Burnley beat Newcastle United in the final match of the Premier League weekend in what was a poor game for the neutral. It was selected for television coverage, but it was a tight affair with both teams focusing on staying tight at the back rather than committing men forward for attacks. The first goal was going to be crucial in settling the contest and it was the home side that got it through Jeff Hendrick. As a result, the Clarets move above their opponents into 7th position and are set for another good Premier League season. Here are three talking points from the match:
Sean Dyche furthered his reputation once again
This fixture fell on the fifth anniversary of Sean Dyche being appointed manager at Turf Moor. At the time of him being given the job, the team were in 14th position in the Championship. He has managed to build something special at the club and their victory on Monday means that they are now positioned in 7th. They are currently the best of the rest and that is a great achievement, even at this early stage.
Burnley would have entered the season with their main aim being survival and that already seems likely with Dyche at the help. The Clarets’ manager knows the strengths of his side are and recruited to enhance those during the summer. Given the current debate about English managers and the lack of opportunities available to them, Dyche is an example of how to make it to the top. He developed his skills in the Football League and is now in a position to put himself forward for bigger jobs. If Everton want to go British, he is the only option.
Newcastle missed Mikel Merino
At the time of the teams being announced, it was a surprise to see Mikel Merino not on the team-sheet for the visitors. The midfielder has been one of the standout players in the Premier League this season and already looks a bargain for the price that Newcastle paid. The Magpies play a style that centres on winning the ball in midfield areas and countering with pace. Although Mo Diame worked hard and made four ball recoveries, he had a tackle success rate of only 33%.
The Senegalese international was beaten too many times in the middle of the park, while his distribution was less effective than Merino’s usually is. Rafa Benitez selected Diame based on his impressive cameo performance against Crystal Palace last weekend, but he will look back on the decision with regret. Isaac Hayden would have been a better option in the middle of the park. Newcastle will be hoping that their recent recruit from Borussia Dortmund is back at the weekend, as they are a much better outfit with him on the pitch.
Rafa Benitez needs a plan B
There is method to the tactical set-up of Rafa Benitez, even if it is frustrating for supporters. They look to stay defensively solid and focus on keeping goals out rather than being adventurous themselves. A total of 14 points from ten matches and an average of less than a goal per game being conceded suggests that it is working. The mood at St James’ Park is one of optimism, but three narrow away defeats to Huddersfield Town, Brighton and Burnley are a disappointment.
In those matches, Newcastle have failed to score and the reason for that is those sides have opted for a similar game-plan focused on counter-attacking. There are fewer spaces in behind the opposition defence and the Magpies have lacked ideas of how to break them down. Benitez needs to learn from these three matches and devise a plan B for these type of away matches, as the current game-plan has now failed three times. Aleksandar Mitrovic is an option to shake things up and he will surely get a chance at some point during the coming weeks.