Having run the rule over Middlesbrough earlier this month, our assessment of the promoted clubs continues with a look at Championship winners Burnley.
After a lengthy three-horse race with both Middlesbrough and Brighton, the Clarets were able to seal promotion back to the top flight in their penultimate fixture against QPR, before claiming the title on the final day thanks to victory at relegated Charlton.
Sean Dyche will take his squad back into the Premier League at the first time of asking, then, having suffered relegation in 2014/15 with a 33-point total, just three points off bottom-placed QPR.
CS = Clean sheets
The statistics offer little argument against Burnley’s credentials as champions. Dyche’s attack was joint-top for goals scored (72) in the division, while the Clarets defence ranked second only to Middlesbrough’s robust rearguard: Burnley allowed just 35 goals and kept 20 clean sheets over the campaign.
Their away form was particularly significant. While they were strong at Turf Moor, Burnley netted more times than any other side on the road and allowed the fewest goals, recording eight clean sheets. It meant that Dyche’s side suffered just three defeats on their travels all season.
The overall pattern of Burnley’s results is of particular interest as it highlights their ability to achieve almost predictable results. The Clarets won all their matches home and away against sides who finished 18th or below. In clashes with the rest of the eventual top eight, however, they triumphed on just three encounters, drawing eight times and losing three.
It would appear that, in the bigger matches against stronger opponents, Dyche set up his side up to be hard to beat. Burnley failed to win any of their road trips against the top eight – a surprising statistic for the best away side in the division.
Nonetheless, the Clarets ended the season on a 23-match unbeaten run, setting a club record as Dyche’s well-drilled side sacrificed a degree of attacking style for a robust invincibility. Ultimately, it won them the title and promotion.
Now back in the Premier League, Dyche will continue to keep things tight at the back as Burnley maintain their results-driven approach.
Taking the reins at Turf Moor back in October 2012, Dyche led the Lancashire outfit to an eleventh-placed finish in his first year at the helm.
Burnley were promoted to the top-flight as runners-up to Leicester in 2013/14 but lasted just one season, finishing nineteenth and scoring on just 28 occasions. Dyche’s men registered just 41.6% possession that year, an average better than only one other side.
Relegation to the Championship saw Dyche lose key players such as Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell last summer but the acquisition of record signing Andre Gray and free agent Joey Barton prove pivotal to their success.
Despite the drop down in division, Burnley continued to utilise a counter attacking style of play, combining Gray’s pace with the aerial prowess of strike partner Sam Vokes in a default 4-4-2 formation.
An average of 94 long balls per match was second only to Ipswich, with the Clarets’ 48.2% possession only eighteenth highest in last term’s Championship. It’s also worth noting that, in spite of ending the campaign as joint-top scorers, Burnley averaged just 11.9 shots per match – a tally better than just four other sides.
The Promoted Squad
Dyche used just 25 players throughout the campaign and the consistency of his starting lineup was cited as a key factor in their success.
The spine of the side is strong, with Tom Heaton a proven shot-stopper of great pedigree, playing in front of the blossoming central defensive talent that is Michael Keane.
While Barton’s departure to Rangers will leave a void in central midfield, Scott Arfield could offer a reliable and productive mainstay in that position if Dyche moves him off the left flank.
Meanwhile, up front, the Clarets have a potentially potent attacking duo in Vokes and Gray. That pair combine power and pace to great effect and have the ability and understanding to mirror the impact of Watford’s Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, who claimed 13 and 16 Premier League goals last season.
Listed below are the players who made at least five appearances and are still currently with the club.
Tom Heaton (46 starts) – awarded the captaincy for the 2015/16 campaign, Heaton furthered his burgeoning reputation with another outstanding season which culminated in his first international cap in England’s friendly with Australia last month. The 30-year-old is arguably at the peak of his career and could prove to be a major attraction for Fantasy Football managers. Heaton was the second ranked keeper in the Fantasy Premier League despite Burnley’s relegation in 2014/15, earning ten clean sheets and registering 130 saves, including two spot-kicks. He’s sure to be a pivotal figure in his second Premier League season and if classified in the budget bracket as expected, he’s likely to be a prime target for our Gameweek 1 squads.
