2016/17 Burnley Season Preview

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2015/16: Championship winners

Burnley were promoted to the Premier League for the second time in three years last season. Sean Dyche‘s men were promoted in 2014, after finishing 2nd in the Championship – last year the Clarets went one better. Burnley clinched the title on the final day away to Charlton after sealing promotion a week earlier. The side beat Middlesbrough and Brighton to the title last season after an exhilarating title race. Their promotion ensured that the Clarets would have a third attempt in the Premier League. Their previous two attempts had ended in disappointment with relegations in 2010 and 2015.

Last season was a truly memorable one for the Clarets as they won the Championship by four points. After just two points from a possible nine to start their season, their fortunes soon changed as they lost just one of their next fifteen. A rocky period around Christmas saw Burnley win just two of their six games in December. However, their fortunes changed again massively as the Clarets went unbeaten in 23 matches, a run that propelled them from fifth to Champions. Memorable wins included a 5-0 away hammering of MK Dons and doing the double over local rivals Blackburn. Andre Gray‘s 23 goals helped secure Burnley’s promotion, with the striker also getting eight assists.

Manager: Sean Dyche

The club’s board struck gold when they opted to keep the talented English manager following the side’s relegation in 2015. The 45-year-old has transformed Burnley since taking over in 2012. He has overseen two promotions for the club to the Premier League in the past three years. Dyche very much has the backing of the Burnley faithful – with them nicknaming him “The Ginger Mourinho” . The only problem Burnley have in Dyche is his lack of Premier League experience. The manager has spent just one year managing in the top flight of English football. This is in contrast to potential relegation rivals such as Sunderland and West Brom, who have highly experienced bosses in David Moyes and Tony Pulis. Another problem for Dyche is Burnley’s lack of investment this summer, with the manager claiming the Burnley need to add to their squad.

Positives from last season

For Burnley fans there were numerous positives. The club gained a record-equalling number of points in the second tier and went one further than previously, winning the Championship title. The Clarets’ home form last season was sensational as they lost just twice in the 23 games. Furthermore, their away form wasn’t bad, as they lost just three times on the road. Burnley are also a threat from set pieces, with over a quarter of their goals coming from them. The performance of star striker Andre Gray was also a massive positive for the Lancashire club. The 25-year-old striker scored 23 goals and provided a further eight assists last season. His strike partner Sam Vokes has not had much success in the Premier League with Wolves and Burnley due to injury. However, he developed a deadly partnership with Gray in the Championship last season. The 26-year-old had a successful Euro 2016 campaign with Wales, scoring an unforgettable header in Wales’ magnificent 3-1 win over Belgium in the Quarter-Finals.

Weaknesses from last season

It is difficult to find many weaknesses in last year’s title-winning campaign. However, a big miss will be Joey Barton in the centre of midfield for the Clarets. The 33-year-old was the club’s player of the season last season but has left for Scottish Premiership club Rangers. The void left by Barton’s departure will almost certainly be felt, especially in such a vital position, and the Clarets will have to find a replacement.

Furthermore, the club’s unwillingness to spend so far this summer may cost them dearly. The club were on a shoe-string budget last time out in the Premier League but now have more funds that must be utilised or a return to the Championship may be on the cards.

Another problem is a lack of Premier League experience in the squad. Joey Barton could have been very useful with his experience in the Premier League and his loss will certainly be felt. The talent in the squad is there but it is laden with players without much top-flight experience.

Pre-season progress

The clarets have had a successful pre-season so far winning four of their five games. However, the opponents haven’t been too difficult. They began with a 3-1 win over third-tier Swiss club Stade Nyonnais. This was followed by wins over Bolton and Bradford, as well as a draw at Morecambe. Burnley’s final pre-season game saw the Clarets reunite with Joey Barton as they defeated Rangers 3-1 at Ibrox courtesy of an Andre Gray hat-trick.

Key players

As previously stated, the striker partnership of Andre Gray and Sam Vokes will be crucial to the Clarets this season. In their previous Premier League campaign, the club scored just 28 goals in 38 matches. It is vital that Gray and Vokes remain fit and on form to stop a repeat of this worrying figure.

Ben Mee is another player who will be key to Burnley this season. The defender was outstanding last season and rarely got the plaudits he deserved. The 26-year-old will provide a stern test to opponents next season.

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton will also be invaluable to the Clarets next season. His exceptional form last season saw the 30-year-old saw him called up to England’s Euros squad in place of the injured Jack Butland. The goalkeeper kept the joint most clean-sheets last season with an impressive figure of twenty.

Key matches

It is an overused cliche for promoted team but for Burnley every game is crucial next season. The Clarets have to focus on getting as much points at home as possible to help secure their safety. Burnley will be focused on gaining scalps against the heavyweights of Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal etc. However, they have to prioritise getting points off relegation rivals. The Clarets play three potential relegation rivals in Crystal Palace, West Brom and Bournemouth in their final four games and this could be absolutely crucial.

Predicted finish this season: 17th

If Burnley can bring in a couple more quality players they have a very good chance to stay up. With Andre Gray and Sam Vokes leading the lines goals should be less of a problem for the Clarets in the Premier League now. A dominating central midfielder, to replace Joey Barton, would certainly help the clarets bid to stay up. However, if a few more recruitments are not made Burnley could face a very difficult campaign.