Leeds United 3, Burnley 1 - Chris Boden's thoughts on a damaging defeat

After ending 2021 with the fewest wins and points of all 92 clubs, Burnley had hoped to start the New Year on a more positive note.

By Chris Boden
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 7:00 am
Sean Dyche
Sean Dyche

However, the clouds hovering ahead darkened after a hugely disappointing reverse at a Leeds United side lacking several big players.

When Sean Dyche took over at Burnley, his only promise was that there would be sweat on the shirt; that the minimum requirement was maximum effort.

I wouldn’t begin to question that from a group of players who have gone over and above for the club.

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But, as Dyche admitted, Leeds had more of the edge and desire to win, which is not what we have come to expect from his teams.

Dyche said: “Today was the edge over a full game, we had a good start to the first half and the second half but over the 90 minutes I felt Leeds had the edge and the freedom, but also the running capability, the pressing, getting it forward.

“This season we have tried to offer some changes in the way we play, using the ball better, but you can’t take away the hunger and desire.

“They had the edge against us with that desire.”

In Burnley’s time in the Premier League, it has often been that edge and desire which has kept the Clarets afloat, against teams with far bigger budgets and more star-studded squads.

They would “run over” teams, with their physical output key to their success.

Dyche has long spoken of pressing being the new passing.

That advantage has slowly ebbed away, with even the big hitters working more diligently than ever against the ball, and here, Leeds’ intense workrate was too much for the Clarets to cope with.

Combine that with self-inflicted defensive wounds, and it is a recipe for where Burnley find themselves, with as big an uphill battle as they have faced to stay in the big league, since returning in 2016.

The Clarets find themselves two points from safety with a game in hand on Watford, but now eight adrift of 16th.

And while with 21 games to play, nothing is settled yet, there is nothing to suggest a win is around the corner at the moment.

There is now little margin for error moving forward, in a race to avoid the drop which could essentially now be a case of three from four, with one of those clubs trying to accelerate their push away from danger in the January transfer window.

Burnley are not in a position to push the button on a revamp, as Newcastle look set for, and the noises from Dyche suggest a similar winter window than the ones we have become accustomed to.

You wonder though whether a couple of new faces could make all the difference.

Used to the sight of opposition midfielders breaking past Burnley’s engine room, towards their back four, the need for a more mobile player in that area has long been apparent, as well as one who can get on the ball and dictate a game, much like Adam Forshaw - a more ‘Burnley’ player you could not wish to see - at Elland Road.

With big chances going begging yet again - Chris Wood somehow failing to volley home from Charlie Taylor’s cross at 0-0 - fresh options up front would be ideal as well, in a season where Burnley’s four senior options have four league goals between them.

That, obviously, doesn’t include Maxwel Cornet, who, used in the number 10 role, has been a revelation.

Cornet has six goals in his first 10 Premier League appearances, level with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the best start for any African player.

The Ivory Coast international, having sat out the best part of a month with a thigh problem and COVID protocols, produced a moment of magic to haul Burnley back into the game in the second half, with the club’s first free kick goal since Steven Defour’s memorable strike at Old Trafford on Boxing Day 2017.

Now, the Clarets will be without the man with the Midas touch for up to five games, and, with the best will in the world, Burnley fans will hope the Elephants make an early exit from AFCON in Cameroon.

Dyche, who has railed against the top clubs’ desire to return to the use of five substitutes, believing it favours the elite, maybe would have wished he could have changed half his outfield players at half-time after a dismal display.

Burnley’s ball retention was poor, with a 61% success rate, as the ball came back time and again, with a Leeds goal seemingly inevitable.

It arrived shortly before the break as the lackadaisical James Tarkowski played a suicidal ball out wide, and Jack Harrison picked up the ball and drove into the box, scoring at the second attempt.

Cornet came on for Johann Berg Gudmundsson as the only change at the interval, and gave Burnley hope, where there had appeared none.

You wondered whether the Clarets could push on and produce what had looked an unlikely win, with a point not the worst outcome at that stage.

Familiar frailties struck late on though, as a failure to close down from a corner, which Leeds were allowed to take and force a two v one situation, led to the Whites regaining the lead as Stuart Dallas passed the ball into the corner.

And, with only one side looking like adding to the score line on the break, Leeds put the nail in the coffin with Daniel James’ header squirming in after an initial stop from Wayne Hennessey.

Will it be the nail in the coffin for Burnley’s Premier League status though? It certainly doesn’t look promising.