Where do Burnley need to improve before their European adventure?

Where do Burnley need to improve before their European adventure?

The Clarets have qualified for the Europa League but have one of the smallest squads in the Premier League.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

A successful 2017-18 campaign that resulted in Burnley qualifying for Europe may have only just concluded but there is no doubting that manager Sean Dyche would have already turned his attention to recruitment for a busy summer.

With the added pulling power of Europa League football beginning as early as late July, where do they need to improve before a potential flurry of midweek fixtures adds to their schedule?

More strength in depth at the back

An incredible season has been built upon an organised defence that ended the season with the sixth best defensive record in the top-flight. Nick Pope enjoyed a remarkable campaign that could see him take a place on the plane for the World Cup, deputising for club captain Tom Heaton who will return for the start of the next season.

James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have also found themselves talked about for Gareth Southgate's squad, with the former making his international debut in the Spring. Supported by the likes of Stephen Ward and Matt Lowton at full-back, Burnley's first-choice back four is very strong.

Yet it is when any of those players have been injured that gaps have appeared. Charlie Taylor and Phil Bardsley have failed to look completely solid in wide areas, whilst Kevin Long has made a handful of errors in central positions.

It is the heart of the defence that definitely requires greater numbers. Robert Huth might be the wrong side of 30 but brings a wealth of experience and is set to be available on a free transfer, as are James Collins, Damien Delaney, Miguel Britos and Gareth McAuley, with the latter a shining light in a poor season for the Baggies.

With Taylor and Bardsley failing to impress when deputising, Dyche may also be tempted to bring another full-back in with a tasty arrangement of free transfers likely to be available. Luke Shaw would be a great option with a point to prove after being frozen out by Jose Mourinho, whilst Joel Ward, Chris Brunt and Glen Johnson are also potentially going to be without a club in July.

If Fulham fail to get promoted, you would also expect teenage sensation ​Ryan Sessegnon to be prized away and Dyche could look to use the extra money for finishing seventh to bring the starlet to Turf Moor if he is not priced out of a deal.

Creative influences required

Burnley's midfield have been impressively organised all season, inspired by the likes of Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Steven Defour and Jack Cork in particular. Robbie Brady is set to return from a lengthy injury but Scott Arfield and Dean Marney have left the club and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou probably has not done enough to seal a permanent deal.

One area Burnley have lacked this season is a creative force in attacking midfield with Jeff Hendrick failing to consistently make the grade. Like Sessegnon, Tom Cairney could provide a worthwhile punt from Fulham whilst Yohann Cabaye, James Morrison and Sung-Yong Ki providing alternative options. Could Santi Cazorla even be prized away as his contract runs out and he looks to rekindle his career?

Cork has been impressive at the base of midfield but the Clarets would benefit from a more combative figure. James McArthur would fit the Burnley mould perfectly and would be an ideal signing.

In attack, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes have both hit double figures, whilst Sam Vokes has been a regular goalscorer from the bench. Yet the Clarets need more firepower after scoring fewer goals than all but five Premier League teams. Strike duo and summer signings Jon Walters and Nakhi Wells have barely featured this season.

Bobby Reid could provide an interesting option from Bristol City whilst the likes of Jarrod Bowen and James Maddison are exciting Championship starlets who can play in the number ten roles, supporting the likes of Wood and Barnes adequately. Could Jay Rodriguez also be tempted to return to Turf Moor after scoring eleven goals this season?

Who would I sign?

IN: Robert Huth, Luke Shaw, Sung-Yong Ki, James McArthur, Jarrod Bowen, Jay Rodriguez

OUT: Dean Marney, Scott Arfield, Jon Walters, Phil Bardsley

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