Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Burnley were one of the biggest success stories of the 2017/18 season, securing their highest ever Premier League finish to claim 7th spot and a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.
The Clarets’ league campaign was undeniably outstanding, though statisticians and analysts will tell you that by a number of metrics, Burnley probably shouldn’t have finished anywhere near as high as they did.
Burnley had the Premier League’s lowest average pass success rate per game last season, completing just 70.5% of their passes in their 38 fixtures. Only 5 clubs had fewer average attempts on goal per game than Burnley (9.9) and at the other end only relegated Stoke City (15.2) allowed more shots on their goal on average per game than the Clarets (15).
Those numbers won’t be a source of too much consternation for manager Sean Dyche however. Dyche has assembled a hard-nosed, tenacious squad at Turf Moor, where Burnley’s ranks are swollen to bursting with characters carved out of wood.
The Clarets base their game around efficient simplicity and collective endeavour – a combination that has proved very difficult to combat. Nevertheless, emulating their 7th placed finish of last season could prove tricky this time around.
Position last season: 7th
Top scorer: Chris Wood – 10 goals.
Dean Marney – Released
Scott Arfield – Rangers (Free)
Tom Anderson – Doncaster (Free)
Chris Long – Released
Josh Ginnelly – Released
Conor Mitchell – St Johnstone (on loan)
Aiden Stone – Lancaster City (on loan)
Player to Watch
Manchester-born James Tarkowski established himself as one of the most well-rounded centre backs in the Premier League last season. The 25-year old’s performances earned him a callup to Gareth Southgate’s England squad in March, though he failed to avoid the cull before the World Cup. Another impressive season for Tarkowski in 2018/19 could see the league’s bigger clubs start to circle.
The Season Ahead
While a good number of regular top-end Premier League finishers view the Europa League as a bit of a nuisance, Burnley will welcome the continental adventure with open arms. Competing at European level for the first time in 51 years, Burnley will be desperate to go as far as they can in the 2017/18 Europa League.
But as exciting an opportunity this is for Burnley, playing European football also brings with it a whole host of complications and distractions to contend with. With one of the smaller squads in the Premier League, Burnley may find it tough to juggle their domestic and European commitments.
The Clarets have played their first Europa League match, drawing 1-1 in Aberdeen in the first leg of their Second Round qualification tie. Should the Clarets qualify for the competition proper, it will be interesting to see how they cope with the burden of playing multiple mid-week fixtures in 2018/19.
Where will the goals come from?
In the 2017/18 Premier League season, only 5 clubs scored fewer goals than Burnley. The Clarets averaged just 0.9 goals per game last term and they were comfortably the lowest scorers from the top 14 sides in the division.
Of course, those poor numbers were offset by Burnley’s phenomenal defensive figures, where they conceded fewer goals than every other club outside the top 5, though Sean Dyche will still hope for a major improvement in attacking areas.
However, looking at the Burnley squad, it’s difficult to identify where that improvement will come from. The Clarets will bank on last year’s top goalscorer Chris Wood steering clear of injury this season. The centre forward missed 14 games with foot and knee injuries. A fit Chris Woods would certainly enhance the team’s goal output.
With time rapidly running out to get business done, Burnley have yet to make any significant moves in the transfer market. The Clarets were expected to strengthen ahead of what promises to be a demanding season with the extra rigours of European football, but Sean Dyche has yet to add a single new face to his playing staff.
Currently, Burnley have one of the oldest squads in the Premier League with an average age of 28.6. The lack of regeneration in their ranks is bound to be a major worry for their supporters. The Clarets turned a profit on transfers last summer and forked out just £1.3m to sign Aaron Lennon in the January transfer window.
Heading into their 3rd successive season as a Premier League club, financial restraints shouldn’t be holding Burnley back in the market and it seems strange that they haven’t been more active than they have. Their reluctance or inability to strengthen could result in a much more difficult season for the Clarets.
European distractions and a hesitancy in the transfer market should conspire to make life very difficult for Burnley this season. While any predictions of a relegation battle would be farfetched, thoughts of another 7th placed finish feel equally outlandish.
The most likely scenario sees Burnley slip down the league into mid-table limbo, with the Clarets finishing anywhere between 10th and 14th.
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