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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Burnley

Andy Jones of The Athletic on The Claret's season so far

29 October 2021

Burnley have taken three points from their last four games but, having played nine already, they still await their first win and are in the relegation zone as a result. What have you made of what you’ve seen so far?

It has been interesting because, generally, the performance have been quite good - certainly Sean Dyche and the players have thought that anyway and there is still a positive mood around the training ground about what they are doing. But there have been no wins and that’s the problem at the moment; despite playing well, they aren’t converting those performances into victories. That can be a bit concerning as you want to get points on the board early and the longer you have to wait for that first win, the more pressure that builds. It is heading in the right direction but there are just little periods in games where they seem to switch off. The players and coaching staff are aware of it and they are trying to fix that but, for some reason, it hasn’t quite clicked yet. Generally, there’s a confidence that it is going to start turning, results are going to head in the right direction and that first win is just around the corner.

Without sounding too negative this early on, at the same point last season, the Clarets had five points on the board and went on to finish one place above the bottom three. Do you think they are gearing up for another battle against the drop this term?

It does look like they are going to be battling for survival again. When you don’t get that first win for a long time, you fall into the bottom three and other teams can pull away. But Burnley don’t seem to start the season very well and they have been here before, other than a few exceptions, and I think that’s why the confidence remains in the group that they will have enough to survive and be fine in the end. In 2018/19, they had 12 points after 19 games, but turned it round and still reached the 40-point mark, which is always their target. It has been a tough start and results haven’t gone the way they will have wanted or hoped. They are getting ahead in games, they just need to put that full 90-minute performance together. They might not be able to pull away from the relegation battle because I think they are going to be in it; we don’t know what January is going to bring, but with the Newcastle takeover, they probably aren’t going to be involved. There’s still that belief that they will have enough to finish above three teams this season.

You have recently written about how ex-Brentford defender James Tarkowski looks set to leave the club next year when his contract expires. How important a player has he been for Burnley over the last five years?

He has been massive and it has been really enjoyable to watch his development. When he came in from Brentford, he had to wait a bit of time to get his chance, with Michael Keane partnering Ben Mee in defence initially. Once Keane moved on, Tarkowski seamlessly fitted in and didn’t look out of place. He has just built on that since, to the point where he is one of Burnley’s most important players; with the exception of a rare mistake against Southampton, he has been one of the best this season. Regarding his future, if you didn’t know his contract situation, you wouldn’t guess that he could possibly leave in the summer. He loves playing for the club, he loves playing for Sean Dyche, he loves the dressing room and he wants to do as well as possible for Burnley. He also doesn’t want to leave on a sour note, so is as committed as ever. He is vice-captain, too, so has stepped up when Mee has been out recently and his leadership has improved. I just really enjoy watching him, with the way he reads the game, the way he puts his body on the line and he needs to continue that form to help Burnley get more clean sheets like they have in past seasons and hopefully that can be a key ingredient in getting more victories.

Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on on Saturday afternoon?

Maxwel Cornet is the man of the moment. He came in from Lyon in the summer and was a signing that went against the trend for Burnley as he has Champions League pedigree and is not the type of player they have been bringing in in recent seasons. That was partly down to the new owners and their outlook on transfers, trying to tap into the overseas market, whereas the former board were looking for less risky moves, I guess. He has been superb; all you have to do is look at his performance against Southampton. He has scored three goals in three starts, two of which have been world class strikes, so he is capable of pulling something out of the bag and being a difference-maker. He adds something different in that he has got natural, raw pace and Dyche really likes the way he can stretch the pitch and play on the shoulder of the last man and open up different avenues. He’s already a cult hero with the fans and has looked like Burnley’s biggest threat in the past few weeks.

How is Sean Dyche likely to set up his side at Turf Moor?

It will be an interesting one as he has been quite flexible recently. It has been 4-4-2 for a number of seasons, but the introduction of Cornet has changed that and while the squad is relatively fit, it’s a decision made on a game-by-game basis. He went 4-5-1 against Southampton, with Josh Brownhill as the No 10, Cornet on the left, Dwight McNeil on the right and it may well be that setup again, but there were a few defensive problems with that.

What’s your score prediction for the first meeting between the two sides since 2016?

Burnley haven’t won at home in the league since January, so that record doesn’t give me supreme confidence. But I am going to back them in this one because it’s a game they need to win, so I’m going to go 2-1.

Tickets for Saturday's game are off sale. Brentford fans that cannot attend can listen live on BeesPlayer


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