Sean Dyche continues to achieve the impossible at Burnley. Despite having one of the smallest budgets in the Premier League, the Clarets consistently punch above their weight – securing European football with a seventh-place finish in 2017/18 and sitting in tenth when the current campaign was suspended.
Simply surviving each year would be an achievement in itself. But Burnley’s sensible recruitment and functional tactics have created a side which is well-drilled, hard to break down and physically imposing. That organisation and unity has allowed them to reach heights that few would have expected of them, in four fruitful consecutive campaigns as a top tier club.
The challenge for Dyche this summer – as it is every season – will be to maintain Burnley’s comfortable mid-table position with the modest funds at their disposal.
It’s likely to be a case of evolution rather than revolution at Turf Moor in the coming transfer window. But a few of the squad’s more senior players may be set to move on to pastures new.
Experienced goalkeepers Joe Hart and Adam Legzdins are both out of contract and will surely depart, freeing up a space for Bailey Peacock-Farrell to step up and become the regular understudy to No.1 Nick Pope.
Fellow veterans Phil Bardsley and Aaron Lennon will also reach the end of their current deals next month. The duo are unlikely to remain at the club beyond the summer, as Dyche looks to bring down the average age (28.3) of the league’s third-oldest side.
It would be a surprise not to see the club take up their option to extend the contracts of Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady, but Jeff Hendrick’s future remains unresolved. Discussions have taken place with the Irish international but he’s yet to agree a new deal at Turf Moor and is about to enter the final month of his current contract. Burnley certainly won’t want to lose him on a free transfer.
Ben Gibson is the one blot on the club’s recent transfer market record. The centre-back joined from Middlesbrough for a £15million fee in 2018 but has failed to break into the first team and has even been training back at his former club. He looks to be the one nailed on departure from this Burnley squad.
Dyche won’t be especially keen to lose anyone else, but the vultures are beginning to circle around star winger Dwight McNeil. It would take at least £30million to secure the 20-year-old’s signature, with recent reports suggesting that Crystal Palace may be keen to bring him to South London.
The Eagles are also rumoured to be interested in Clarets defender James Tarkowski – the England centre-back is another player who could be tempted by a move away from Burnley after close to four-and-a-half years with the club.
Key areas to strengthen
Burnley are looking to improve their options at right-back and on the right side of midfield, with replacements needed for Bardsley and Lennon if (as expected) they are heading for the exit door.
Despite all their success, there is a lack of creativity in the current squad. A No.10-type player who can unpick the lock in tight matches could also be a useful addition to Dyche’s armoury.
The Clarets have had the third-fewest shots per 90 this season (8.82) and only Newcastle United have had fewer touches in the box per 90 (11.88). While the latter is partly as a result of a direct and often counter-attacking style, there is undoubtedly room for improvement when it comes to the team’s productivity in the final third.
Technical director Mike Rigg oversees the club’s recruitment and has shown a preference for buying from British sides in recent years – of all Burnley’s signings since their last promotion, Steven Defour is the only one not to have had prior experience in English football.
That trend seems likely to continue, although Monaco winger Samuel Grandsir has been linked with a move to Turf Moor. The 23-year-old can play on either flank and has been on loan at Brest this season, where he’s scored five goals and managed two assists in all competitions.
Burnley chairman Mike Garlick has previously spoken about how the club could lose up to £50million as a result of the coronavirus, so we’re unlikely to see the Clarets’ splash a serious amount of cash this summer.
But if they do decide that a big money signing is necessary then former Burnley right-back Kieran Trippier could be near the top of their wish list – there has been talk of the Atlético Madrid star returning to the club for around £20million.
Other names in the frame include Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper