Having failed to beat the drop in either of their prior seasons in the Premier League, and with one of the top-flight’s more modest budgets, many had written off Burnley as relegation fodder ahead of this campaign.
But Sean Dyche’s men have defied the odds time and again this term, with today’s draw against table-topping Chelsea following on from a clean sheet at Old Trafford and victory over the likes of Liverpool and Everton.
So, what’s made the Clarets such a success story? And can the league’s current strugglers learn from their example? Yes, as it turns out…
You don’t need high possession for good results
Leicester’s success last season proved this, but the Clarets have hammered the point home this term. Dyche’s side have averaged the second lowest possession in the Premier League at 41.9 per cent. But that’s something they’ve used to their advantage.
This well-organised Burnley side have frequently sat deep and remained well-organised, allowing their opponents to knock the ball around without being pulled out of position, and to hit them on the counter-attack or from set-pieces.
Nowhere was that tactic better executed than the 2-0 defeat of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Turf Moor in August. The hosts had just 20 per cent of possession, but their visitors hardly got a real sniff of goal. And as Liverpool threw men forward, the Clarets hit them on the break.
You do need a balanced midfield
While Sunderland’s midfield is overgrown with tough-tackling midfielders – Lee Cattermole, Darron Gibson, Jan Kirchoff etc. – and lacks creativity, the exact opposite is true for Swansea, who have flair but desperately lack steel in the centre of the park.
Not so for one of the other pre-season relegation candidates, Burnley. Dyche has put together a perfectly-blended midfield, with the quick and creative Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick supported by tough, seasoned campaigners like Joey Barton and George Boyd.
You must make your home a fortress
This is one for the fans as well as the players. The Burnley support have truly lived up to the ‘12th man’ adage this season, with Turf Moor an intimidating cauldron of noise where one big side after another have been taken down a peg.
But that alone doesn’t explain just how the Lancashire outfit have managed to boast the fourth-best home record in the Prem up to this point.
They’ve also been combative and clinical on their own patch, and have used the small pitch to their advantage, keeping one talented opposition winger after another penned into a corner.
Next up for Burnley is a trip to one of the current bottom three, Hull City, with Dyche’s men 11/4 to continue their impressive campaign with victory in East Yorkshire.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing