the world it looked as though Burnley’s second season in the Premier League would be made difficult, particularly after the high-profile departures of Michael Keane and Andre Gray over the summer.
Of course, Burnley strengthened, with Chris Wood’s arrival from Leeds United breaking the club’s record transfer fee. However, it has not been the New Zealand international and his goalscoring that has been most impressive at Turf Moor this season, it has been the club’s incredible defensive record.
Burnley are keeping plenty of clean sheets even in Keane’s absence, with Dyche’s side defensively solid, which is reflected in their results, with Burnley keeping their eighth clean sheet of the season in December’s 1-0 victory over Stoke City. Following that victory, Burnley’s record stood at 16 goals for and incredibly just 12 against, which was only bettered by Manchester City and United – the division’s top two.
Just three of Burnley’s fixtures before the clash with Stoke had seen more than 2.5 goals scored, with tipsters and other bookmakers often highlighting the low-scoring affairs Dyche’s team are often involved in, with Oddschecker’s betting tips page suggesting so in their preview of the clash between the Clarets and Stoke in December.
Two of those fixtures finishing with above 2.5 goals came against Manchester City and Chelsea, two of the division’s top-four hopefuls. Burnley were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by City, but put in a spirited display, which earned them plenty of credit.
Perhaps a clearer factor of how far Dyche’s side have come was against Chelsea – albeit on the opening day of the season. Many were expecting to see Burnley struggle this year, but they produced a stunning display to beat the Blues 3-2 at Stamford Bridge, to lay down what was an early marker in the Premier League season.
There is a long way to go in the Premier League season and over the festive period, many will expect Burnley to slide down the table, but what has been refreshing to see, is Dyche’s side move into the top-four, albeit temporarily, following a standard 1-0 victory over Stoke.
The challenge for Burnley is to remain in contention, but whatever happens from now, Dyche and his side deserve huge credit.