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Burnley

How are the newly promoted teams faring so far?

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Survival is always the ultimate aim for a team coming up from the Championship to the promised land of the Premier League. Nothing is more important for a newly promoted team than finishing in 17th position or above and consolidating themselves in the top tier of English football. This season, Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers made the jump back into the Premier League, and are all separated by just three points after their opening four fixtures. However, despite similar points totals, each team will have a very different outlook on the season based on the opening games.

Burnley

W:0 D:2 L:2

GD:-3

Pts:2

Pos:18th

Results:

Chelsea (H) L 1-3

Swansea City (A) L 1-0

Manchester United (H) D 0-0

Crystal Palace (A) D 0-0

Sean Dyche’s Burnley defied the odds last season by being promoted automatically to the Premier League, despite their modest budget and small squad size. The lack of experience in the squad has meant that many wrote Burnley off before the start of the season, however, they have acquitted themselves well to the rigours of playing in the Premier League.

Their strongest asset is their defence. Since the opening weekend defeat to Chelsea, Burnley have only conceded one goal, coming in the first half of their second game against Swansea. This means that Burnley have gone over 250 minutes without conceding a goal, showing their competence in defence. This strength will stand them in good stead, as it will help them avoid losing games, keeping the points tally ticking over and helping them in the relegation battle.

However, their defensive steel is somewhat costly, as Burnley have struggled to score goals in their opening four fixtures. Not since Scott Arfield’s early goal against Chelsea have Burnley found the net, meaning that winning a game has proved elusive so far. Part of the problem is a lack of creativity; Burnley are a well drilled, hard to break down side, which consequently stifles their attacking abilities, but their main issue is not taking their chances. Arfield missed a penalty towards the end of the Crystal Palace game and the Clarets hit only 1 out of 12 shots on target in the defeat against Swansea. Shooting accuracy must improve if Burnley are to win enough games to stay in the division.

Dyche has clearly installed a good team spirit at Turf Moor, however, which has translated onto the pitch with some organised, commendable performances. They have also faced some tough fixtures already, especially at home, taking on Chelsea and Manchester United. Their spirited displays so far suggest Burnley will make things difficult for opponents and that they are up for the fight of staying in the Premier League. By keeping games as close and tight as they do, they increase their chances of winning games by the odd goal, helping their chances of staying up.

Despite Burnley’s character and organisation, they still have a big question mark hanging over them: Is the squad actually good enough? They defied the odds in obtaining promotion last season with their squad. Difficulties in the transfer market have meant that their squad is mostly the same as last season. A lack of funds and a struggle to attract new players means that Burnley still have a largely Championship standard squad, and the test lies in competing with stronger teams week in, weekout.

In conclusion, Burnley will need to score more goals in order to ensure their survival for another season. Their strong defence and character stands them in good stead to be competitive this season, but due to their squad size and quality survival would count as a monumental achievement. They will certainly give it a good crack, and probably get close, but their lack of goals will mean that they probably won’t win enough games to stay up.

Leicester City

W:1 D:2 L:1

GD:-1

Pts:5

Pos:12th

Results:

Everton (H) D 2-2

Chelsea (A) L 2-0

Arsenal (H) D 1-1

Stoke City (A) W 1-0

Championship winners Leicester City have looked the most comfortable by far out of the newly promoted teams by far, despite the daunting look of their opening fixtures. Starting the season with games against three of last season’s top 5, as well as a trip to the notoriously tough Britannia Stadium, meant that Leicester would not have expected to have many points on the board early in the season. However, they have fought hard and been competitive in all of their fixtures so far and, most importantly, have picked up a decent points total. Draws against Arsenal and Everton were highly commendable, but particularly impressive was the 1-0 win away to Stoke; a team that only lost three times at home in the last campaign.

Furthermore, Leicester frustrated league leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for long periods, and even had chances to take the lead through David Nugent.  This is the main improvement needed for Leicester, who have so far looked very capable everywhere on the pitch, but do not have many players who will score enough goals to maximise their potential.

However, their big-money Patagonian centre-forward Leo Ulloa has adapted to the Premier League very well, scoring three goals in his opening four matches. Many questioned whether he would be able to make the step up to the Premier League, but he appears to be a handful for defences and is scoring goals to boot. A slight concern for the Foxes is that Ulloa has scored three of their four goals so far, and they may struggle to get goals from elsewhere, but they have a tight defence and should not need too many goals over the season in order to win plenty of matches.

On early evidence, Leicester City look by far the best equipped to beat the drop out of the newly promoted teams. Their results and performances have been impressive, especially as many would have had them down to lose their tough opening fixtures. In Ulloa they seem to have found one man who can score, and also have a fairly solid defence, boosted by the capture of experienced defensive-midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, that has genuine Premier League quality. The Foxes already look like a decent mid-table Premier League outfit; which is a credit to Nigel Pearson. Survival chances look very good for Leicester.

Queens Park Rangers

W:1 D:0 L:3

GD:-8

Pts:3

Pos:16th

Results:

Hull City (H) L 1-0

Tottenham Hotspur (A) L 4-0

Sunderland (H) W 1-0

Manchester United (A) L 4-0

QPR were the only team to bounce straight back to the Premier League after relegation from the Championship the season before. Performing this tough feat would normally mean that they stood a good chance of staying up, however, they have started the season in a very poor manner.

For a start, Rangers concede far too many goals. They already have the worst defence in the league, as well as the worst goal difference, mainly from two incredibly abject 4-0 away defeats to Tottenham and Manchester United. Whilst losing these games is not unusual for a newly promoted side, the manner in which QPR fell to defeat was appalling. They had no sting in attack and no bite in defence, which is a very big concern for the rest of the season.

Part of the issue may be the formation. Harry Redknapp has implemented a 3-5-2, and has even brought in Glenn Hoddle to help put this system in place, but it seems to leave QPR far too open at the back. Had they gone to White Hart Lane and Old Trafford with two banks of four that would try to stop them scoring, they may have stood a much better chance of taking something from those games, or at least making the score look respectable.

Another worry is the lack of a quality striker. Without Loic Remy, it is difficult to imagine the R’s are going to be able to score enough goals to stay up. Charlie Austin seems to be Redknapp’s preferred striker, but despite his goal against Sunderland, he has been struggling in front of goal, as shown in his costly penalty miss on the opening day against Hull.

QPR do, however, have some experienced and talented players that should give them a chance of staying up. The experience of Joey Barton and Rio Ferdinand will help them win tight matches, like against Sunderland, and they also have brought in other talented players such as Leroy Fer, Steven Caulker, Edouardo Vargas and Mauricio Isla. These players have plenty of quality, but the challenge remains in getting them to gel as a team, as this was the problem for QPR during their last stint in the Premier League.

So far, QPR don’t look like they are going to develop into a strong Premier League outfit. They are weak at the back and light up front. Compared to Burnley, they have more quality individuals, which will stand them in good stead, but don’t appear to have the same sort of spirit and organisation. They have a very experienced squad and coaching team, but unless things turn around, QPR look to be in real danger.

 


Overall, Leicester look to be the most impressive newly promoted team so far, and look very well placed to survive and establish themselves in the Premier League. Burnley and QPR will both struggle and be down there all season; with Burnley’s organisation and spirit across the team giving them the advantage over a thus far disjointed QPR in the battle to stay up. However,early season evidence suggests that both teams would have done exceptionally well if they are a premier league team still come the 2015/16 season.

Burnley

Manchester United 2-2 Burnley: Three talking points from Old Trafford

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Photo: Reuters

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to strike deep into injury-time as Manchester United came from two goals down to salvage a dramatic point against Burnley at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Going into the match with the chance to close the gap to Manchester City at the top of the table to ten points, the hosts got off to the worst possible start when Ashley Barnes poked home with just three minutes on the clock after a melee in the box.

And it went from bad to worse not long after when Steven Defour struck a superb free-kick out of the reach of David de Gea to leave the visitors dreaming of a first victory at Old Trafford since 1962.

Jose Mourinho rang the changes at half-time and it was Jesse Lingard who, just moments after missing a sitter from a yard out, hauled his side back into the match with a delicate back-heel finish.

United piled on the pressure as they went in search of an equaliser but they were met with typically determined defending by Burnley, until the ball dropped to Lingard in the second minute of time added on to fire home a shot into the corner and break Burnley hearts in the most dramatic of ways.

The result will do little to increase United’s title diminishing title hopes though, who now sit 12 points behind their rivals and have a game in hand against Newcastle United, whilst Burnley move to within a point of the top six.

United falter again as title drifts further away

For the second time in just a matter of days there was injury-time drama for Manchester United after substitute Jesse Lingard tucked home in the 92nd minute to salvage a late point for the hosts.

Whilst Boxing Day’s draw will leave a slightly better taste in the mouth than their one against Leicester City at the weekend as this time it was them who came from behind to claim a point right at the death, it does little to detract from the fact that the Premier League title is now all-but lost.

The gap between United and rivals Manchester City was reduced to 12 points on Tuesday but, considering City play a lowly Newcastle United later today, it’s likely to be up to a huge 15 points by Thursday morning.

Whilst Burnley were well-regimented and showed the defensive prowess that has become accustomed with Sean Dyche’s side this season, there was an all-too similar feeling of déjà vu from last season as the hosts failed to truly test Nick Pope despite amounting over 75% possession.

Jose Mourinho’s experiment with both Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic starting failed to produce any meaningful impact and, until Lingard’s intervention, they were staring an unlikely defeat in the face.

The Portuguese boss claimed post-match that there is ‘not enough’ funds being given to him to improve his squad – despite spending nearly £300million since taking over as manager – in comparison to Manchester City, but on the day there’s no debating they have the resources to beat a side like Burnley at home.

Surprise package Burnley continue to ruffle feathers

In a week that saw people tuck into turkey across the country for Christmas Day, Burnley continue to ruffle some feathers of their own after coming agonisingly close to claiming a first win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 55 years.

After being convincingly beaten by Tottenham at home last time out, it was the perfect response from the Clarets in a match that proved they have the temperament to battle with the best teams in the league.

It was arguably a classic snatch and grab performance from the visitors, taking their two chances from set-pieces with their only two shots on target of the game, but their fast start enabled them to soak up pressure inside their own half and get ten men behind the ball.

Whilst a point will come with mixed emotions due to the manner in which they were pegged back during injury-time, it maintained their mightily impressive run on the road against the top six sides.

This season Dyche’s side have already beaten Chelsea and drawn with Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United, picking up more points (six) than any other team in the Premier League so far.

Not many would have expected Burnley to be able to continue their fine start but, with over half of the campaign done and dusted, there’s a real possibility that they could achieve something miraculous this season, and the likes of Arsenal will now be nervously looking over their shoulders.

Lingard to the rescue as substitute continues purple patch

Whilst Manchester United may be in the midst of what some would call a ‘slump’ having won just two of their past five Premier League matches, one positive to come from their run is Jesse Lingard.

The 25-year-old has quietly gone about his business this season under the radar, slowly becoming one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s team sheet and ousting the likes of Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford.

And after being a squad player for the best part of the last few seasons at Old Trafford, every now and then popping up with a vital goal – such as the FA Cup final winner in 2016 – he has suddenly taken his game to the next level as a result of playing in a more free, central role behind the strikers.

Deployed behind Romelu Lukaku his pace can turn defence into attack in an instance for United as shown against Watford and Arsenal, and it was his impact from the bench that earnt his side a point.

Some may question why he didn’t start considering his prolific recent form but he made up for lost time once introduced at half-time, producing a sublime back-heel flick into the far corner to reduce the home side’s arrears before being in the right place in the 92nd minute to fire a half-volley home.

It could have been an even better afternoon for the England international too had he not been denied from a yard out by Nick Pope but, on the day, his manager will be thankful for his exploits.

For a man that has rarely been spoken about as a future first-team player he’s certainly giving people something to think about, and his brace – the first to be made by a United substitute since 2015 – now means that he’s been involved in more goals this season (six goals, four assists) than the likes of Eden Hazard, Dele Alli and Alexis Sanchez, and that’s not bad company to keep.

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Bournemouth

Three talking points as impressive Burnley downed Bournemouth

Rob Meech

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Burnley climbed to sixth in the Premier League thanks to a thoroughly deserved 2-1 victory away to Bournemouth. Goals from Chris Wood and Robbie Brady either side of half-time put the Clarets on course for all three points. And although Joshua King halved the arrears 10 minutes from time, the Cherries could not force an equaliser as they slipped to their first defeat since October.

With their seventh win of the campaign, the Lancashire outfit have moved above Tottenham Hotspur in the table, while Bournemouth dropped to 15th after an off-colour performance. Here are three talking points to emerge from a bitterly cold evening at the Vitality Stadium.

Sean Dyche triumphs in battle of the English managers

This game was billed as a contest between two of the brightest young managers in England – and there was a clear victor. Burnley dominated the 90 minutes and perfectly executed Sean Dyche’s game-plan. They never let Bournemouth get a foothold on proceedings and capitalised on the break.

The Clarets are often described as a long-ball side and dull, but the football they produced was far superior to that of Bournemouth, who are renowned as an attractive team to watch. Meanwhile, Dyche’s opposite number Eddie Howe – celebrating his 40th birthday – was left scratching his head after his side’s insipid display.

