Long season ahead for Burnley
As they travel back to Lancashire, only the most optimistic Burnley fan will be harbouring any hope of survival this season. This was always going to be tough campaign for a team newly promoted and without vast sums of money for improving. Sean Dyche, rightfully so, is getting the praise for taking this team up, but today showed that the Premier League is a level above many of his squad.
Away at the Hawthorns is never an easy game for anyone, but after similar starts to the season and with the Baggies still bedding in a multitude of summer signings, this was a game that the Clarets would have had hopes of picking up a point.
As poor as Burnley were, West Brom must take the plaudits for taking advantage with a very dominant victory. Alan Irvine will take home many positives, most notably the display of Saido Berahino. A willing runner, his energy caused Michael Duff and Jason Shackell problems all game. He showed great positional instincts for the first goal and clinical finishing for the second. A continuation of this form could well be the key to their season.
Berahino aside, the team as whole played well together and were very patient in breaking down a stubborn defence. The only negatives being that they didn’t create a lot of goal scoring chances, partly due to resilient defending but mainly due to Berahino being isolated up front with the three behind not always close enough to give him support. The Baggies passed the ball around with confidence but were restricted to long shots and crosses, many of which came from the impressive Sebastien Pocognoli. With his constant overlapping and dangerous balls into the box, not only was he my man of the match but he will be an attacking asset to the Baggies this season.
The creativity issue will need addressing and will be a mild concern to Irvine, but the big plus being they were extremely clinical when they had their opportunities.
As impressive as West Brom were, Burnley were poor in equal measures. They are clearly aware that strong defensive performances are the key to their season. They sat back and made themselves tough to beat, a clever tactic and one many managers have used with great success in the Premiership. Dyche’s team, sadly, were just that, and once they conceded offered nothing going forward. They had no pace up front and poor Lukas Jutkiewicz was chasing shadows all game. They weren’t so much playing long balls as just booting the ball upfield. Naturally, this led to wave after wave of attacks and the inevitable goals. You can’t soak up that much pressure every week and hope to stay in the Premiership.
The defence did their best, but if you are just trying to clear your lines, you don’t give yourself any hope of getting control of the game. The midfield offered nothing, the game just passed them by. Long clearances left them unable to get hold of the ball and West Brom’s pressure made them unable to support the forward. Even when they had the ball they just gave it away. I was only aware Steven Reid and Ross Wallace were playing when the were substituted.
Ashley Barnes’ introduction at half time gave Jutkiewicz some support and the Clarets looked marginally better going forward, but more open at the back. By this time the game was already over.
No one blames Dyche, nor should they. The man has worked wonders and has a very committed team with a work ethic many could learn from. People will point out that last season’s top scorers, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, the most prolific strike force in all leagues last year, are sorely missed and will make Burnley a greater team offensively but with this midfield behind them, are they really going to score many goals?
I enjoy an underdog like we all do, and if I am proved wrong will happily eat my words. Burnley will make a lot of friends this season for their attitude and commitment but unfortunately, friends don’t keep you in the premiership, quality does.