It is not too often that there is a noticeable hush around Turf Moor in terms of incoming transfers, but a tranquil start to a window occasionally laced with freneticism is a firm indicator of how Burnley have – and, indeed, are – progressing in this, their third Premier League adventure.
Currently occupying 12th place in the table and with an FA Cup third round replay against Sunderland to look forward to, Sean Dyche can take great comfort from how his side have equipped themselves in the top flight this time around but he, more than anyone else at the club, would acknowledge that recruitment is pivotal to safeguarding Burnley’s encouraging performances in recent weeks.
In football circles, standing still is akin to moving backwards, which is why the Clarets must be proactive in their quest for players who can improve their squad. That’s not to say they aren’t – one imagines that while all on the surface seems smooth, the legs will be paddling wildly beneath – but anyone brought in to the club must be for the betterment of the team.
Quality and quantity
Lessons can be heeded from 2010, when Burnley’s January dealings saw no fewer than seven players arrive as the newly-appointed Brian Laws made his intentions clear. However, all but two his signings that winter were chronically underwhelming, with the £1.5m acquisition of defender Leon Cort, for a manager renowned for his frugality, the embodiment of their poor business.
By contrast, their transfer window of two years ago this month saw just one arrival, that of Manchester United defender Michael Keane, who was of course already with the club on loan. While nailing down his future at Turf Moor made sense, a lack of other reinforcements – particularly in central midfield – was exacerbated by injury to Dean Marney just over a week after the window had shut.
So, for 2010’s quantity, see 2015’s quality. And somewhere in the middle, one would hope, lies Burnley’s 2017 transfer dealings. Joey Barton’s official re-signing is a solid start, but the ripples in Dyche’s negotiations are expected to intensify in the coming weeks.
To identify quite where the Clarets need strengthening is to see how they are defined by what they haven’t got, rather than what they have. Perhaps unfairly labelled as a rather slow team in terms of pace, despite success through counter-attacks, Burnley’s options would be broadened by a fast wide player with an end product to match his speed.
PSV Eindhoven’s Luciano Narsingh was one name touted, although there are suggestions he is bound for Swansea City. But being linked with Narsingh alone must breed confidence for a club who, up until Steven Defour’s arrival, did not have a great track record with foreign players: the last five players Burnley have signed from clubs overseas are Rouwen Hennings, Jelle Vossen, Fredrik Ulvestad, Danijel Nizic and Dane Richards.
But Claret fans have seen enough of Defour’s subsequent performances to be encouraged by links to European players, with chairman Mike Garlick openly stating in the past that such avenues could not be traversed without sufficient funding. The financial incentives on offer in the Premier League for foreign players, even at a destination deemed as unfanciful as Burnley, mean they cannot be entirely ignored.
Elsewhere, Dyche may be eyeing up a move for a striker, given that the Clarets are one Patrick Bamford away from finishing this 2016/17 Premier League season with a nearly identical trio of strikers with which they finished the 2013/14 Championship season. Chelsea loanee Bamford has featured little and he, along with Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan, face reviews on their brief spells in East Lancashire.
Burnley’s defence – forged upon Manchester club graduates, United’s Keane and City’s Ben Mee – extends to another Mancunian, James Tarkowski, before there is a sizeable chasm in quality to Kevin Long. It is not a quartet that evokes thoughts of experience (Mee is the eldest at 27) and, while age is no guarantee of success, would a short-term deal for Southampton’s wantaway Jose Fonte really be so ill-advised?
Prudence is a high priority
So as is the challenge for every other club looking to do business in January, it is about securing the right player for the right price, and integrating them as swiftly and seamlessly as possible. Defour, for example, only completed 90 minutes for the first time since his arrival at the club against Sunderland on Saturday – that’s despite completing three of his four games for RSC Anderlecht this season prior to his move.
While focus understandably leans towards incomings, any arrivals are likely to be offset by departures. Striker Lukas Jutkiewicz has already left for Birmingham City; left-back Daniel Lafferty is close to finalising a move to Sheffield United. These are the realities of preparing for a sustained title at Premier League life; it is a survival of the fittest, and the best, and room for sentiment is scarce.
Work will be ongoing behind the scenes at Turf Moor as Dyche identifies areas for improvement within his side. Burnley must straddle the fine line between being too careless with their money, and too parsimonious when it comes to bidding for other players which, as it happens, has hindered the Clarets previously. But one can be sure that while all remains serene on the pitch, sleeves will be rolled up beyond off it.