Match Previews

Ask the Expert: Burnley v Norwich City

Like Norwich, Burnley will be looking for their first win of the 2021/22 Premier League season when the two sides meet at Turf Moor on Saturday (3pm KO).

To learn more about the Clarets’ season so far, we spoke to reporter Alex James, who covers the club’s fortunes for Lancs Live. It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Burnley with two draws and four defeats - what do you put those results down to and are you relaxed that the points will come?

AJ: Yeah, it’s disappointing in terms of points on the board, just two from six games. Generally speaking, Burnley have played pretty well for large spells of all their games really. As Sean Dyche has said a number of times, performances are generally pretty good.

Everybody is well aware that that’s all well and good but you need to find some results and victories, but the feeling around the place is that those will come if they carry on playing as well as they have done in their opening six matches. In each game Burnley have scored, they’ve taken the lead before dropping points. Is that a cause for concern?

AJ: It is, undoubtedly, a cause for concern with the supporters and the likes of us in the media. I think seven of the last nine games that Burnley have scored first in they have failed to win and that stretches back into last season as well, so it’s a bit of a worrying trend.

You used to be able to stake your house on Burnley going 1-0 up and then being able to see that out. For whatever reason, it’s not happening at the minute, so the sooner that’s rectified the better.

Once they get one win and the cloud of it lifts, the pressure is eased a little bit and that monkey is off their back then I do think it will help the players relax a little bit and hopefully more will follow. Maxwel Cornet is a new signing who did well in the last game against Leicester City before getting injured, so that must have been a blow.

AJ: It certainly will be. He’s looked really good even though he’s not even played two full games across his three appearances in the league and Carabao Cup but he’s been really bright and inventive, giving Burnley something they haven’t had much of recently.

He’s certainly another creative talent in their midfield and was forced off injured just before half-time. We’ll find out more about that later this week, but the early prognosis is it’s a hamstring strain so I’d be very surprised to see him feature against Norwich.

It’s just a case of how serious that injury is to how long he’ll be out for. It’s now nine years since Sean Dyche became Burnley manager and the Clarets set an example when they were relegated before coming back up after sticking with their man. Do you take a lot of pride in that formula?

AJ: When Sean Dyche signed his new contract a couple of weeks ago, you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a Burnley supporter who wasn’t delighted with it.

It’s a bit of a new era with the new ownership now and how things will work between the new owners and the manager and they’ve invested a little bit more in the playing squad, which we haven’t seen much of in the last three or four years.

The hope is that, with that added investment and a little bit of a newer approach and a pair of fresh eyes on the club, together with what Dyche brings in terms of securing Premier League status year on year, his traits as a manager will ultimately yield Burnley being able to look up a little bit and perhaps not always be scrapping it out amongst the bottom four or five, but actually trying to cement themselves as an upper mid-table side in the Premier League. They finished 17th last season but survived by some distance in terms of points. They’re now the league’s oldest squad, but if Chris Wood can continue his consistency in front of goal, do you think they’ll have enough to avoid the drop again?

AJ: Yeah, I think the 11 that started the game on Saturday against Leicester is sort of the team that most Burnley fans have wanted to see. Obviously, the injury to Cornet is likely to mean a change for Norwich, but if they avoid injuries to key players then that 11 is good enough to stay up.

You mentioned the oldest squad, which you can look at two ways. It definitely does need younger players and does need freshening up to some extent, but equally they’ve got all this experience to fall back on.

They’ve got players like Ben Mee, who's been there for a decade, has got bags of experience and knows what it takes to survive in the Premier League, so I’m still reasonably confident they’ll have enough to finish outside the drop zone this season. Saturday’s game will be viewed as a must-win by many for both sides.

AJ: Yeah, it won’t be by the manager because his objective is to get the required number of points, regardless of whether it’s games against the so-called teams in and around Burnley or the top six; it doesn’t really matter to him.

Everybody’s well aware that it’s a massive game for Burnley and for Norwich as well. For Burnley, it’s 13 league games now without a win at home, again stretching back into last season, so they need to rectify that because that’s been the cornerstone of their success in the Premier League over the last half a dozen years.

If they lose to Norwich they’ll be bottom going into the international break, which isn’t where you want to be. If they win, it will have a completely different feeling around it. Suddenly, it’s five points from seven games which is not too bad and they’ve played pretty well.

They’ll likely be outside of the bottom three as well and it has a bit more of an optimistic outlook going into the break. If Ben Gibson plays this weekend, he might feel he has a point to prove. Do you feel he could have had more of a chance at Burnley?

AJ: I think so. It’s very hard for new signings at Burnley. Cornet is a bit of an exception in terms of one who has found his way into the first 11 quickly.

Gibson’s replacement is Nathan Collins, who is on a similar path in that he’s come up from a Championship club and his path has been blocked in the same way that Gibson’s was - by Mee and James Tarkowski.

Ultimately, their record speaks for itself and Dyche knows exactly what he’s going to get out of them, so it was always going to be tricky for Ben to force his way past those two and he was always going to have to be a bit patient.

At the time, neither of them got injured, but subsequently both of them have had spells out last season, so if Ben had still been part of things then he probably would have ended up with ten or 15 appearances to his name because both spent time out through injury.

As is the want of every pro, they want to play as many games as possible. It’s a short career and it didn’t really work out for him at Burnley. I’m sure he’ll feel like he does have a point to prove to remind people that he is a Premier League player and show what he can offer.

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