Wizard of the Dribble Dwight McNeil ‘going along nicely’ insists Burnley boss Sean Dyche
But the Clarets boss is delighted with the way the 21-year-old is continuing to develop in the Premier League.
McNeil only has one official assist so far this season, and is yet to score in 10 appearances in the top flight.
And there his form has been questioned in some quarters on social media and message boards.
However, he could have had a couple of assists last week, with Jordan Pickford twice saving from Chris Wood from golden opportunities provided by McNeil.
And it emerged this week that, according to Whoscored.com, of the 80 players to have attempted 30 or more dribbles in Europe's top five leagues this season, McNeil has the best success rate (73.5%).
The top four players in that aspect last season were Adama Traore of Wolves, PSG’s Neymar, Lionel Messi of Barcelona, and Newcastle United’s Allan Saint-Maximin.
Dyche doesn’t see a dip in McNeil’s form, but feels maybe people are now demanding more, and more often from him: “Don’t forget, it’s a sign of his continued development...when you’re getting questioned, it’s because people are expecting it, but that expectation comes from performances.
“His performances now are leading people to question, so I think that’s an incredibly powerful thing.
“A year and a half ago, he was a young kid coming through.
“If he did one dribble, people would be ‘oh great, he’s only a young kid’, and now people want to see that more because we’ve seen him do it.
“It’s that double-edged sword. It’s a really powerful thing that people are now ‘can you give us a bit more?’, when, if we had just put him in the team last week, everyone would be buzzing about this amazing young player.
“Your eyes sometimes normalise, and you think ‘actually, could he do a bit more, could he do that?’
“But go back a year and a half, and you’d be ‘cor, fantastic for him to be thrown in and do that.’
“There’s a different way of judging it, but people are a bit more expectant, and that’s because he’s delivered and delivered very well.”
While there is no doubt about the quality of his left foot, one area McNeil could improve is in terms of adding goals to his game.
He pulled a good opening wide last week against Everton, and one notable miss against Wolves late last season springs to mind, as he looks to add to his five goals for the club.
Dyche thinks that killer instinct will come in time: “He's got quality, there’s no two ways about it, and he strikes a lovely ball.
“I think we ask a lot of him as a team player, and that individual greed if you like, where strikers find that moment, maybe a little bit more greedy around the box, and I think it will add to his game.
“But he’s going along nicely.”
McNeil will line up against Bukayo Saka at the Emirates on Sunday, with the young Gunner having emerged as a regular in the senior squad, having battled it out with McNeil for playing time in the England Under 21s.
Dyche just feels it is a positive for the National set up to have so many quality young players making an impact: “I think it is purely a case of the manager of the Under-21s or Gareth with the national side are looking for certain things at any given time and for the games they have got possibly as well and prepping the team as they see fit.
”Dwight is a very good player and continues to consistently perform and learn and develop.
”I see him at close quarters so I am bound to be a fan. Saka is a very good player and has shown that. There are some really good young players coming through I think and there's two of them and I think that is healthy for the future of the national system.
“I think they are two very talented players who are earning the right to play in the Premier League and doing it very well.”
McNeil’s craft was backed up by Robbie Brady last week, who scored a goal and provided a threat going forward, as Burnley looked a different prospect from a side that has struggled to create, never mind take, chances so far this season.
Dyche was encouraged by that side of things: “I think the goals aren’t coming as freely, but performances are beginning to, certainly more freely, in the attacking zone we are creating a better quality of chance.
“I said before, you can play the numbers game, and we all kind of look at that as a base to work from, if you get enough shots on target, entries into the box, the final third, but it’s the quality of chance really.
“Against Everton we created some real quality chances.
“And the other thing is mixed chances, from play, from crosses, set pieces...I’ve always believed you’ve got to effect games in as many ways as possible, and there are increasingly good signs of that, albeit, we have to look after ourselves and take those chances.”
And of Brady, Dyche hopes to see more of his undoubted class if he can finally stay free of injury for a sustained period: “I thought he was good, over the season, he’s another looking for that real, ground-in Premier League fitness. He’s still getting there, and when he has that, we know he can play well in the Premier League, we’ve seen it before.
“He and Johann have had a really tough time, niggly injuries, things that cost them a week or two, so every time you get truly fit, you come out again and it softens a bit.
“We want him to continue getting that true fitness.
“He delivered a good performance last week, and down at Leicester as well before the injury, so long may his fitness continue.”