Has Jay Rodriguez moved ahead of Ashley Barnes in Burnley's pecking order?
(Photo: Getty Images: Alex Livesey)

Jay Rodriguez has been enjoying his first real run in Burnley's starting line-up since the striker returned to Turf Moor in the summer from West Bromwich Albion.

That has been largely down to the absence of Ashley Barnes, who had been Sean Dyche's first choice up front with Chris Wood during most of the campaign, before the forward has been ruled of action with a troublesome groin injury.

The form of Rodriguez over the last few weeks in Barnes' absence has created a suggestion that the forward could have now moved ahead of Barnes in the pecking order. Dyche has a real decision to make when the latter does return to action.

Rodriguez's recent impact

Rodriguez has started the campaign having to get used to making an impact when he could from the bench, with both Wood and Barnes retaining Dyche's trust as the two first choice strikers after they helped fire the Clarets to safey in the Premier League towards the end of last season.

The striker, though, has now started the last four matches for Burnley in all competitions, with Dyche electing to pair him up front with Wood. Rodriguez has shown that he can be a real threat for the Clarets, firing in an excellent strike in the 2-0 win at Manchester United.

The 30-year-old's introduction to the side has enabled Burnley to retain possession better in the final third. Given the side a greater ability to build the play through the thirds, rather than looking to go direct consistently which had been developing as a feature in their game before Rodriguez came into the side.

Barnes' form post-injury lay-off

Barnes enjoyed a productive second half of the season last term in the Premier League, and the striker carried that form and confidence into the opening month of this term, managing to fire in four goals in the Clarets' opening three league matches.

However, the longer the season went on the more Barnes began to struggle in front of goal, with the forward only managing to score another two goals for the Clarets in the league before his injury lay-off, which suggests he was starting to show a lack of confidence in front of goal.

The striker's presence up front was also causing Burnley to go direct and bypass the midfield most of the time during matches, which was beginning to see them struggle to pick up points on a consistent basis after being put under pressure by their opponents for most of the game.

So who starts when Barnes is back fit?

It would be a very harsh call for Dyche to drop Rodriguez as soon as Barnes makes a return to fitness. It would be a mistake to do so given Rodriguez has made more of an impact over the last few weeks.

Dyche is not a manager who will ever rush a player back into action before they are ready. Given Rodriguez has been developing an effective partnership with Wood upfront, there is no real need to put him straight back into the starting line-up.

Rodriguez should remain Burnley's first choice up front alongside Wood, but that does not mean Barnes can not still have an impact. The forward has the ability to provide a real problem for opposing defences from the bench when he is fully fit.

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