Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Burnley

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Image: Premier League

Burnley performed above all expectations as they never really looked in danger of being relegated. Their home form was the key to this, picking up 33 out of their 40 points at Turf Moor. Conversely, however, the Clarets picked up just one win away from home, with only Hull picking up less points on the road. Had the Premier League been stronger last season, you would imagine that Burnley would’ve been in trouble. Therefore, this season Sean Dyche must focus on becoming tougher to beat away from home if Burnley are to avoid any second-season syndrome. One of Burnley’s key strengths last season was their centre-back partnership of Ben Mee and Michael Keane, whilst ‘keeper Tom Heaton made the most saves in the league (142) whilst also keeping 10 clean sheets. However, Keane has left for Everton, and Burnley are yet to replace him. The signings that they have made have been astute, with defensive midfielder Jack Cork and attacker Jon Walters offering solid options with Premier League experience. Left-back Charlie Taylor has come in on a free from Leeds to offer competition for places with Stephen Ward. Burnley face three tough away trips in their opening five games, travelling to Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool, so could struggle for points early on. However, they face only Arsenal out of last season’s top seven in their run-in, so should be able control their own fate should they be in any danger of relegation.

Key Player: Ben Mee. Although Michael Keane gained most of the plaudits for Burnley’s defence last season, Ben Mee actually out-performed him. Mee averaged almost twice as many successful tackles per game as Keane, as well as having more successful interceptions, blocks and clearances. The two averaged around the same number of passes per game, but Mee managed to complete a higher percentage of these. With Keane’s departure, it will be vital to Burnley for Mee to continue his form in to the new season, if Burnley are to improve on their dismal away form.

One to Watch: Charlie Taylor. The 23-year-old left-back has joined on a free transfer from Leeds. He has been a mainstay of the Leeds side for the past three seasons, and it will be interesting to see whether he can make the step up to become the first choice at Burnley. He was solid defensively last season, and chipped in with 3 assists in his 29 appearances. Taylor will be tested this year with Burnley’s tactics away from home relying on sitting deep and being solid defensively.

Last Season: 16th

Predicted Finish: 16th

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Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Burnley

burnley

Burnley won the Championship last season by four points. Image: Fox Sports

Burnley were promoted as champions last season, but perhaps face one of the tougher tasks in avoiding relegation. Similarly to their last appearance in the top flight, they have kept largely the same side that got them promoted, with a few British based players brought in. The loss of Joey Barton’s Premier League experience both on and off the pitch will be huge. Andre Gray and Sam Vokes hit 39 goals last season, and these two will be vital in Burnley’s relegation scrap, especially as the service that they will receive will be limited. Michael Keane has been the subject of interest from elsewhere in the Premier League, whilst Jon Flanagan has been brought in to bring some top-flight experience to the defence. Tom Heaton was one of the stars of Burnley’s previous Premier League campaign, and he can expect to be busy again this time around. The Clarets will want to get off to a good start as they have a tough run of games in October, hosting Arsenal and Everton, whilst travelling to Southampton and Manchester United.

Key Man: Andre Gray. Burnley’s top scorer last season, Gray has his chance to make his mark on the Premier League. His partnership with Sam Vokes will be key if Burnley are to avoid relegation. A good season for Gray could see him knock on the door of the England team, with Sam Allardyce likely to include players from outside the top six clubs.

One to Watch: Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The Icelandic winger was joint top of the Championship assist charts last season despite playing for relegated Charlton and impressed again at EURO 2016. How well Gudmundsson adapts to the Premier League could affect their survival, as he will be counted upon to create the goals to keep them up.

Last Season: 1st (Championship)

Prediction: 19th

5 things to look out for this weekend in the Premier League

With just seven games remaining of the Premier League season, there is still everything to play for. This weekend sees several important games at both ends of the table which will go some way to answering these five questions.

Will Chelsea lift their Loftus Road hoodoo?