Matt Lowton (25 starts, 2 sub appearances, 1 goal, 3 assists) – snapped up from Aston Villa last summer, the right-back missed the start of the season through injury but nailed down a regular role from December onwards. Lowton offers limited attacking threat – managing just five attempts all season – though his tackles and interceptions could prove beneficial in Fantasy games that reward defensive actions.
Michael Keane (44 starts, 5 goals, 1 assist) – the departure of Shackell allowed the former Man United youth player the chance to cement a regular role in the heart of the back-four. Keane’s threat in and around the box saw him score on five occasions and produce an eye-catching 34 attempts on goal – an effort every 114 minutes is near-identical to Palace’s Scott Dann last year.
Ben Mee (46 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist) – started the season at left-back but was shifted into the heart of defence at the turn of the year and his partnership with Keane proved vital to Burnley’s unbeaten run. Mee just edges Keane for Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions, though offered less goal threat and fired 23 efforts, with a shot every 179 minutes. He’s also more likely to incur the referee’s wrath, having collected nine cautions to Keane’s three.
Stephen Ward (23 starts, 1 sub appearance, 1 goal, 4 assists) a peripheral figure at the beginning of the campaign, Mee’s winter move into central defence allowed the Irishman the chance to nail down the left-back berth. Although he offers more creative threat than fellow full-back Lowton, Ward fares poorly when compared to Keane and Mee for CBI and may struggle to earn our attention.
Tendayi Darikwa (21 starts, 1 goal, 1 assist) started the campaign as the first-choice right-back ahead of Lowton but the latter’s rise to prominence means the summer signing from Chesterfield faces a tough task to break into the first XI this time around. Given his side’s defensive displays over the final few months of 2015/16, it’s fair to say the Clarets boss will be reluctant to unnecessarily tinker.
Dean Marney (7 starts, 5 sub appearances, 2 assists) a peripheral figure over the course of last season, bench-warming duties seem the likeliest scenario as Dyche looks to strengthen in the centre of the park to compensate for Barton’s departure. The latter’s ball-winning presence will clearly need to be addressed – he made more successful tackles than any Burnley player.
Scott Arfield (46 starts, 8 goals, 6 assists) – the Scotsman fired a shot every 67 minutes from his role on the left, quicker than any of Dyche’s preferred midfield four. Arfield sat second for key passes and, having played a part in more goals than any Burnley midfielder, could be one to consider in the budget bracket when the player lists are announced next month.
David Jones (39 starts, 2 sub appearances, 1 goal, 7 assists) – number one for set-pieces and corners, the central midfielder supplied a key pass every 63 minutes, quicker than any team-mate. Jones offered little goal threat, though – an effort every 136.9 minutes is indicative of his reluctance to raid forward.
George Boyd (42 starts, 2 sub appearances, 5 goals, 5 assists) a cult favourite around these parts back in 2014/15, Boyd may struggle to catch the eye this time around – an average of 93.6 minutes per key pass and 71.6 minutes per attempt on goal was bettered by Arfield on the opposite flank on both accounts. The duo’s work-rate on the wing is crucial to Burnley’s style of play – Boyd and Arfield sat second and third for successful tackles across the Championship winning season. The right winger is second to Jones for free-kicks and has a share of corner duties.
Michael Kightly (12 starts, 6 sub appearances, 2 assists) a back-up option on the left who mainly earned his starts when Arfield was forced to cover in the middle. Providing Dyche buys an adequate replacement in the centre of the park, though, Kightly looks destined for a sub role at best.
Fredrik Ulvestad (1 start, 4 sub appearances, 1 assist) made his first start in the final fixture of Burnley’s 2014/15 Premier League campaign but has failed to cement a spot in Dyche’s plans. Was afforded just five outings in last term’s Championship and looks too far down the pecking order to be considered a potential replacement for the now-departed Barton.
Sam Vokes (39 starts, 4 sub appearances, 15 goals, 4 assists) restricted to just five starts in 2014/15 due to injury, the fit-again Vokes proved a vital part in sealing his side’s top-flight return. It’s fair to say that Burnley’s penchant for playing long balls relies on Vokes’ aerial abilities, with the frontman winning a massive 329 successful headers. Put into perspective, strike partner Gray won 14, whilst Troy Deeney’s 231 was first amongst forwards in last term’s top-flight. Vokes produced just 11 shots less than Gray and slightly edged his strike partner for key passes (40 to 34), though is likely to remain under the radar due to the latter’s more prolific displays.
