Burnley's 2017 Rewind: From relegation battle to European potential

From fighting for survival to fighting for a European place, Burnley FC's 2017 has been quite the success.

Burnley's 2017 Rewind: From relegation battle to European potential
Burnley players and fans have had a lot to celebrate in a very successful 2017. PICTURE: GettyImages, Alex Dodd - Camerasport

Burnley FC have changed the opinions of many who doubted them at the start of the year, after having quite a successful 2017

Starting the year off in 12th place in the Premier League, the Clarets were already surpassing expectations, with many pundits tipping them for a swift return to the Championship, which they had won the season before.

Sean Dyche’s men eventually finished 16th with 40 points, six points from safety.

January:

Played: 7 Won: 4 Drew: 1 Lost: 2 Scored: 8 Conceded: 4

January started with a tough away trip to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, which brought the Clarets their first defeat since losing 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in the final game before Christmas. A Ben Mee goal couldn’t start a comeback against 10-man City, after Gael Clichy and Sergio Aguero had scored after a first half Fernandinho red card.

Following that was a 0-0 draw against Sunderland in the FA Cup third round, before a deflected Joey Barton free kick gave the Clarets a 1-0 win over Southampton. The Clarets progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup after they beat the Black Cats 2-0 in the replay at Turf Moor. Next came a tough trip to Arsenal, but a Granit Xhaka red card gave the Clarets hope, and Andre Gray tucked away a 93rd minute penalty to bring Burnley again. But then, controversy struck as Alexis Sanchez scored a penalty of his own in the 98th minute, which left Dyche enraged after the game.

However, the month finished with two wins. Bristol City were the next visitors to Turf Moor in the FA Cup, and the Clarets set up a fifth round tie with Non-League Lincoln City. Leicester City followed in the league, when Sam Vokes won the game late on in one of Claudio Ranieri’s last games in charge of the Foxes.

 

February:

Played: 4 Won: 0 Drew: 2 Lost: 2 Scored: 3 Conceded: 5

A winless February started with a 2-1 defeat at Watford after a sixth minute red card for Jeff Hendrick. This was followed by a good point at home to the eventual champions Chelsea, after Robbie Brady scored a sublime free kick to cancel out Pedro’s early opener. The fifth round tie against Lincoln was next up at Turf Moor, but it was the Imps who progressed with a late Sean Raggett header to set up a tie with Arsenal at the Emirates. The month ended with the Clarets rescuing a point at Hull City. After going behind in the final twenty minutes, Burnley responded through Michael Keane before Ashley Barnes was sent off late on.

March:

Played: 3 Won: 0 Drew: 1 Lost: 2 Scored: 3 Conceded: 5

Yet another winless month for Sean Dyche’s men meant they slipped further down the table and started to drag themselves into a relegation battle. A late Fernando Llorente goal gave Swansea City the three points at the Liberty Stadium with a 3-2 win. After that, Burnley travelled to Anfield and took a surprise early lead through Ashley Barnes before Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can gave the Reds a 2-1 win. In the final game before the International Break, the Clarets and Sunderland played out an exact replica of the FA Cup tie to start the year, with a 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light.

April:

Played: 6 Won: 2 Drew: 1 Lost: 3 Scored: 4 Conceded: 7

A 2-0 home defeat to Spurs left a few people wondering how long Sean Dyche had left before he would face the sack, as his side’s winless run extended to eight games in all competitions, with the Clarets only winning two in their last 10.

Despite the doubts, the winless run came to an end with the 1-0 home win against Stoke followed by a 0-0 draw away at Middlesbrough. Two defeats followed this, though, with a 3-1 defeat at Everton followed by a 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester United. The Clarets finished the month with a commanding display at Selhurst Park, beating Crystal Palace 2-0. This win turned out to be the Clarets last of the season.

 

May:

Played: 3 Won: 0 Drew: 1 Lost: 2 Scored: 4 Conceded: 6

A winless end to the season wasn’t too much of a worry as Burnley had a much superior goal difference to Hull down in the final relegation spot. A draw at home to West Brom took the Clarets to the magical 40 point mark which all but confirmed survival for the Clarets as Hull slipped to six points back of Sean Dyche’s team. Starting the month in 14th place, the Clarets would have been dissapointed with their end to the season with two defeats in the last two games of the season, at Bournemouth and then at Turf Moor to West Ham.

This meant Burnley finished down in 16th place, six points clear of 18th placed Hull.

This meant Burnley achieved what they set out to achieve, which was survival. However, early predictions had the Clarets struggling the following season.

Summer Transfer Window:

Burnley made some key additions to their squad in the Summer Transfer Window, notably bringing in highly sought after Chris Wood from Leeds United. Other additions included Jack Cork from Swansea City, Nahki Wells from Huddersfield, Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley from Stoke and Charlie Taylor also from Leeds.

