Sean Dyche continues to defy expectations with his low-budget, low-maintenance group of Burnley players and he will hope to do the same again in the Premier League in 2021-22 (2/7 – to stay up).
The Clarets are preparing for their sixth consecutive top-flight campaign after Dyche guided them to promotion in 2016.
More impressive, perhaps, is the longevity of the gruffly-spoken, no-nonsense 50-year-old – he will celebrate his ninth anniversary in charge at Turf Moor in September.
And Burnley fans will be keen to see them avoid a relegation battle and stay up comfortably, as they have done virtually every year in Dyche’s Premier League tenure.
They play host to Brighton on the opening day of the season in a scrap between two sides who are likely to hover around lower mid-table (Burnley 11/5, Brighton 13/10, draw 2/1).
Hopes for the new season
For a club of Burnley’s size and stature, simply remaining a Premier League team will satisfy a lot of people on the terraces.
That isn’t to say they shouldn’t be ambitious – Dyche did of course guide them to the Europa League following a stunning seventh-place finish in 2017-18 – but a sense of realism should be instilled (9/2 – top half finish).
Burnley finished last season in 17th, though in reality, they never looked that close to being sucked into a relegation battle – finishing 11 points above 18th placed Fulham).
A repeat performance this season will be the instruction from Dyche, perhaps with a decent cup run added on.
Arrivals and Departures
Nathan Collins – £12m from Stoke
Wayne Hennessey – Free from Crystal Palace
Robbie Brady – Released
Ben Gibson – Undisclosed to Norwich City
Joel Mumbongo – Loan to Accrington Stanley
Jimmy Dunne – Undisclosed to QPR
Burnley are a team that can be described as worth more than the sum of its parts so picking one star player is tricky.
Winger Dwight McNeil is the most obviously talented player and has been linked with a number of moves elsewhere, while the defensive duo of James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have never let the Clarets down.
But if there is one player who Burnley rely on, it is their number nine Chris Wood (100/1 – Premier League top goalscorer).
Last season proved to be another productive one for the former Leeds United man and his tenacious target man style suits Burnley to a tee.
He is likely to miss the opening parts of the season due to his involvement at the Olympics with New Zealand and will certainly be welcomed back in a hurry.
Dyche has built his success at Burnley on the back of a straightforward 4-4-2 system with every player knowing their role.
The naysayers will say he needs to adapt his style in order to progress, but the obvious riposte will be to point out teams in the past – Blackpool, Swansea, and Bournemouth for example – who have gone down despite trying to play the “right way”.
It isn’t always easy on the eye for the neutral, but Burnley’s style has been highly effective in the context of their spending power and there is nothing to suggest Dyche will even consider the possibility of adapting.
They will continue to be difficult to play against with Wood and the awkward Ashley Barnes a handful for any defence, while Nick Pope continues to be a safe pair of hands in between the sticks.
Perhaps the only thing that could halt progress for Burnley is Dyche himself and more specifically his own ambition – just how much more can he squeeze out of his squad?
If Dyche is happy to continue doing what he does every day, then everything is primed for another season of security.
Last season – 17th.