Andre Gray (41 starts, 23 goals, 8 assists) – top scorer in last season’s Championship after bagging 23 goals in his debut year at Turf Moor. Gray’s shot every 31.3 minutes was quicker than any team-mate, whilst a total of eight assists underlines his Fantasy potential. Number one for spot-kicks, he could well prove this season’s star turn amongst the promoted sides’ attackers.
Rouwen Hennings (3 starts, 23 sub appearances) – joined from German outfit Karlsruhe last summer after finishing the 2014/15 campaign as top scorer in Bundesliga 2. Hennings has been restricted to role of impact sub due to the performances of Gray and Vokes and, injuries aside, that situation doesn’t look like changing any time soon. Nonetheless, he looks ahead of the like of Chris Long (1 start, 9 sub appearances), Lukas Jutkiewicz (3 starts, 2 sub appearances) and Ashley Barnes (1 start, 7 sub appearances) as Dyche’s go-to option up top in the latter stages.
Whilst it’s fair to say that Dyche can be expected to strengthen his squad, the Burnley chief executive David Baldwin pleaded patience in the search for new faces. Pointing to last summer’s late arrivals as an example, Baldwin is reluctant to splash the cash just for the sake of it:
“At the end of the day it’s what is right for Burnley Football Club and it’s what is right to fit into Sean’s DNA. From our point of view, we’re very busy behind the scenes because it’s really important that we tee up and get really good knowledge on the players that we want to go after. It’s very much a case of making sure they fit in to a group, environment and culture that’s already here and established at the club. I feel confident with time and patience that will occur. One good illustration of that is last season, it’s fair to say that both Andre and Joey had a big impact on the season that we had, yet neither one of them was in the building by the second week of August. We certainly shouldn’t be hitting the panic button on July 1st, that’s for sure.”
Prior to any incoming deals, Dyche will have to fend off mounting interest in Michael Keane from champions Leicester. The Foxes have cash to burn after clinching the Premier League crown last term and have now tabled two bids for the defender with a £15m deal rejected earlier this week. Having featured for the King Power club on loan back in 2012/13, Keane has already worked with Claudio Ranieri’s assistant and head of recruitment Steve Walsh, who is determined to acquire the highly-rated centre-half. Keane’s possible departure would clearly have an effect on how we assess Dyche’s defence and clean sheet potential for the season ahead.
Sheffield Wednesday’s Tom Lees is a rumoured target should Keane depart. The centre-half bagged three goals and an assist last season and may well be considering his options after The Owls were beaten by Hull in the Play-Off final.
Central midfield is an obvious weakness and most of the current transfer rumours have focused on this area of the pitch. Growing reports have linked Dyche with a move for Charlie Adam as a result of Barton’s move to Rangers. The Scot has plenty of top-flight experience and racked up 192 points for Blackpool back in 2010/11 – he could also be handed dead-ball duties at Jones’ expense if he opts to make the move from Stoke, where he’s no more than a fringe player under Mark Hughes.
Brighton’s Dale Stephens bagged seven goals and five assists last term and is regarded as a favourite of Dyche’s, whilst elsewhere in the Championship, the likes of Henri Lansbury and Oliver Norwood are also targets. Third for interceptions in last year’s Championship, Norwood made more successful tackles than any midfielder in the Euro 2016 group stages and has the work-rate to make an immediate impact.
Palace’s Joe Ledley is also a reported target, though with five goals and two assists in the last three seasons, offers little attacking threat.
Burnley have also been eyeing up QPR winger Matty Phillips – another player with Premier League experience. His arrival could potentially allow Arfield to move inside and solve Dyche’s conundrum in the centre of the park.
Given Dyche’s consistency of selection over the course of 2015/16, it’d be a major surprise if he chopped and changed from one match to the next. Although he has plenty of cash to strengthen, the Burnley manager’s penchant for a settled side suggest that, barring one or two necessary additions, he’s likely to rely on the majority of last term’s regulars once again.