Rewind 12 months and Burnley were embarking upon their second successive season in the Premier League. Many pundits predicted a difficult campaign in store, with many citing the potential for the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ to affect The Clarets’ fortunes.
There was also the case that Burnley would not be able to sustain their remarkable home form from the previous campaign, and that their poor away record in England's top-flight could leave them vulnerable to relegation.
However, much to the contrary, Sean Dyche’s men defied the expectations of even the most optimistic Burnley supporters. A phenomenal first half the season saw them win at Chelsea, Everton, Southampton and Bournemouth, as well as collecting draws at Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
After a 1-0 win at home to Stoke City in late December Burnley, for 24 hours, sat in fourth place above the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.
A run of eleven games without a win, as the new year began, was a stark reminder of how tough the Premier League can be. However, a 2-1 comeback win at home to Everton ended the drought and sparked a run of five successive wins.
That run clinched seventh place and European qualification for the first time in 51 years.
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European football has led to an early start to Burnley’s season
European qualification has seen Burnley start the season unusually early. The Clarets eventually secured a 4-2 aggregate victory against Aberdeen but were pushed all the way to extra time in the second leg, after 1-1 draws in both legs.
Injuries to the likes of Robbie Brady, Steven Defour, Tom Heaton, Nick Pope and Chris Wood during pre-season, as well as the departures of Dean Marney and Scott Arfield have left Dyche’s squad thin for the start of the season.
However, the additions of Joe Hart, Ben Gibson and Matej Vydra in the last week have boosted the squad and lifted the mood around Turf Moor, after what had been looking like a frustrating transfer window.
Will European football impact Burnley’s season?
The Europa League will require Burnley to play more matches, although they will have to overcome two more ties to reach the group stage. Although most of the squad have experienced playing midweek games in the Championship, it will still be intriguing to see how Burnley cope with European football.
A good start to the season is imperative to quell the talk of European football negatively affecting Burnley’s Premier League campaign. Dyche’s side will continue to work very hard and aim to be very difficult to beat, with enough quality to create the chances required to win matches.
It will be important for Burnley to get the likes of Brady, Steven Defour, Wood and Heaton back from injury as quickly as possible.
With those players fit, Dyche’s squad looks strong enough to at least keep them away from any relegation worries, and could even see them defy expectations once again.