Burnley 0, Manchester City 2: Chris Boden’s thoughts on another tough afternoon

Pep Guardiola’s staff had previously described a trip to Turf Moor as like a trip to the dentist.

After a crucial winner from Sergio Aguero in April 2019 helped hold off Liverpool’s title challenge - the ball adjudged to have crossed the line by 2.91cm - Manchester City fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura said: “Playing at Burnley is like going to the dentist.”

However, these days, it is more like a straightforward check up - many teams leave reporting no problems, with a sticker and a lollipop.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Clarets have won three of their last 28 games at home, in all competitions, which includes a Carabao Cup victory over League 2 Rochdale.

TOPSHOT - Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (R) scores the opening goal past Burnley's English goalkeeper Nick Pope (L) during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester City at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on April 2, 2022. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Burnley were renowned for making life difficult for the big hitters at Turf Moor, giving them a severe examination of their mental, physical and technical abilities.

All too often of late, however, Sean Dyche’s side have struggled to lay a glove on elite opponents, Spurs aside.

Saturday was no different. It was a somewhat meek and mild Burnley, who rather stood off and appreciated a City side who are arguably the best side in Europe and beyond.

When asked whether they had shown Guardiola’s men too much respect, Dyche answered: "They are easy words, but it is tough when you are out there, 11 players who haven't played in a few weeks against a top side.

"We tried to change it, just a little bit, get an extra midfielder in there, thinking we hadn't played for a while and only got our players back on Thursday.

"To try and mould that in a day and a half isn't that easy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"But it changes the whole feel when they score after five minutes.

"We did look a bit rusty. It did look like they might have anticipated the game better.”

That is all well and good, but only Nick Pope, Connor Roberts and Wout Weghorst of the starting line-up were away on international duty, and the tweak was an additional midfielder, which the squad are well-versed in performing.

Understandably, Dyche wanted to thicken up midfield against a side who effectively play with six midfielders, constantly rotating, with full backs who either play as wingers or tuck into midfield.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is hard to judge a performance when up against a side of the quality of City - and City have long been a bogey side even before Sheikh Mansour transforming the club - but the Clarets were rather passive.

Burnley are usually at their best when aggressive - albeit hard and fair - letting opponents know they are there, while high octane when in possession.

We saw none of that again, in a rather insipid showing.

City centre backs Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake were completely unruffled, allowed to show the range of their passing from the back, under little or no pressure, while Rodri ran the show, allowing Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan to combine to lethal effect with England trio Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yes, many sides would struggle to compete with that quality, but City won at a canter, with more gears to go through.

While City could have hit higher heights, this is a Burnley team whose ceiling has long since been reached.

These players have given their all for the cause and gone above and beyond, but the chronic lack of investment after qualifying for Europe in 2018 has caught up with the club, as many suspected.

You felt last season it would come back to bite, but there were three worse sides, as Dyche pulled another rabbit from the hat.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This season, by the looks of things, that isn’t the case.

There could still be major moments of the season to play out, with Everton and Norwich next up.

Should the Toffees win at the rather unpredictable West Ham on Sunday, however, you sense the writing is on the wall.

There is nothing to suggest that Burnley will win either of the next two games though - having won only three times in the league in 28 outings, they have failed to beat any of the other five sides in the bottom six so far this season.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They simply have to start helping themselves before it is too late, and the side sleepwalks into the Championship.

The Legs, Hearts and Minds - the mantra which adorns the walls of the training ground - have given everything over Dyche’s time at the club.

There was little evidence of any of that against City, and some of the supporters’ hearts and minds are being lost along the way.

As said before, with Dyche, it is “not a forever story”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And you wonder whether we are reaching the end of the most successful period in the club’s modern history.

Six years ago - on the way to the Championship title, he mused: “As quick as you’re a hero, you are a zero, never more so than nowadays.

“Modern fans get bored with a manager’s rhetoric and need a change, but what are you changing for?

“Either I get booed off or someone comes along and you say ‘I can’t say no, I’ve got to go’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Only time will tell.”

No fan would have begrudged him the latter, and hopefully it isn’t the former.

And you still wonder who on earth would be better equipped to get the best out of these players, regardless of which division they are in next season.

But we need to see more signs of life. If Burnley are to go down, they need to go down fighting.