With Norwich City travelling to Turf Moor this weekend to take on Burnley in the Premier League, we caught up with Chris Boden, Sports Editor at the Burnley Express, to get the lowdown on the opposition.
In Ask The Expert, Chris discusses the season so far, Ashley Barnes' terrific form, his thoughts on Norwich City and more.
canaries.co.uk: Burnley are 14th in the league ahead of this weekend’s game. How do you feel the season has gone so far?
CB: They’ve largely played well, probably until the second half against Brighton on Saturday. The first game of the season was a bit nip and tuck, but once they got their noses in front, they ran out convincing winners against Southampton.
At Arsenal, Burnley were probably a bit hard done to in the 2-1 defeat. It was the same the week after at Wolves. Burnley were the better side and should have been three or four up but conceded through a soft 95th minute penalty.
Liverpool were excellent. A freak goal and a mistake and you’re 2-0 down against the champions of Europe. It’s a long way back from that.
Despite not being at their best against Brighton in the second half, Burnley still managed to stay in the game and scored a superb equaliser, so they’re in decent nick.
canaries.co.uk: What are the fans thoughts on Sean Dyche at the moment? The club stuck by his side through some trying times last season.
CB: I don’t think there was ever any sort of desire to get rid of the manager. Around December time there were a few murmurings on social media, but the club were never going to dispense of his services.
They were proven very much right. He’s got too much credit in the bank at Burnley over nearly seven years in charge. The club probably could and should have spent more money again in the transfer window, but they were on a tight budget.
The wages are competitive nowadays, but they marginally strengthened the squad over the summer. I think the fans would just like to see the manager have a bit more finance to play with.
canaries.co.uk: Ashley Barnes has been firing on all cylinders and making the headlines. Have you seen an improvement in him this year or is his form just a continuation of last season?
CB: Over time, we’ve seen a gradual improvement in him. It’s fair to say, when he arrived in January 2014 and Burnley were on their way to promotion to the Premier League, people wondered if he was a signing who could help them get over the line.
I don’t think many saw him taking to life in the Premier League, but he’s really gripped it. His all-round game, the way he can link play, and his finishing has improved, as has his touch. He’s not got devastating pace, but he’s adapted really well to what the Premier League requires.
His form over the calendar year is up there with the very best. Only Sergio Aguero and Sadio Mane had outscored him at the last count. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is probably in and around him now. You only have to say those names to look at the company he’s in there!
canaries.co.uk: Who is the club’s unsung hero, someone who doesn’t get the attention they deserve?
CB: They’re pretty much a team of unsung heroes if the truth be told! Barnes obviously gets most of the headlines, and James Tarkowski seems to be well thought of up and down the country. Dwight McNeil is getting rave reviews.
Ashley Westwood is probably one, but then again, he was named player of the year last season for Burnley, so he has got some recognition. He effectively came in to replace Steven Defour who has been injured.
He’s added the aggression into the Burnley midfield that a Sean Dyche team needs but he’s got ability as well. He’s technically good and passes it forward nice and early into Chris Wood and Barnes.
canaries.co.uk: It’s so hard to predict the mid-table standings, but what are your expectations for the rest of this season?
CB: As you say, once you take the big six out of the equation and probably Everton, who have never been relegated, it’s hard to predict. West Ham have improved again in terms of their dealings. Historically, they’ve been relegated a few times from the Premier League.
Any of the 13 times other than the big six and Everton could finish in any order whatsoever. I don’t see why Burnley can’t finish in the top ten if they can continue the level of consistency that they’ve shown since the turn of the year.
It’s a ridiculously tough league as everyone knows and every point is precious. One way or another, they’ll stay in the league. I’m certain of that.
canaries.co.uk: What are your thoughts on Norwich City so far this season?
CB: The recruitment is the remarkable story, with what they’ve done on a tiny budget. Credit to the people who have identified the talent of players like Emiliano Buendia and Teemu Pukki. Head of Recruitment Kieran Scott was at Burnley before he went to Norwich, so we know all about him up in these parts!
There’s a train of thought, as was the case when Eddie Howe was at Burnley, that teams should play possession-based football so that if they got into the Premier League, they would be safe. He ended up going back to AFC Bournemouth and Burnley went up playing a mixed brand of football.
Norwich have shown that if you’re technically good, you can handle a football and you’re composed in possession, it’s not going to do you any harm in the Premier League. The way they played out of Manchester City’s press on Saturday night was unbelievably impressive. To have as many injuries as they did and still beat Man City is even more remarkable.
You’ve got to take your chances when you get them at this level, and they’ve got players who’ve got that clinical nature about them as well. It all points to them doing very well and staying up this season.
canaries.co.uk: Finally, what’s your score prediction for this weekend?
CB: You’d have thought that only one result was available when Man City played Norwich but that wasn’t the case. This is one of those games where all three results are possible. You could conceivably see Norwich building on last week, you could see Burnley being strong and getting something, so I’ll sit on the fence and say a point apiece.
You can follow Chris on Twitter at @bodenknights.