Only Lionel Messi (8) has more assists than Matt Phillips (7) in Europe's top 5 leagues in 2015

Only Lionel Messi (8) has more assists than Matt Phillips (7) in Europe’s top 5 leagues in 2015

Leaders Chelsea should have the title wrapped up by now, however their recent performances have been all but impressive. Added to that is the fact they have only won at Loftus Road once in their last 13 visits to West London. With Matic and Fabregas walking a disciplinary tightrope, and Diego Costa out injured, this could be yet another tough afternoon for Chelsea. QPR have scored seven goals in their past two games with Matt Phillips becoming instrumental in the R’s push for survival. If Chelsea can overcome this hurdle, the title is almost guaranteed, but if they slip up then they could give Arsenal a chance to catch up.

Can Arsenal maintain their title challenge?

For 75 minutes of their match against Liverpool, Arsenal played like champions. This weekend they face Burnley at Turf Moor in a test of their title credentials. In normal circumstances you would assume the title race is all but over, but with Chelsea stuttering recently and with such an unpredictable season already, the Gunners know that nothing except a win will do. Burnley will be a tough test, recently drawing with Chelsea and Tottenham, and beating Manchester City, and it will be a test of this Arsenal team’s mental toughness to see whether they can challenge at the top of the table.

Arsenal have picked up the most points in the league so far in 2015

Arsenal have picked up the most points in the league so far in 2015

Who will be relegated?

Okay, so this question can’t be answered this weekend, but the game at the Hawthorns could go a long way to answering it. If Leicester lose, then they risk being cut adrift at the bottom of the table. West Brom have conceded seven goals in their last two games and could be in danger of being dragged back in to the scrap if they lose. Leicester’s late win at West Ham saw them gain ground on their rivals, whilst West Brom were on the end of a surprise thumping at home to QPR. QPR, Burnley and Hull all unlikely to pick up maximum points in their games, and Sunderland and Villa have tough games, so three points for any of the bottom seven will be welcome in the fight against the drop.

Will the Manchester derby be the final nail in Pellegrini’s coffin?

Despite their poor run of form, City can be the first team in the Premier League era to win 5 in a row against United

Despite their poor run of form, City can be the first team in the Premier League era to win five in a row against United

Sunday sees a stuttering Manchester City visit their in-form rivals United, with the pressure building on boss Manuel Pellegrini. City have lost three out of their last five, and plenty of their stars are out of form. Sergio Aguero hasn’t scored in over 500 minutes and Yaya Toure has failed to reach the heights of last season. Louis van Gaal, on the other hand, appears to have stumbled across a team that fits, with injuries to Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao allowing Wayne Rooney to flourish up front with Marouane Fellaini finding his Everton form in midfield. After winning the title last year, Tuesday’s defeat to Palace has left the Champions in fourth, below their rivals for the first time in 18 months. Rumours about Pellegrini’s future refuse to go away, and however much his players have let him down this season, a defeat at Old Trafford could be the final nail in his coffin.

Who will finish fifth?

With just one point separating Liverpool in fifth and Southampton in seventh, the battle for fifth is hotting up. Liverpool have lost the momentum with two losses in a row, all but ending their hopes for a top four finish. This week they face Newcastle on Monday night, which on form is a guaranteed three points. Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel are back from suspension, which will good news for Brendan Rodgers who may want to shake the team up to get back to the form of the last couple of months. Spurs have laboured to getting results in recent weeks, edging past Leicester and QPR whilst drawing with Burnley. Aston Villa visit White Hart Lane, led by former Spurs boss Tim Sherwood. Villa could be a tough test for Tottenham, with Christian Benteke being the highest scorer in the Premier League since Sherwood’s appointment. Southampton, despite playing well, have struggled to score goals recently, as highlighted by their defeat at Everton last week. The host a hapless Hull side who could conceivably not pick up a single point for the rest of the season. Sadio Mane could return for the Saints in order to give Graziano Pelle the support he needs for Saints to find the net.

Premier League gameweek 2: Unhappy return for Redknapp

Harry Redknapp’s return to White Hart Lane was a disaster for QPR, as they were demolished 4-0. Nacer Chadli bagged two goals, whilst Eric Dier grabbed his second goal of the season and Emmanuel Adebayor completed the rout. Louis Van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United continues to be unimpressive, as they were held to a draw at Sunderland. Juan Mata opened the scoring, but ex-Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell equalised with a header. In the final game on Sunday, a late Ryan Shawcross goal saved Stoke’s blushes against 10 man Hull City. James Chester saw red early on for the Tigers, but Nikica Jelavic managed to give them the lead from close range. However Shawcross’ scrappy finish gave Stoke the draw.

Chelsea maintained their perfect start to the season as they overcame a tricky game against Leicester. Diego Costa netted on his home debut and Edin Hazard made sure of the points. Swansea are another team with a perfect start, as the edged past Burnley 1-0, with Nathan Dyer breaking clear to score the winner.

Arsenal came from two goals down to draw 2-2 away at Everton. Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith scored in the first half, but late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud maintained the Gunners unbeaten start. West Ham demolished managerless Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park. Débutante Mauro Zarate and Stewart Downing scored two quick first half goals. Marouane Chamakh brought Palace back into the game, but Carlton Cole wrapped up the win for the Hammers.

Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Newcastle in this season’s first goalless draw. Newcastle were reduced to ten men late in the game as Mike Williamson earned two yellow cards. It didn’t take long for a second goalless draw, as Southampton drew with West Brom. James Ward-Prowse came closest for the Saints as his free kick struck the post, whilst summer signing Brown Ideye came closest for the Baggies, with Fraser Forster denying the striker after a clever turn.

On Monday, last season’s top two face off at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City play Liverpool.

Premier League gameweek 1: Swans stun Van Gaal

The biggest story of the opening weekend of the new Premier League season was Swansea’s stunning 2-1 victory over Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United at Old Trafford. Returning midfielders Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson scored either side of a Wayne Rooney goal to secure Gary Monk’s team their first win at Old Trafford.

Newly promoted Leicester City secured a late draw at home to Everton through a Chris Wood strike. Aiden McGeady opened the scoring with his first Everton goal before Leonardo Ulloa equalised on his Foxes debut. Steven Naismith put Everton back in the lead but Martinez’s men were unable to hold on to the three points. QPR lost on their return to the Premier League as James Chester capitalised on some poor marking to head Hull ahead. Rangers had a chance to equalise from the spot as Chester was harshly punished for an alleged handball, but Alan McGregor saved Charlie Austin’s penalty.

Arsenal, fresh from their Community Shield victory, came from behind to beat manager-less Crystal Palace 2-1. Brede Hangeland headed Palace ahead, but Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey scored in injury time in each half to secure the win. Palace also had Jason Puncheon sent off. Arsenal’s north London rivals Spurs also opened their season with a win, 1-0 at West Ham. Spurs had Kyle Naughton sent off for blocking a goal bound shot with his arms, however Mark Noble sent the penalty wide. In the second half, things were evened up as James Collins was sent off for a second bookable offence. Débutante Eric Dier rescued Pochettino’s men as the defender broke through and scored in injury time.

At the Hawthorns, Lee Cattermole hit a superb opener to put Sunderland ahead but West Brom pulled level as Saido Berahino converted a very soft penalty. Berahino doubled his tally with a second half volley, but Seb Larsson rescued a late point for Sunderland. In the other match on Saturday, Aston Villa beat Stoke 1-0 through an Andreas Weimann goal, which Stoke’s Asmir Begovic would have felt he should have kept out .

On Sunday, champions Manchester City weren’t at their best as they edged past Newcastle 2-0. David Silva put the champions ahead after an excellent assist from Dzeko. But Newcastle responded well and had plenty of chances to equalise. Their inefficiency was punished as Sergio Aguero tidily finished in stoppage time to put City top of the league. Liverpool coped well without Luis Suarez as they narrowly beat Southampton 2-1. Raheem Sterling beat the offside trap to open the scoring, but Nathaniel Clyne powered in an equaliser after some nice interplay with Dusan Tadic. Southampton really should have taken the lead, but Morgan Schneiderlin crashed his effort against the bar whilst new signing Shane Long headed the follow up wide. Liverpool took full advantage of that, as Daniel Sturridge netted the winner after Southampton failed to clear the ball.

On Monday, newly promoted Burnley host championship favourites Chelsea.