Chelsea 3, Burnley 0 - Chris Boden’s match verdict

"It feels nice to smile in a game, and enjoy what you are watching,” beamed Frank Lampard after his side’s 3-0 win over Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
Sean Dyche at Stamford BridgeSean Dyche at Stamford Bridge
Sean Dyche at Stamford Bridge

But for Clarets fans, it seems an awful long time since they could experience either.

A fourth-successive Premier League defeat signalled the worst run of the season.

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And while this display wasn’t a new low, confidence and belief appear in short supply on the pitch, and in the stands at present.

Sean Dyche feels that is the main issue for his players: “The biggest thing for us, is when you're losing games, is that confidence kind of falters a little bit, so the freedom that comes with playing...mainly it affects anticipation.”

However, while I would imagine the majority of Burnley supporters still back the manager, the fact some are losing their faith is a concern.

The boos at half-time after the no-show against Aston Villa at Turf Moor, the somewhat ironic cheers which have greeted the late substitute cameos of the scarcely-used Matej Vydra, and much disillusionment in the club’s struggles in the transfer market, have shown some clear dissent in the ranks - the sort of which we haven’t really heard from the fan base since during Dyche’s first season in charge, 2012/13, when a run of two wins in 16 saw Burnley dragged towards trouble.

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Back then, the Clarets finished 11th with seven points from the last nine.

The rest is history.

It’s no surprise that, again, with the Clarets slipping towards the trap door, on a run of seven defeats in nine, that concerns have been raised.

With games against Leicester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and a revitalised Southampton - and a bang in form former Claret Danny Ings - it is hard to see where the next point is coming from.

Even more so when you consider the performances of late.

There might have been periods in games where Burnley have been on the front foot, or been a threat from set plays, but in terms of effective attacking football, you have to go back to November and the successive 3-0 wins against West Ham and Watford.

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In those seven defeats in nine since, the Clarets, who largely scored their way out of the relegation zone last season, have netted only four goals.

There are mitigating circumstances, with Dyche without Ashley Barnes, Jay Rodriguez, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady at Stamford Bridge, and it is clear his squad needs fresh blood this window, but he is unlikely to have the finance available to do that.

But sympathy is in short supply at present from some sections of the supporters.

As Dyche himself said ahead of Arsene Wenger’s final home game in charge of Arsenal in 2018, as Burnley celebrated securing Europa League football: “I’m well thought of by the board and by the fans, but it changes.

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“Eventually my rhetoric will get boring, what we go on about will get boring, and the model of the club will get boring.”

Are we reaching that crossroads?

Certainly social media is a pretty bleak place for anyone of a Claret and Blue persuasion at the moment, but how representative of the overall fan base is that?

There tends to be less traffic in that regard when things are going well, but when things aren’t, people aren’t backwards in coming forward to vent their frustrations.

It would be brave to back against this manager and his group of players getting things right eventually, getting the necessary points to ensure a fifth-successive Premier League season, and sixth in seven.

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And, having been on a 12-month rolling contract, he announced a new long-term deal two years ago, to 2022, which some sources suggest is worth £3.5m a year.

You would suggest the club, one of the most prudently run in the league, wouldn’t be throwing that sort of money away in compensation.

Dyche would hardly say anything else, but he has faith his squad will come out of this tough run: “It is unlikely we will sign anyone, but I have confidence in the group that I work with and always have done.

“We have to find a way out of it.

“We did last season and, for us, we have a pretty healthy points tally although a couple have got away from us.

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“It is about how quickly we can get back on track and I don't think we are too far away.

“Last year spun very quickly. People had killed us off and said no chance and then all of a sudden we were off and running and eight unbeaten.

“It is not easy and we have very tough games coming up and then we are in a mixture of games which people would consider more favourable. The mentality has to stay strong."

The mentality isn’t as strong as it has been - that ‘edge’ or ‘eye of the tiger’ as Dyche likes to say has been elusive at times.

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And Dyche can be notoriously stubborn, in his loyalty to players and his system.

There is also the debate of style over substance, with some reaching the point where they are looking for more than survival, for a more aesthetically pleasing brand of football.

But could anyone else have squeezed every last ounce out of the players as he has?

As he has said previously: “You can’t just have the wheel of the ship in calm waters, you’ve got to take it when it’s choppy, and you learn a lot more from that.”

Dyche has piloted this course before, and while some fans are currently a bit sea-sick, will the end destination be worth the current troubles?