Ahead of their match with Reading on Saturday, Jordan Eyre looks at the three things he’s learnt from Burnley’s season so far…
The wide men must improve
Overall, it has been a solid start to the season for the Clarets. A run of four consecutive wins was halted by Derby County on Monday, but a return to Turf Moor may heighten expectations for another three-point haul against Reading.
If Burnley are to win, they will need their two wingers to arrest their alarming slide in form. Michael Kightly and George Boyd have flattered to deceive so far this season, with the latter’s winner against MK Dons earlier this month the only direct impact either have had on any game.
Kightly and Boyd endeared themselves to fans last season for their impressive displays in the Premier League, and a step down in division, while not ideal, offered a chance for both to have an even stronger influence on games.
George Boyd is so bad now😱
— Mark Wilkinson (@markwilkinson_) September 21, 2015
But as yet, encouraging displays are at a premium, and unfortunately for Kightly, a key difference between the two is that Boyd has a saving grace. Going forwards, he has been subdued and ineffective but defensively, the Scottish midfielder demonstrates endeavour and a willingness to help Tendayi Darikwa when the right-back is under pressure.
In Kightly’s case, however, there may be less leniency. The winger’s game is more direct, more offensive than Boyd’s and when he is nullified, he can drift out of games. Kightly has been afforded a prolonged period in the first team, and with Scott Arfield being a mere stop gap in central midfield, the former Wolves winger may face stern competition for his place soon.
Michael kightly is stealing a living — jack wanks (@justjackfgs) September 21, 2015
Andre Gray and Tendayi Darikwa can become the new jewels in the crown
Having been stripped of their prized assets following their short-lived stay in the Premier League, Burnley replaced Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier with record signing Andre Gray and right-back Darikwa.
Their impact so far has been impressive; both are players teeming with energy and commitment- old-fashioned values which remain integral to the success of any football in the modern game.
Darikwa has shone in his first few outings for the Clarets, making the right-back berth his own following Matt Lowton’s injury. Man of the match awards have soon followed, as his endeavour to both attack and defend, as well as his refusal to give up on seemingly lost causes, endears him to the Turf Moor faithful.
Played with Darikwa for Burnley at Chesterfield, very good athlete #potential
— Bobbie French (@Bobbie_French) September 21, 2015
Meanwhile, Gray seems a genuine like-for-like replacement for his prolific predecessor. Similarly to Ings, Gray has spent time at the school of hard knocks in the lower leagues, but ultimately his enduring quality has ensured he rose further up the football pyramid. Gray’s recent goal against Sheffield Wednesday seemed to fuse all of his attributes together.
Both are young, quick, powerful and above all, hungry to succeed. In Sean Dyche, Gray and Darikwa have the perfect manager to ensure their fleeting displays in a Claret shirt become more consistent over a long period of time.
— Andrew Davies (@AndrewJDavies4) September 21, 2015
Set-piece specialists are worth their weight in gold
The Clarets have scored 11 goals this season and of that total, six have come from set-pieces. It’s an encouraging statistic, demonstrating how Sean Dyche can organise his side to become a threat beyond attacks from open play.
Set-piece experts are integral to any team, mainly because they can generate goals from nothing. Burnley have already benefitted from the sharp skills of Matthew Taylor and David Jones in promising dead ball areas this season, and with Joey Barton waiting in the wings, free-kicks could continue to become another weapon in Burnley’s arsenal for the months ahead.
The club are just as much of a threat from corner kicks as they are directly, too. Jones has three assists to his name so far, all from pinpoint corners into dangerous areas. The grateful recipient of most of these opportunities is centre-back Michael Keane, the club’s leading scorer with three this term.
Finding alternative routes to goal bear greater significance in recent times, particularly when teams are using all sorts of data and statistics when scouting the opposition to stifle players from open play. Set-piece goals are something that can be difficult to defend against, as well as adding an unpredictability to affairs.
While goals from the strikers are the most common occurrence in the game for all teams – and Burnley are no different – having two or three players with the nous and ability to create something from nothing is certainly positive. The idea of the Clarets being synonymous with set-piece goals has not been a common one, but times could be changing.
By Jordan Eyre