Burnley boss Sean Dyche - Ashley Barnes has added clinical edge

Ashley Barnes scores his second goal against Southampton
Ashley Barnes scores his second goal against Southampton

Over the calendar year, his goal return puts him in the same bracket as the Premier League’s most prolific frontmen.

In fact, Ashley Barnes has netted one more than Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Saturday’s opponents Arsenal.

Raheem Sterling, in red hot form in front of goal, is tied on the same number, 11.

And Clarets boss Sean Dyche feels he is adding that clinical edge to his all-round game.

Barnes is arguably one of the most improved players in the top flight, bettering his goal return year on year.

He hit five in 2014/15, six in 2016/17, nine the following season, and 12 last term.

His double on the opening day against Southampton got him up and running in style, and Dyche said of the focus of Burnley fan Bacchus’ grime track “Ashley Barnes”: “That’s a pretty good stat, is that in that grime rap?

“I don’t think he’ll be bothered about that, I’ll tell him though, he’ll be buzzing!

“Probably the thing you learn most as a striker in the Premier League is the clinical edge to your game has to improve, our strikers know that, goals are hard to come by in the Premier League, harder than all the other divisions.

“So I think the attention and detail they put into training pays them back.

“You’ve got to be clinical and there’s a real focus when those chances do come.

“That’s improved over the last few years, not just Barnesy, the whole mentality of the group.”

And Dyche has challenged him to try and maintain that form: “Two goals in the first game doesn’t guarantee a season, Barnesy is wise enough to know that.

“I think he has developed, but everyone seems to be highlighting things all of a sudden, which often happens.

“We’ve seen him develop season on season, the ups and downs of a footballer’s career.

“You hope they end on the up, and he’s learned well, continues to learn and improve, but he’s one of many here.

“There’s more to his game than the two goals, as they are many others here.

“All players have earned the right when they’ve scored goals to enjoy that, and it layers up the confidence, but behind that, I don’t think he’s naive, he’ll keep working at his game, I think he’ll want more, all strikers, all players, should have that real thirst.

“He’s rounded enough to know he’s got to work hard every game.”

Dyche, working on one of the smallest Premier League budgets, has had to get all he can out of all the players at his disposal, and his first cash signing, for £450,000 in January 2014, has provided value for money and then some: “I just think he’s an effective player and I like that, I like effective players, the ones that I look for and look to develop.

“He’s played his fair share in all of that, I looked for a player like that and we got him, and I’ve seen him develop over the time we’ve been here, and he continues to work hard to do so, so it’s a nice mixture.

“I don’t think there’s a guarantee in any player’s development, I think each level you go up the ladder, it’s how you accept the challenge and whether you’re up for the challenge.

“Every time the bar is raised, can you raise up to it?

“Once it’s there, can you normalise at that level? Can that be your level?

“And just keep moving it forward.

“He’s made an obvious show of that through all the levels.

“I remember him playing at Paulton Rovers, stuff like that, when he was a young man, and for him to come through that and reflect on that - and still use some of the skills he picked up then, is really important.

“Lower League football is often undervalued, they can learn a lot from an experience like that, young players going out on loan and using that as a platform to grow from.

“That happened to me in a different era, now it’s more an understanding era, more technical, bit I like to see players have those experiences and use them wisely.

“They can form into a more rounded player, and slowly but surely, Barnesy has been achieving that for many years, keep stepping up and stepping up and moving forwards, and he’s done that well.”

Dyche takes great pride in seeing players develop, and he has an impressive track record: “Ingsy, to when he left from when we got here, Tripps, even older players - Jason Shackell was a much improved player when he left, going to now, the way Ben Mee is improving all the time, Tarky, varying players, and I enjoy that side of it, it’s a big part in what I believe in.

“If you get that side of it right and players are moving forward as individuals and a group, there’s a chance you’ll improve your chances of success.

“It’s not guaranteed, but I think that’s how it works and I really enjoy that side of it, and my staff do too.

“Still working with players, individuals, trying to rub off with details about their performances, what they can do as a professional to keep improving.”