Replenish, refocus and reassess: A crucial fortnight ahead for the Clarets

Replenish, refocus and reassess: A crucial fortnight ahead for the Clarets

Burnley will be looking to find some form after the international break following a disappointing start to the season.

Chris Lincoln

Out of Europe and stranded in the relegation zone, it is safe to say that Burnley’s campaign has not started as well as they would have wished.

However, whilst September is certainly too early to nail down the three sides who will face the drop, the next few weeks could be critical to the Clarets’ campaign with fixtures against Wolves, Bournemouth, Cardiff and Huddersfield.

Replenish - "now we'll reboot and restart"

The international break has come just at the right time for Sean Dyche’s side who have crammed ten competitive fixtures into a six-week period that have included long trips to Athens and Istanbul.

Fortunately for the Burnley manager, the majority of his squad will not be on international duty during the next fortnight. It will allow an opportunity for his players to recover both mentally and physically but also adjust tactically with problems at either end of the pitch.

He told the Burnley website: “We’re at game 10 already, with 16 or 17 outfield players for most of that period. That’s been a challenge, albeit a good one.

Now we’ll reboot and restart. We have a couple of weeks, when a few of the players will go away on international duty, but for the rest they can, at last, take a breather and work out what’s been going on…the players are close to something, but we have to tidy up at both ends.”

The Clarets have conceded nine and none of their strikers have scored in their opening four league games.

Refocus - time for change?

Preparation for the upcoming fixtures that include matches against two sides promoted from the Championship last season and another two expected to be fighting the drop should be aligned with a bold philosophy.

When Joe Hart signed for £3.5 million in the summer, there was much debate over who would take the gloves in the absence of Nick Pope. Hart had been given the vote of confidence in league matches but conceded another goal from a cross against Manchester United on Sunday – when you are struggling at the foot of the table, teams need a dominant figure in goal so it could be time to give club captain Tom Heaton the opportunity to restore some order.

Dyche should also consider starting games with two up front rather than reverting to that formation when the Clarets go behind. As an attacking midfielder, Jeff Hendrick has been relatively ineffective, often finding himself too far away from the lone striker. At the weekend, Chris Wood did not manufacture his first successful touch in the penalty area until the 62nd minute as he was starved of support from the midfielders.

Whilst Sam Vokes may not have scored in the league yet, he has looked the most dangerous striker for the Clarets in recent matches but does need a boost in confidence. He missed two golden opportunities from headers against Olympiacos and tested David De Gea a couple of times after coming on a substitute against United. An Under-23 contest against Millwall next Monday could provide him with the opportunity to get amongst the goals as one of the three older players permitted in the squad.

Reassess - are the new boys ready for a consistent run of games?

The rest should also benefit Matej Vydra who has been limited to just a handful of minutes since signing towards the end of the transfer window. The striker has been lacking fitness but will be looking to play a key role in upcoming fixtures, particularly after finishing last season as Championship top goalscorer, including a strike against Cardiff.

Dyche should also look at continuing to start with teenage sensation Dwight McNeil after successfully making his breakthrough from the Academy. The winger has shown no fear and looked the most creative player in the team against both Olympiacos and United. If Dyche and his medical team can get Johann Berg Gudmundsson fit, Burnley will have two very influential players on either flank. When Steven Defour returns in central midfield, they could have a very strong quartet to provide more of a balance to the team.

Finally, Burnley need to get the fans back on their side after negative rumblings on social media during the past week. The Turf Moor faithful were proud of the way their team gave it a go against Olympiacos, despite the 3-1 deficit, but disappointed with the way the Clarets slipped into negative mindset at the weekend. Performances on the pitch will certainly help but small things such as open training sessions would also underpin that support.

Preparation will be key in the coming days...