The Cherries headed into this clash three games unbeaten, but the worrying signs that appeared during the goalless draw with Swansea at the weekend were magnified here. There was precious little creativity and too much sideways passing. Tellingly, the midfield two of Harry Arter and Andrew Surman were completely outnumbered and outplayed.

Burnley’s remarkable transformation on their travels

Much was written about Burnley’s poor away form last season, which was in stark contrast to their results at Turf Moor. But from the moment they shocked Premier League champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, the Clarets have looked perfectly at ease on their travels.

This victory over Bournemouth followed wins against Everton and Southampton, as well as draws with Liverpool and Spurs. Burnley’s only away defeat came at table-topping Manchester City. These 14 points are double what they earned in the entirety of last season. It is a remarkable turnaround and testament to the work Dyche has done with his well-drilled squad.

Each player knows his own role inside out. In truth, they never looked in any trouble against Bournemouth once Wood had opened the scoring. On this evidence, it is no surprise to see Burnley riding high in the table – they are there on merit and will continue to succeed if taken lightly.

Goals are in short supply for timid Bournemouth

In their first two seasons in the Premier League, Bournemouth entertained audiences with goals aplenty at both ends of the pitch. The dramatic 4-3 victory over Liverpool and 3-3 draw against Everton spring to mind. This season though, excitement has been replaced with pragmatism.

The Cherries have become harder to beat, but the trade off has been that, despite the arrival of a striker of Jermain Defoe’s pedigree, they have found goals tougher to come by. Bournemouth have scored 12 times in 14 matches so far, with a third of those coming in the 4-0 thumping of Huddersfield Town earlier this month.

The challenge facing Howe is to get the best of both worlds. In a division as competitive and unforgiving as the Premier League, that is no easy task. But the consensus is, currently, the Cherries have compromised too much on the brand of football which has made them so watchable.

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Arsenal

Three talking points as Arsenal secured a late victory against Burnley

Jake Jackman

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Arsenal

Arsenal beat Burnley on Sunday thanks to a late goal from Alexis Sanchez. The winner came from the penalty spot. Although the performance won’t be remembered as one of the Gunners’ best of the season, they persevered and found a way to take the three points. In the past, this has been something that the club have struggled to do and it was pleasing to see them win in an ugly fashion against the Clarets. The victory saw them move above local rivals Tottenham into a Champions League position. Here are three talking points from the game:

Shkodran Mustafi delivered a brilliant defensive performance

The German international was linked with a move away from the club during the summer, but he ended up staying at the Emirates Stadium and his improvement in recent weeks offers encouragement for the future. Against Burnley, he was superb and was a leading contender for man-of-the-match. He played a vital role in Arsenal keeping a clean sheet and looked assured in everything that he was asked to do.

During the match, he won nine aerial duels to relieve the pressure on his team. In addition to his dominance in the air, Mustafi made three tackles, two interceptions and five clearances. His reading of the game was superb and he regularly made the right decisions at the back to halt the Burnley attack. In a three-man defence, it is important that the centre-backs are comfortable on the ball and the German was on Sunday. He completed 84% of his passes and offered a good out-ball when the midfielders ahead of him were put under pressure.

Burnley are rarely going to be dominated in matches

The Clarets are never going to be the most entertaining team to watch in the Premier League as they focus on organisation and being tough to break down, but they are extremely effective in what they do. At the time of writing, they are in 7th position and emerging as one of the best of the rest. If they had managed to hold onto the point, they would have moved level on points with Liverpool in sixth and that underlines the success they are having under Sean Dyche.

Arsenal came with an attacking line-up and have players that can cause Burnley problems. However, the Clarets weren’t intimidated by their more illustrious opposition and they went about their business in the same manner that they have done all season. They have conceded only 10 goals in 13 matches and that solidity at the back is what gives them the foundations to have their best Premier League season to date.

Alex Iwobi isn’t ready to be starting for Arsenal

The Nigerian international has been a favourite for Arsene Wenger since the beginning of the season. The 21-year-old has featured prominently with Sunday being his 5th Premier League start of the season in the absence of Mesut Ozil. It was a huge blow to be missing the German after his excellent showing against Tottenham, but an opportunity was presented to Iwobi. Unfortunately, the attacker failed to make the most of it.

Iwobi had a number of chances to impress in the final third, but his distribution and decision making weren’t good enough to create clear-cut opportunities. His pass success rate of 91% suggests that he was reliable in possession, but he often chose the easy passes rather than those that are designed to open up the opposition defence. Arsenal lack options in attack and are over-reliant on Sanchez and Ozil. The performance from the 21-year-old on Sunday suggests that he won’t be ready for a regular starting role for the foreseeable future.

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