It seems a long old time ago that Burnley were relegated back to the Championship following their promotion to the Premier League in 2014, with Sean Dyche instilling security in the side over the last few years as his team have evolved into a mid-table side rather than one teetering on the edge of relegation.
Last season's narrow escape a stark contrast to 2017/18 fortunes
Last season saw Dyche’s side narrowly avoid the drop with 40 points to their name – equal to Watford in 17th place and six points above Hull City. Winning just 11 games in the entire season, Burnley relied heavily on their home form to see them retain their status in the top tier yet this year has brought far rosier fortunes.
Enjoying a stunning start to the 2017/18 season, Burnley find themselves in 7th place prior to their mid-week game against Stoke City; a game that, should they win, would see them rise to fourth place in the table. 28 points from 16 games puts The Clarets right up alongside Tottenham, just one point behind Arsenal and two behind third placed Liverpool – something that not even the most optimistic of fans would’ve envisaged.
Defensive steeliness at the heart of Burnley establishing themselves in top flight
Key to their successes, and overall progression of the club in recent times, has been the steel of solidity in the defensive third. Sean Dyche’s side have conceded just 12 goals this season, a record only bettered by Manchester City and Manchester United’s 11 goal tally. Such strong foundations at the back has put them in good stead for games against the big hitters of the Premier League, having secured a win against Chelsea and an impressive draw at Anfield.
That represents a stark improvement on last year’s total of 55 goals conceded for the season, with Dyche clearly putting an emphasis on tightening up at the back to relieve the strain of a lack of goals in the final third of the pitch. Set up in a low-block defence, The Clarets restrict their opposition to pot shots, forcing the play out wide and preventing movement in between the lines – a strategy that many of the ‘top six’ employ.
Fuelled with grit and determination, Burnley have proved themselves a very tough side to beat, grinding out wins in seven of eight games they have led by just one goal. Such a trait is imperative in order to retain a place in England’s top flight and Dyche deserves monumental credit for what he’s achieved at Turf Moor.
A drop-off in league position is practically inevitable but a top-half finish would be nothing less than Burnley deserve, establishing themselves as a common theme in the Premier League rather than an anomaly destined for the Championship.