Can anyone step up at Burnley in the absence of magic man Maxwel Cornet?

Maxwel Cornet heads to the African Cup of Nations after making as big an initial impact in the Premier League as anyone from his continent has ever enjoyed.

By Chris Boden
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:30 pm
Maxwel Cornet scores at Leeds
Maxwel Cornet scores at Leeds

The Ivory Coast international has scored six goals in his first 10 Premier League appearances, matching Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the most prolific start an African player has made to life in England's top tier.

The summer signing from Lyon has contributed 37.5% of Burnley' s league goals this season, and the question is: How on earth can the Clarets live without their man with the Midas touch?

Cornet had not featured in almost a month, since suffering a thigh strain and subsequent positive Covid test, but within eight minutes of his inroduction at half-time at Leeds, there was hope, when before, there appeared none.

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His magnificent free kick equaliser - Burnley's first such goal since Steven Defour's similarly memorable effort at Old Trafford on Boxing Day 2017 - was a bolt from the blue, a moment of true class from a side bereft of any confidence, and, as Sean Dyche admitted, second best in terms of desire and an edge to their play.

That shaft of light was shut out with 13 minutes to play by the hosts, who went on to add a late third, to put eight points between them and the Clarets.

And now, Burnley could be without Cornet for up to five games, as Ivory Coast look to win their third AFCON.

Dyche now turns to a group of players who, he said, he has "never lost belief in, never lost pride in", but someone has to step up in Cornet's absence, or it could be curtains when he returns.

Dyche said: "When you are a footballer you can’t just look at Maxwel.

"Before we had Maxwel we had seasons in the Premier League, and the players who have got us there, kept us there and kept delivering.

"So let’s have it right, there are a lot of good players here who know what life is like without Maxwel, so we have to make sure we are performing when he goes away.

"We have to be careful, we have had many seasons in the Premier League without Maxwel and we have got players who can perform, score goals, create goals, defend.

"We have to apply ourselves to make that happen, me included, to encourage the players, to keep working with them and reminding them of the good things we do and how we do it."

Chris Wood has hit double figures in four-successive Premier League seasons, one of an elite group of players to do so, but his struggles continue.

He remains on three goals for the season, and looks shorn of confidence, missing big chances at both Manchester United and Leeds.

The other three senior strikers have one league goal between them so far this season.

Dyche has tried Aaron Lennon in the number 10 role Cornet has made his own, enjoying some success at Old Trafford, but none at his former club, while Dwight McNeil and Johann Berg Gudmundsson could also fill that slot.

Someone simply has to step up, with no goals coming from midfield, or can the club manage to make a breakthrough in a January transfer market Dyche expects to be as difficult as ever?