One thing missing from that list was a centre back, which worried fans. Michael Keane, who had been one of Burnley’s outstanding performers in the season before, was sold to Everton for £30million. This left Mee, James Tarkowski and Kevin Long as the Clarets only senior centre backs ahead of the season. Andre Gray also departed the club, but he was replaced by Wood, which fans accepted as a good deal, especially after Wood’s start to the campaign.

Many pundits had Burnley finishing in the bottom three because of the failure to add a centre back to replace Keane. And, when the fixtures were released, many were also predicting a tough start, with three of the top six all to come in their first five games.

August:

Played: 4 Won: 2 Drew: 1 Lost: 1 Scored: 6 Conceded: 4

The fixture computer wasn’t kind to the Claret’s, as they were drawn to face defending Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. However, an early Gary Cahill red card allowed the Clarets to race into a 3-0 lead at half time. Chelsea did start to comeback, pulling goals back through Alvaro Morata and David Luiz, although a Cesc Fabregas red card meant Burnley could control the game until the end for a famous 3-2 victory.

The Clarets were brought back down to earth the following week, succumbing to a 1-0 home defeat against West Brom, after Hal Robson-Kanu scored but was then sent off all in the last 20 minutes. A return to winning ways followed in the Carabao Cup as a much changed Clarets side beat local Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers 2-0. The final game before the International break, Burnley travelled to Wembley to face Spurs. Dele Alli gave the hosts the lead but Chris Wood rescued a point for the Clarets with a 92nd minute strike. This game was the first in a run of six games without defeat in the League.

 

September:

Played: 4 Won: 1 Drew: 3 (One after extra time) Lost: 1 (on Penalties) Scored: 4 Conceded: 3

Burnley hosted already struggling Crystal Palace, and controlled the game from the first minute, beating Palace 1-0 thanks to an early Wood strike. This game saw the debut of Nick Pope after Tom Heaton got injured his soldier, and Pope has kept his place for the rest of the season so far.

Liverpool were up next, and despite taking the lead for the second season in a row at Anfield, this time through Scott Arfield, Burnley had to settle for a point as Mohamed Salah equalised just minutes later. Next came the third round of the Carabao Cup, where the Clarets hosted Leeds United. A dramatic end to normal time saw all four goals come after the 80th minute with Robbie Brady taking the game to extra time after Chris Wood had already equalised against his former club. Leeds prevailed on penalties though, winning the shootout 5-3. The Clarets returned to League action with a 0-0 draw over newly promoted Huddersfield Town.

October:

Played: 4 Won: 2 Drew: 1 Lost: 1 Scored: 3 Conceded: 4

Struggling Everton were first up in October before the next International break, and a Jeff Hendrick goal gave Burnley a 1-0 win and the three points. After the break, Burnley drew 1-1 at home with West Ham before travelling to Manchester City. City handed the Clarets their first league defeat in over two months after a 3-0, in a game which brought us the following tweet.

Burnley finished the month with a 1-0 home win over Newcastle, Hendrick the hero once again, which was first in a three game winning run.

November:

Played: 4 Won: 3 Drew: 0 Lost: 1 Scored: 5 Conceded: 2

November started off well with a 1-0 win at Southampton thanks to a late Sam Vokes goal, followed up by a 2-0 win over Swansea, with Ashley Barnes finding the net along with former Swans midfielder Cork, who capped off a good couple of weeks for him after he made his England debut.

Yet another controversial game against Arsenal followed with Tarkowski judged to have fouled Aaron Ramsey in the box for Alexis Sanchez to convert a 92nd minute penalty. The month did finish off well as the Clarets bounced back from the disapointment with a 2-1 win at Bournemouth.

December:

Played: 6 Won: 2 Drew: 2 Lost: 2 Scored: 4 Conceded: 4

December didn’t start well as the Clarets fell to a 1-0 defeat to Leicester and lost Robbie Brady for six months due to a knee injury. The Clarets did bounce back with back to back 1-0 wins over Watford and Stoke before being held to a goalless draw by Brighton despite conceding a penalty, which was blazed over the bar by Glenn Murray.

In the Brighton game, Tarkowski seemed to strike Murray in the ribs and was suspended by the FA for three games for violent conduct. Tarkowski has been one of Burnley’s standout performers, as he and Mee have formed a partnership which is at times unbreakable.

Tarkowski’s presence was very clearly missed as Harry Kane scored a hat trick as he powered Spurs to a 3-0 win at Turf Moor. Burnley then travelled to Old Trafford on Boxing Day looking to replicate or even better last years 0-0 result in the same fixture. Despite leading 2-0 at half time through an early Ashley Barnes goal and a sublime Steven Defour free kick, a Jesse Lingard double pulled the Clarets back and the game finished 2-2.

The final game of 2017 is away at Huddersfield Town on Saturday, and Burnley will be hoping for a positive result to take them into 2018.

If the Clarets could continue and even improve on their start to the season, there is potential that the Clarets could be fighting for a Europa League spot. If the Club do add to the squad in January, a better back up centre half that could push Mee and Tarkowski for a starting spot would be the wisest option for Sean Dyche.