Was win over Spurs Burnley’s best Premier League performance?

Burnley have been a thorn in the side of the established Big Six throughout Sean Dyche’s reign.

Sunday, 24th February 2019, 11:09 am
Updated Sunday, 24th February 2019, 11:17 am
Burnley celebrate Chris Woods opening goal

They took four points off champions Manchester City in 2014/15, have drawn their last three visits to Old Trafford, held Spurs at Wembley last season - having already won at champions Chelsea on the opening day, before then taking a point at Anfield, against a Liverpool side they had beaten at Turf Moor the previous year.

Arsenal have been a tougher nut to crack, often aided by some baffling late refereeing decisions, but, until Saturday, Dyche's success against the elite had somewhat dried up, in line with his belief that the big guns have flexed their muscles and kicked on, well out of reach of the rest of the league.

Dyche's side had, since the remarkable victory at Stamford Bridge last season, not won any of the following 18 meetings with the Big Six.

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And at home, they had taken just two points from the last 42 available against the big hitters, failing to keep a clean sheet in that time, conceding 27 goals and scoring just six.

So, in context, Saturday’s win over title hopefuls Spurs was a strike back at the big boys, and arguably Burnley’s best performance in their time in the Premier League.

When the Clarets have taken points off the top dogs, they have ceded control, and possession, and invariably had to ride their luck at times, their keeper and defence having to have big games.

Burnley have had to play at the right times, when possible, and take their chances when they came.

Manchester United missed a penalty when losing 1-0 at Turf Moor in 2009, Liverpool had 81% possession when losing 2-0 here in 2016, and Chelsea finished with nine men in 2017, still giving the Clarets a scare as they held on to stun Antonio Conte’s men.

Saturday was a different case, however. Mauricio Pochettino admitted afterwards: “The game was never under control. Then we concede, then we score. Never was the game you can say was under control. We had the possession, yes. We create some chances but not enough. In this kind of level, if you want to be a contender you need to come here and show your credentials and say we are here because we deserve it but it did not happen.”

Tom Heaton made one fine save from the returning Harry Kane in the second half, which brought a nice show of respect between the England pair.

But it was a save you expect Heaton to make, despite the ball moving around wickedly through the air.

And other than that, the Clarets skipper was not tested, conceding to a poke from Kane after the defence was caught out for the only time, due to Danny Rose taking a throw in on the run a good eight or nine yards ahead of where the ball actually went out.

That would have been tough to take had the Clarets not gone on to carve out a deserved winner, as Ashley Barnes - in front of Austria boss Franco Foda - gleefully slammed in a cross shot from substitute Johann Berg Gudmundsson - his fourth in successive games.

He and strike partner Chris Wood have only been outscored in 2019 by Sergio Aguero, boasting 11 between them in this eight-game unbeaten run in the league, and the former Brighton teammates have 16 in 17 starts as a pair for the club.

Wood has double figures for the club in successive seasons at this level now, and is again punching his weight after a tough first half of the season, along with Barnes, who Premier League defenders must hate facing.

Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will scarcely have had a more difficult afternoon all season.

But, as Dyche rightly noted, the front two are about more than their goals, and the side is about more than their forwards.

The centre backs, in front of Gareth Southgate, showed they are back to their best, in the right place at the right time. One show of strength and composure from James Tarkowski to hold off Kane in the first half showed his quality, while Ben Mee made a number of key interventions.

You could go right through the side for outstanding performers, and while they are not safe yet, they could look to push for another top half finish, which would be remarkable after the first half of the campaign.