Burnley Turn Back Clock and Serve Up Typical Stat-Shaming Victory at Brighton
It was easy to discard Burnley as 2018 neared its end. The Clarets were very much in the bottom three, having won just once since the start of October, a period that saw nine league defeats. After last season’s exploits, Burnley were very much brought back down to earth this term; by the end of August they were already out of the Europa League.
Sean Dyche’s side looked to have exerted themselves in Europe’s secondary competition at the start of the season already, and a relegation battle this term wasn’t unlikely. However, back in December, they didn’t even look like they would be in a relegation battle, rather they’d meekly slumber their way back to the Championship. The qualities that typified them last term looked non-existent this campaign; they weren’t as solid or dogged as they had been in the past, plus none of the signings looked to make an impact. We could have called it; Burnley looked doomed.
How they’ve proven many wrong again. Since the 30th of December, when West Ham visited Turf Moor and were well-beaten, Burnley haven’t tasted defeat. A run of four wins in seven is impressive, and the fact that of those three games they didn’t win, one was a draw after they fell behind against Southampton, and another was a 2-2 stalemate at Old Trafford, where they were probably unlucky not to have won.
Burnley have shown the qualities they were believed to have lost since the turn of the year, but no game probably yells Burnley this season like their latest win at Brighton. Last season, one of the Burnley’s biggest traits was to win games which they seemed to have no right to, games which the stats showed their opponents to be rather superior. Talk of their Expected Goals Against tally was rife last season, as they seemed to win games against the numbers.
And at the AMEX on Saturday, those traits returned. That Brighton had 16 shots on goal – six on target – to Burnley’s nine is one thing, that the hosts had more than double the amount of passes Dyche’s men had is another. But those stats seem like little when you realise that Burnley made 55 clearances in that game. Or the fact that their first goal of the game, from Chris Wood, came seconds after their goalkeeper Tom Heaton denied Brighton at the other end.
This was 2017/18 Burnley in 2018/19, the side that comes away with better results than the numbers suggest. A side that not so much defies, but rather disrespects and ridicules stats on their way to winning games. But that’s not to say they don’t merit these wins, that they simply get away with things – even though their third goal here came via a penalty which was given seconds after Brighton should have been awarded one.
If Burnley keep winning games in this manner, it’s because of the amount of commitment and effort they put in, getting bodies in the way of shots, clearing dead-cert goals of the line, having a goalkeeper that makes saves which defy belief, and a forward line that works incredibly hard, and also takes its chances. This is how Burnley win games.
And they won again, in Sussex on Saturday, and they are now three points clear of the relegation zone. There’s still a long way to go, and a long fight ahead, but this is Burnley, a side that have pouring egg on the faces of stats and doubters alike since Dyche took charge of the club. If four wins in seven isn’t enough of a sign of defiant progress, how about this; when Burnley first played Brighton this season in early December, they were 11 points behind the Seagulls, now they are on the same tally.
The slide continues for Brighton, who are three points off the bottom three, having not won since the turn of the year. In fact, up until Shane Duffy pulled one back against, they hadn’t scored at home their win over Everton at the end of December.
It was a return to winning ways for Liverpool, who put swatted Bournemouth, as well as talk of crisis and already ‘bottling it’, aside at Anfield, and put pressure on Manchester City who had a tough test at home to Chelsea…
…About that. City only went on and put six past the Blues, yes six. Sergio Aguero equalling Alan Shearer’s record for Premier League hat-tricks, while Raheem Sterling bagged a couple, as Chelsea were absolutely routed at the Etihad. It still needs to be pointed out again; Manchester City scored six against Chelsea!!
Spurs also kept touch with the top two, as they battled to another hard-fought win, seeing off Leicester, for whom Jamie Vardy saw his penalty saved with his first touch of the game. The North Londoners are still in the race.
Two wins in two for Cardiff, who climb out of the relegation zone. But that seems beside the point, rather it’s worth noting that amidst the Emiliano Sala tragedy, the Bluebirds have managed to keep playing football, while retaining a sense of perspective, and they also keep winning games. In the most trying of times, Cardiff are showing enormous strength.
A win for Arsenal, the Gunners’ first away victory since November came, unsurprisingly, at Huddersfield. But Unai Emery still saw his shaky defence act all…well, shaky, as the rather toothless Terriers threatened, and when it seemed like the hosts wouldn’t get a goal, their visitors went out of their way to put one in for them in stoppage time. Still no away clean sheet for Arsenal this season, whose recent disjointed displays make their 22-game unbeaten run in Autumn seem a bit absurd.
Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth
Brighton 1-3 Burnley
Huddersfield 1-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 3-1 Leicester
Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea
Fulham 0-3 Manchester United
Crystal Palace 1-1 West Ham
Watford 1-0 Everton
Southampton 1-2 Cardiff
Monday Night Football: Wolves v Newcastle