TALKING POINTS: Burnley 0, Southampton 1

Burnley suffered a second Premier League defeat of the season at home to Southampton on Saturday night.

Sean Dyche
Sean Dyche

And here Chris Boden looks at the talking points from the game.

OUT OF OPTIONS

It’s nothing new to Sean Dyche, particularly since Project Restart back in June, but he is running out of time to bring in the bodies that his squad desperately needs.

Chairman Mike Garlick has often spoken of the desire to come out of every transfer window in a stronger position, but as things stand, Burnley are worse off.

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As regards numbers, they have brought in Dale Stephens, after the departure of Jeff Hendrick, while keeper Will Norris has come in after Joe Hart and Adam Legzdins were released.

But winger Aaron Lennon has not been replaced, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady have subsequently picked up injuries.

There appeared to be no way back for Ben Gibson, but him leaving on loan to Norwich came at a time when Ben Mee was out injured, while James Tarkowski continues to complain of a sore toe.

As Dyche said on Saturday night: "It's not an ideal situation, the obvious challenge for me and the players, who were fully committed, the will and demand was obvious - the group needs support.

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"We want to get along list of very good players back fit, and if we can work in the market, we've got to look to do that, but that's not my decision.”

It’s an odd situation that a manager works without a budget, and has seemingly little control over what transfer business is done.

What seems likely though, is that if Dyche doesn’t receive backing before the window closes, he faces as big as task as he has ever done to keep the club in the Premier League.

He made no substitutes against Southampton, with five of the seven players on the bench yet to play a minute at this level.

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He had little to no options to change the game.

And while he will get players back fit, he needs fresh blood, otherwise it looks like being a long, hard winter ahead.

TARKOWSKI’S TOE

Speaking of Tarkowski, he sat out a fourth-successive game with what we are supposed to believe is an inflamed toe, as the club continue to knock back record offers for the 27-year-old.

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Dyche’s answers were short and terse when asked about his continued absence, and the latest bid from Leicester City on Friday.

Asked how close he was to being fit, Dyche said: “He's got a sore toe, so we're having to wait for that.”

Again, asked that the problem appeared to be dragging on, he added: "He said to me it's not serious, but it is sore, that's the way that one is.”

I then asked whether he had had the injury scanned, enquiring as to whether the damage was worse than initially thought, and Dyche said: "He's had all the checks, everything has been done.”

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It reminds me of the situation with Jason Shackell in 2015, when the then skipper spent pre-season with a reported injury, while, behind the scenes, he agitated for a return to Derby.

Tarkowski has spoken of his desire to play “at the best level I can, club football and internationally. I want to test myself against the best. We will see what happens. I just want to play at the top level and if that opportunity came I don’t think it is something I could turn down.

“Champions League and playing for your country, playing in big tournaments, is playing at the top level, so that’s what I would want to do if the opportunities came.”

Leicester City may not quite offer the “top level”, but they offer Europa League football, and a young, developing squad who look like they will continue to build under Brendan Rodgers, and potentially push for a top six finish on a regular basis.

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No one at Burnley would begrudge Tarkowski a move to the King Power Stadium, and the club appear to be holding out for what, they quite rightly, feel is a suitable figure, even in the time of COVID-19 - surely Leicester accept he is worth at least half the £80m or so they received for Harry Maguire last summer?

Dyche insists: “I certainly want to keep him, make no mistake, he is a very important player.”

But it is maybe worth remembering what Dyche said on Shackell five years ago: “You can safeguard to a degree but if a player decides ‘That’s it, I’m not willing to work how you work, don’t want to be part of it’, which Jason Shackell made a decision on, well then they’re no use to you.

“They have to be involved in what you do, they have to be motivated in what you do, they have to be motivated for the club and what it stands for.”

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Is Tarkowski motivated to stay at the club? That doesn’t currently appear to be the case.

If so, be like Michael Keane, not Shackell, and leave the club with some class and respect.

DEBUTANT

Dale Stephens was handed a debut after completing his £1m move from Brighton on Thursday.

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And while it was welcome to see a new face, Stephens’ selection meant the in-form Josh Brownhill being shunted out from the centre of midfield to the role narrow on the right, that he previously filled in the opening three games of Project Restart.

Brownhill, like Jeff Hendrick before him, is selfless enough to get on with things, roll his sleeves up and put in a shift.

But while Dyche’s only other real option was to play Erik Pieters out of position again on the right, Burnley lost Brownhill’s dynamism in that area, with Oriel Romeu and James Ward-Prowse largely controlling the midfield.

Stephens will prove an astute signing, even if it has been mocked in some areas, and he showed some nice touches at times.

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He will, however, have to quickly become attuned to needing to play forward more quickly than he has at Brighton, and take a leaf out of Ashley Westwood’s book.

OFFICIATING

While Burnley’s lack of squad depth, and struggle for creativity were the major causes of their defeat to Southampton, the officiating left much to be desired.

Whether Jan Bednarek’s shove in the back of Chris Wood was sufficient for the striker to go to ground and win a penalty or not, it appeared that there was no review by VAR, which appeared to have communication issues all evening.

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Penalties have been given for a lot less. Indeed, Ashley Westwood won a free kick in his own half shortly after for a similar offence.

And as for Wood’s disallowed equaliser, while later replays showed the New Zealand international was marginally off-side in the build-up, the assistant referee shouldn’t have raised his flag - as per the IFAB laws of the game: “Delaying the flag/whistle for an offence is only permissible in a very clear attacking situation when a player is about to score a goal or has a clear run into/towards the opponents’ penalty area.”

But the flag went up, and the whistle went, just before Wood latched onto Ryan Bertrand’s back pass and beat Alex McCarthy to score.

Fourth official Michael Oliver told Sean Dyche referee Andre Marriner “shouldn't have blown up.”

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It was a bizarre episode, with VAR unable to intervene as the game was dead upon the whistle, before the goal was scored.

As it turns out, VAR would have disallowed the goal, but why was protocol not followed?

Phil Bardsley could also feel aggrieved, after receiving a bloodied ear after a stray elbow from Moussa Djenepo.

It didn’t look malicious, but, again, he lead with the elbow, and caught the player, and again VAR appeared not to intervene.

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I’m a fan of VAR, but certainly not a fan of how it is being applied in the Premier League.

It needs sorting out, quickly.