Swansea City have shown how to survive in the Premier League. Just 15 years ago the club was languishing in the depths of the fourth tier of the English football pyramid.
But the Swans have moved on to register unprecedented success - a Capital One Cup win, a Europa League venture, and now they’re embarking on their fourth consecutive campaign among the country’s elite.
And last season they gave a lesson in how to retain that status. Incredibly Garry Monk’s side recorded a 12th place finish, despite taking just two points from a possible 48 against the division’s top eight. Importantly, though, the Welsh side picked up vital points against their rivals around them in the table.
The Clarets will need a similar scenario, and the points will come. At the Liberty Stadium they showed that they’re here to compete. Against a side fresh from beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, they deserved a point at minimum.
The hosts were punishing early on, picking out holes between centre-half and full-back to utilise the pace of Wayne Routledge and one-time Claret loanee Nathan Dyer on the outside.
That almost paid dividends when, with Ben Mee committed, the pair combined to get in behind Burnley’s rearguard and Routledge’s centre was met by the head of Wilfried Bony. However, with Tom Heaton beaten, skipper Jason Shackell was well positioned to clear off the line.
City lined up similarly to Chelsea on the opening day, with two holding midfielders behind an attacking bank of three that anchored Ivorian Bony - who was superb throughout. At times the home side were glorious on the break, but they looked equally susceptible at the back.
Burnley’s press - that contributed to so much success last term - forced the error from Jonjo Shelvey, Dean Marney fed Lukas Jutkiewicz who in turn found Danny Ings but the England Under 21 international was denied his first Premier League goal by a matter of inches as his half-volley grazed the angle.
The Clarets soon found their swagger. Their passes grew crisper, their movement more fluid, and their belief more apparent. Down the left-hand-side, Scott Arfield slotted beyond Ashley Williams and Angel Rangel to find Ings at the bye-line but the striker’s cut back was claimed by Lukasz Fabianski with Jutkiewicz lurking behind.
For the majority Shelvey had been loose in possession, but an exquisite crossfield pass to Routledge sent the winger on his way in to the penalty area where his pull back for Gylfi Sigurdsson was saved by Heaton.
The breakthrough arrived midway through the half, and it’ll be another that Sean Dyche will be disappointed with. Sigurdsson’s pass down the inside right crept beneath Mee’s outstretched leg and Dyer raced in to the box before slotting in to the near corner on his 100th Premier League appearance. Heaton may feel he could’ve done better when getting a strong hand to the effort.
From that point, the Swans controlled the remainder of the half and made it difficult for the Clarets to regain possession. Sigurdsson fired over and Bony found the arms of Heaton before referee Craig Pawson sounded his whistle for half-time.
Dyche’s words at the interval had an impact. Burnley were more organised, relentless, penetrative and generally more encouraging. For the majority, City were restricted to their own half, constantly dropping off, as the Clarets pushed for an equaliser.
Within five minutes of the restart, the visitors could’ve had a penalty. Matt Taylor and Arfield manoeuvred the ball in to the box and as it fell for Jutkiewicz the former Boro man drilled wide of the near post amid a desperate challenge from Williams. Pawson ignored the appeals.
Either side of a couple of changes from Monk - with Bony and Dyer making way for Bafetimbi Gomis and Jeferson Montero - Jutkiewicz flicked over the bar from Marney’s floated centre before the striker went within a whisker of applying the vital touch at the back post once David Jones’s pulled shot had evaded Fabianski.
Ross Wallace, Ashley Barnes and Marvin Sordell were utilised from the bench by Dyche - with Taylor, Jutkiewicz and Arfield being withdrawn - but despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at their opponents, with Barnes spinning his marker and fizzing an effort wide of the upright in the third minute of stoppage time, the Clarets couldn’t find a way through.