Has the transfer market finally outrun Burnley? - Burnley 1, Aston Villa 2: Chris Boden’s match verdict
New Year is the time when people make resolutions, which often are soon broken.
But if Burnley break theirs, there could be serious consequences.
After defeat to Aston Villa on New Year’s Day, boss Sean Dyche resolved, after an abject first half, to “make sure it is an isolated incident.
“The main thing is to activate straight away and don't wait for the game to give you a chance to activate.”
The Clarets simply cannot continue to wait for things to happen, to be passive in Premier League games, or their top-flight status is under severe threat.
Dyche warned, after a lacklustre first half at Watford in November: “My biggest gripe at half-time at Watford was that we were waiting for things to happen, and you can’t do that in the Premier League. We have learnt that, and the group know that.
“That is when you get things badly wrong if you wait for the opposition to give you something, because they are not going to in the Premier League.”
Burnley took heed of that advice at Vicarage Road, going on to claim a 3-0 victory.
However, the same thing has happened since, and Dyche admitted after the 2-1 defeat to Villa: “It looked like we were waiting for the game to come our way, as if that happens in the Premier League, and we've got an experienced group here, and I reminded them at the end that it doesn’t work like that. You have to go and get it.”
The Clarets are at their best when they play on the front foot, with a high tempo, and, as Dyche says, an “edge”.
While they have done so to good effect this season, garnering 24 points in the first 17 games, three-successive defeats later, and you have to wonder where that Burnley has gone.
Dyche’s side have scored four goals in eight games, six of them defeats, and they have had just four shots on target in their last four outings, three of them goals.
Indeed, they have had only 10 efforts on target in seven games going back to the end of November.
Added with an unusually disorganised defence against Villa, and that led to a hugely disappointing defeat.
And had VAR not been at its most pedantic, Villa’s margin of victory would have been even greater.
You wondered when the mercurial Jack Grealish’s header, from Ezri Konsa’s right wing cross, was chalked off, courtesy of striker Wesley’s heel being millimetres off-side before he got involved in the first phase of the goal, whether that would stir a lethargic Burnley into life.
Far from it. It merely drove Villa, and Grealish in particular, on.
He ran the game, with his ability to run with the ball, to protect it, to pick incisive passes, and to get on the end of things.
After his deflected ball landed for Wesley to strike a half-volley bouncing under Nick Pope, Grealish then emphatically finished off a flowing move to double the visitors’ lead.
For Burnley, it was another underwhelming first half performance. Only six of their 24 league goals this season have come in the opening 45 minutes, and they have only led three of 21 games at the break.
There had to be a reaction, and there was. But, again, it was too little, too late.
Of 21 efforts on goal, only one finished on target - Chris Wood’s header to make it 2-1.
Again Jay Rodriguez and Johann Berg Gudmundsson came on to make an impact - could and should they have started? You’d have to suggest so.
Both are the type of intelligent, technical player that Burnley so sorely need at present, with the pair aided by Dwight McNeil coming off the line to also influence play.
However, Dyche and his players clearly need some assistance in terms of fresh blood, especially given the forthcoming fixtures, which could conceivably see the Clarets in and around the bottom three come the start of February.
Dyche’s comment after the game that any January arrivals were “unlikely” was therefore salt in the wound for Clarets fans, who are becoming increasingly bemused as to Burnley’s struggles in the transfer market.
Most fans understand that players have to want to come to Turf Moor, that their clubs have to be prepared to sell, and that the fee and wages have to be right.
But in an ever-shrinking world, in terms of football, there must be some options which fall into those brackets?
The squad looks tired and a tad stale at present. Of the starting XI against Villa, the most recent signing was Wood, in August 2017.
Dyche has warned that the transfer market will outrun the club eventually, saying in the summer of 2018: “The system runs away faster than this club can keep up with.
“The numbers run away that fast, no matter how much we bring in.
“The challenge is opening the club’s mind enough to go some way to keep up, because the whole of the football business is saying ‘all the best with that, we’re going up here’.
“Stretch and not break. It’s not easy.”
Now can Burnley push things further to avoid the Premier League overtaking them?