Match Previews

Ask the Expert: Burnley (H)

Burnley are Norwich City's final opponent at Carrow Road for the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

To get the lowdown on the Clarets, we spoke to Andy Jones, who covers the club's fortunes for The Athletic. What’s the mood among Burnley fans after the draw to Liverpool and the last-minute equaliser against Wolves?

AJ: Very positive. To be the first team to take points off the champions at Anfield this season was an excellent achievement and a really good performance. They stuck in the game when the first half was very difficult.

Who doesn’t love a last minute equaliser? Chris Wood took a brilliant penalty and the mood is positive after what was a difficult start after lockdown with the result against Manchester City and the contract situations. On the pitch, they’ve bounced back brilliantly. It’s looking like a strong way to end the season, even with a few draws in the mix.

AJ: In a way, it’s incredible considering the squad size they have had due to injuries and players leaving with contracts expiring. All credit to Dyche and his players, who continue to produce top level performances.

Looking at it in the wider scheme of things, it’s one defeat in 14 for Burnley which is an unbelievable run. It’s difficult to do that for any team in the Premier League, so it’s superb.


They’re very much on for a top ten finish. One more win may secure it. That’s their aim now. They’re four points off reaching their record points total in the Premier League, which again would be a superb achievement considering the ups and downs. How have Burnley coped with the games coming thick and fast throughout this period?

AJ: They’ve just about managed. Even Dyche was surprised by the energy levels his players have been able to produce since the restart. A couple of first-team players have left, leaving the squad quite bare and you can see that from the bench with a number of young players involved.

Chris Wood, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady and Ashley Barnes were all injured going into the restart, so they were without even more key first team players.

Jack Cork, Ben Mee and Matt Lowton have now all been ruled out for the rest of the games with various injuries. Against Wolves, Charlie Taylor and Jay Rodriguez both went off with knocks so we’re not sure if they’ll feature against Norwich or for the rest of the season.

They’re very short on options and some of the players who had to come in have been excellent. Kevin Long doesn’t get much game time but has been excellent. New signing Josh Brownhill as well has fitted in straight away and doesn’t look out of place after joining from Bristol City in January.


They did look a little bit tired against Wolves, but the way they’ve managed themselves has been excellent. They’re a very fit team in general and the levels they came back with after lockdown were higher than where they expected them to be.

The finish line is in sight now and they just need two more 90 minutes from these players before they can go away and have a well deserved rest after what’s been a very intense period for a number of them. It seems Dyche develops every season. There are no signs of him slowing down at Burnley.

AJ: No, the job he has done at Burnley is phenomenal. They’re constantly overachieving and have done again this season. Being in the Premier League for a club with the budget Burnley have shows the ability Dyche has.

He’s able to extract the best from his players. He’s an excellent coach and sets his team up to be defensively solid and then look for moments in games to be effective on the ball and create opportunities.

They’ve kept 14 clean sheets, which epitomises that as well. There have been question marks about his future with the contract situation, but he’s maintained his focus is Burnley and continuing to work with a squad of players he loves to work with.

He’s shown he’s committed to Burnley and he’ll be looking for a strong end to the season to get that top ten finish and the record points total.

dyche point.jpg You mention the 14 clean sheets, and Nick Pope’s performances this season have been outstanding haven’t they?

AJ: Yeah, he’s been superb. Post-lockdown, he’s re-emphasised that. His game against Liverpool was another reminder to Gareth Southgate of his England number one credentials. The opinion of a lot of Burnley fans is that he should be England’s number one.

His goalkeeping is simple but very effective. Keeping the ball out the net is all that matters. He’s so commanding in his box. One thing I’ve noticed in empty stadiums is how vocal he is to his team. He sets the tempo and the shape in front of him.

He’s an excellent shot-stopper and has kept Burnley in games or ahead in games. In the air, he collects everything, like a magnet to the ball at times. His handling is very good. It feels like a long time ago now, but what are your memories of when Norwich travelled to Turf Moor for the Premier League game in September?

AJ: The first 45 minutes in that game was one of Burnley’s most complete displays in the league this season. They were at it from the start and the pressing was really good. Dwight McNeil was excellent and Wood, who hadn’t scored until that point, was lively in the box and scored twice.

The energy, determination and desire was excellent - it was everything you expect from Burnley. Once they got that 2-0 lead, from their point of view it was game over, time to kill the game and manage it to retain those three points.

burnley city.jpg

The shape and structure of the team is so good under Dyche and everyone knows their own role so well. There’s a preconception that Burnley play long ball and park the bus, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case post-lockdown?

AJ: They play a mixed style of football. Burnley aren’t going to pass teams off the field like the top six can, but it’s about finding ways to win and Dyche’s teams do that.

They don’t just boot it, they’re long passes with intentions of creating second balls, and from those it’s about shifting it wide or linking the play in the buildup to create opportunities for the two strikers.

There are good ball players in the team. Ashley Westwood ticks everything over in the middle and McNeil is extremely exciting on the left hand side with his ability to take players on. His responsibility has developed to find bits of space and dictate the play.

There’s a lot more to it than the perception that many people have. The way they play has reaped the benefits this season. Have there been any significant changes Dyche has implemented since that game in September?

AJ: The core values are still the same - the grit and intensity. The style of play can be dependent on the personnel. The biggest difference will be who plays. Cork won’t be involved, nor will Barnes. Brownhill will be in and if Rodriguez is fit he’ll probably start, but Matej Vydra may play.

Rodriguez can drop a bit deeper and play in that hole while Vydra likes to play on the shoulder and get in behind, so Burnley will adapt to how Norwich setup and try to hurt them in the best ways they can with who is on the pitch.


On current form, it’s fair to say a result similar to the one in September is likely. Burnley will be confident given their form and Norwich’s lack of form, but it’s your last home game of the season so they’ll want to leave a marker down to finish in style at home.

Dyche’s sides don’t take any game lightly. They prepare properly and apply themselves as best they can. I’d be surprised if it’s a free-flowing high scoring game but I’d expect Burnley to win. Do Burnley fans have a lot to be positive about with the position that they seem to be finishing in?

AJ: Massively. If you look back to Christmas time, they lost four in a row and could have got dragged into the relegation battle. It wasn’t quite working.

Since then, the run has been superb and propelled them up the table so there’s a lot to be positive about.

Breaking the points total would put the icing on top of the cake to cap off a really good season.

You can follow Andy on Twitter @adjones_journo.

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