Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
- Goal: Ben Mee (£5.0m)
- Assist: Ashley Westwood (£5.5m)
- Bonus: Mee x3, Nick Pope (£5.0m) x2, Charlie Taylor (£4.3m) x1
Nick Pope (£5.0m) and Burnley registered their 13th clean sheet of the season on Monday night, with the Clarets producing yet another heroic defensive display to edge Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Only champions Liverpool have registered more shut-outs than Sean Dyche’s side in 2019/20 and, taking the liberty to discount the 5-0 walloping by Manchester City in Gameweek 30+, Burnley have remarkably only conceded two goals in their last eight league fixtures.
It’s the record against the ‘also-rans’ that is particularly impressive.
In 19 meetings against the clubs currently ranked 10th or below, Dyche’s side have recorded 12 clean sheets and conceded on just 11 occasions.
That perhaps bodes well with games against struggling West Ham United, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion to come between now and Gameweek 38+, while a Sheffield United side who haven’t scored in three post-lockdown league matches also face the Clarets this weekend.
Just how long can Burnley keep producing the goods with the odds stacked against them, though?
This was another match in which Dyche could only name five outfield substitutes on the bench, just one of whom, Kevin Long (£4.3m), has ever started a Premier League fixture.
Having already lost Chris Wood (£6.1m), Ashley Barnes (£6.1m), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£5.5m) and Robbie Brady (£5.9m) to injury and waved farewell to the out-of-contract Jeff Hendrick (£5.4m), Aaron Lennon (£4.6m) and Joe Hart (£4.2m) this month, Dyche had to make do without the crocked Jay Rodriguez (£5.7m) and Matthew Lowton (£4.2m) for Monday’s game at Palace.
More wretched luck was to follow when Jack Cork (£4.9m) hobbled off with an ankle injury midway through the second half at Selhurst Park.
Dyche did hint at the possibility of a few players returning this weekend, at least, for the visit of the Blades:
[Cork’s injury was] his ankle, we’ll wait and see on that one. It’s not like him to have to come off, so that’s probably not a positive sign.
J-Rod has got a bit more of a chance for the weekend. Lowts, almost definitely not. Robbie [Brady] a maybe, Johann [Berg Gudmundsson] a maybe, Woody touch and go, I think, so there are a few maybes [for Gameweek 33] but nothing definite.
Burnley started this match with full-back Erik Pieters (£4.2m) operating ‘out of position’ on the left wing, central midfielder Josh Brownhill (£4.8m) doing a Hendrick and playing on the right, winger Dwight McNeil (£6.1m) deployed in the hole and fourth-choice striker Matej Vydra (£5.3m) ploughing a lone furrow up top.
They ended the game in a 5-4-1 almost by default, with centre-half Long the only available senior option to replace the stricken Cork in the final quarter of the match.
While the loss of Cork could be significant and their midfield and attack continue to be cobbled together with ill-fitting spare parts, Burnley do, at least, still have their first-choice goalkeeper and back four fit for selection.
While that remains the case, there is always the strong possibility of further shut-outs.
Monday’s match was almost a carbon copy of Burnley’s 1-0 win over Watford last Thursday, with the Clarets bossing the first half, snatching a goal against the run of play after the interval and then weathering the inevitable bombardment that followed.
In truth, Pope didn’t have to do a great deal to emerge with a nine-point haul.
The post-match stats will say four saves made but all were routine in nature, with two of them coming in stoppage time.
Most of the donkey work was done by the men in front of him, with Ben Mee (£5.0m) and James Tarkowski (£5.2m) immense at centre-half and veteran Phil Bardsley (£4.3m) doing a very decent job of nullifying Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) down the Palace left.
A late Jordan Ayew (£5.2m) header that flew over was as close as the Eagles came to snatching a point, while James McArthur (£5.2m) also nodded wide before the break.
Owners of Palace’s defensive assets will have been left feeling more than a little bit miffed that they too didn’t emerge with a clean sheet, with the game having 0-0 written all over it until Mee stooped to nod home Ashley Westwood’s (£5.5m) 61st-minute free-kick.
Palace had racked up four straight clean sheets before their 4-0 shellacking at Liverpool in Gameweek 31+ and probably ought to have added to that tally on Monday, only for the usually dependable Guaita – who had earlier presented Pieters with a chance when flapping at a low cross – to make a hash of Mee’s optimistic header on the hour-mark.
While the Eagles possess one of the better defences in the division, five meetings with top-seven sides in the run-in does look off-putting.
That goes double for an attack that has scored fewer league goals than all bar Norwich City this season.
Ayew was the main danger against Burnley but his radar was misaligned, with one mazy run in the dying minutes culminating in a wild shot that sailed miles off-target.
The Ghanaian striker might even have seen red for an aggressive half-elbow, half-palm-off on Brownhill in the second half but the VAR deemed his actions not worthy of a dismissal.
Speaking after the match, Roy Hodgson said:
Seventeen shots is good but I don’t think we played anywhere near as well as we wanted to in the first half.
We were better in the second half but unfortunately, we conceded a goal from a set piece.
We did everything we could to find a way through but it didn’t work out for us.
It was a very good header and a good ball in, I’m not going to blame the goalkeeper. He didn’t have a lot to do. All goals are defensive errors somewhere along the line.
Crystal Palace XI (4-1-4-1): Guaita; Ward, Dann, Cahill, Van Aanholt; Milivojevic; Townsend (Meyer 77′), Kouyate (McCarthy 46′), McArthur, Zaha; Ayew.
Burnley XI (4-4-1-1): Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Brownhill, Westwood, Cork (Long 70′), Pieters; McNeil; Vydra.
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 32+
- Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
- Watford 1-3 Southampton
- Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
- Brighton 0-3 Manchester United
- Arsenal 4-0 Norwich City
- Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle United
- Everton 2-1 Leicester City
- West Ham United 3-2 Chelsea
- Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool
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