Relentless Burnley ready to take on the challenge

Relentless is a word Sean Dyche has often used to describe his players.

By Chris Boden
Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 10:30 pm
Burnley celebrate the Championship title in 2016
Burnley celebrate the Championship title in 2016

And he feels his squad are back in that mode, after being stretched by injury, and the quick turnaround between the end of last season and start of this.

Burnley’s fitness levels have long been heralded, built in pre-season, allowing them to finish the season strongly.

That has often been borne out by results.

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Dyche’s side only lost five times in winning promotion in 2013-14, but only twice in the last 24 Championship fixtures.

The following season saw defeats harder to avoid in the Premier League as Burnley were relegated, but they ended that season with seven points from nine, and the following season - again only losing five games all campaign - they won the Championship on the back of a 23-game unbeaten sequence.

Back in the top flight in 2016/17, the Clarets struggled for wins over the second half of the season, but picked up their only victory on the road in their penultimate away game at Crystal Palace in April, which effectively confirmed survival.

And the next season they finished seventh, having reaching those heights in October, and maintaining that spot despite a run of 11 league games without win around the turn of the year, sealing Europa League football with five-successive wins in March and April.

Europe hindered Burnley’s start to 2018/19, and the Clarets were 18th at halfway on 12 points, but recovered on an eight-game unbeaten run, picking up 28 points in 15 games to secure safety.

Last season Burnley only lost two of their last 16 games, one of which was a dead rubber on the final day at home to Brighton, to finish 10th.

After a sticky start to this season, Burnley are picking up in tandem with players returning to fitness, and Dyche is confident they will kick on again: "Statistically we’ve seen benefits of the fitness work and the regimes we’ve put in place – the prep work if you like - in the second half of the season.

"I look at it as wanting to optimise your physical performance, because results are not easy to come by.

"But over a season if you can maximise your physical potential it increases your chances of getting results.

”Those results might be indifferent at times, but from a physical standpoint I know how strong we are."

Thursday night’s trip to Aston Villa is a third of six this month, and second of three in eight days - a sequence Burnley will repeat over the Festive period.

But Dyche, who has rarely looked to rotate his side, whether he has the resources or not, is happy to take on the challenge: "For me, when the games come closer together the big thing is the fitness of the side, and that’s looking really, really good.

”There was a very high physical output down at Arsenal.

"Everyone knows how fit our players are. And I know statistically how strong we are in the second half of a season – not just by results but in terms of our physicality."

Results have recovered with the return of James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Matt Lowton and Robbie Brady, with Jack Cork, Dale Stephens, Phil Bardsley and Johann Berg Gudmundsson also close to being available.

And Dyche added: "We have been unfortunate with the amount of injuries and I would hope and suggest that statistically that is unlikely to continue all season, but you never know and we have to be ready for that if it does.

"We’ve always finished very strong physically. And in the busy Christmas period that high fitness level helps, especially if we’ve got all the players fit. And we’re beginning to get to that stage."