The Premier League is even stronger than it was in 2009
FIVE years ago Robbie Blake’s volley put Burnley ahead against Manchester United in their opening home game of the season and the visitors had no answer.
Yes, Brian Jensen had to save Michael Carrick’s penalty. But United were not exactly creating chance after chance as they succumbed to defeat.
United were the champions at the time and would be only one point away from winning the league again at the end of that season.
But their team featured the likes of Ben Foster, Wes Brown and Anderson, while Michael Owen was a shadow of his former self.
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Contrast that to the Chelsea team that turned up at Turf Moor on Monday night, and the way the Blues responded to going behind to a not dissimilar angled volley from Scott Arfield.
Twenty minutes later Jose Mourinho’s side were 3-1 up thanks to some scintillating football. Every member of their starting 11 looked world class.
They may have strengthened in the summer, but this was the club who finished only third in the Premier League last season.
The gulf to the top clubs appears to have grown even bigger.
The formation may need more flexibility
BURNLEY’S promotion foundations were built on a number of things: hard work was one of them, twinned with talent. Familiarity was another.
Good work behind the scenes on injury prevention meant there was a consistency in selection. That was a benefit to Sean Dyche’s side, and allowed him to keep faith with a 4-4-2 system throughout last season.
It proved a winning formula.
But it came as a surprise during the summer, given the different teams and tactics they will be coming up against in the Premier League, that there was no deviation in pre-season; no hint of switching to a 3-5-2 or 4-5-1.
On one hand you have to admire the manager’s faith in the formation, and there is flexibility within it with the wide men interchanging and coming inside, allowing the full backs to go up in support and overlap.
But there were times against Chelsea, with a five-man midfield, that they were over-run and exposed.
Burnley should not shift drastically away from what they know, that could be to their detriment.
But options would be an advantage.
Personnel might have been a factor beforehand, so it will be interesting to see how left back Stephen Ward fits into the mould, with current occupier Ben Mee a natural centre half.
Reinforcements are still required
CHELSEA have splurged in excess of £82million in the summer, more than half of that on just two of their five new players.
In contrast, the Clarets have spent a small fraction of that on seven recruits, with Ward the most recent.
There are plans for further additions before the transfer window closes.
West Brom’s central defender Craig Dawson and Nottingham Forest midfielder Henri Lansbury are long-standing targets and still remain on the wanted list.
They are the key positions for strengthening with little cover in either department.
Ward could make a difference by giving Dyche alternatives at the back, but more Premier League experience is required in the rearguard.
Arfield arrived as a central midfielder, and could step into that role again if required. But he has already proved his value in a wide role, not least with his opening day goal.
Burnley’s squad has cost the least out of all the Premier League clubs to assemble.
There is no reason for them to break the bank in order to swell the numbers, that is not the suggestion.
Spending sprees do not necessarily translate into survival, as Cardiff City discovered last season.
But they need to break into the club coffers to boost the squad, and with it their chances of staying up.