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Another overhaul needed?
Plus: Wide open POTY race
Hello again! In this week’s newsletter I’m looking ahead to the summer window and assessing where the individual awards could go at the end of the current campaign.
Another overhaul needed?
With promotion secured and the title (virtually) in the bag after a glorious Easter weekend that saw Burnley beat the third and second best teams in the Championship, attention is turning to next season with Ashley Barnes confirming his departure.
Barnes appeared to indicate the club has informed him that he will not be getting a new deal and he is unlikely to be the only player to leave Turf Moor in the summer.
Last year saw one of the most exciting transfer windows in the history of the club but there could be another overhaul just as large to get us ready for the Premier League.
At least one new goalkeeper seems likely to kick things off. We have long been credited with an interest in Anderlecht goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen, who Vincent Kompany will know well, while Bailey Peacock-Farrell needs regular games. It would make sense for BPF to move on, either on a loan deal or on a permanent transfer. Will Norris is out of contract and will surely be moving on from the club too.
Aro Muric might take years off our lives with his risk-taking and occasional moments of madness but the 24-year-old is absolutely box office. Burnley’s style is heavily dependant on Muric’s outstanding range of passing. He will probably never win everyone over but I’d be more than happy if he was still our number one next term.
In the defence, much depends on what happens with loan stars Jordan Beyer and Taylor Harwood-Bellis. THB’s interviews suggest he would be happy to return for another season and City will presumably be OK with him coming back on loan.
That one should be straightforward enough Beyer is a more complicated case with a huge range of suggested fees for the Germany Under-21 centre-back. If the price is right, Beyer is a must. Hjalmar Ekdal has barely put a foot wrong and should be fine as a regular starter next term but Ameen Al-Dakhil is raw and may benefit from a loan.
Connor Roberts capped a sensational second half of the season with the goal to seal promotion and Vitinho is a capable deputy - I much prefer him as a full-back to playing on the wing - so there are no real issues at right-back. On the left, securing Ian Maatsen’s return should be a priority as his buccaneering style is key to our success. Chelsea have so many players that they should be willing to do a deal.
Charlie Taylor’s Premier League experience and ability to cover two positions could make him a useful squad player. But, at 29, Taylor needs to be playing regularly and he seems unlikely to secure many starts next term. It might be best if he moved on as he is likely on a chunky wage that could probably be used more efficiently elsewhere. Matt Lowton’s contract is up and he will presumably be leaving after eight years.
Luke McNally is an interesting one, having earned rave reviews on loan at Coventry City. With Burnley having previously tried to buy Coventry playmaker Callum O'Hare it is not impossible to see the centre-back being offered as a potential makeweight. There’s CJ Egan-Riley to consider too. His versatility makes him ideal for the bench.
Burnley have dominated the midfield battle in virtually every game this season, but we might require more physicality in the heart of the pitch next season. Josh Cullen has been a revelation but we may need to use the protection of Jack Cork alongside him in more games, with the club captain having lost his place in the side of late.
Josh Brownhill’s nomination for the league’s Player of the Year is recognition of his fine campaign and he should be better equipped for the top-flight this time. Johann Gudmundsson has done brilliantly after moving in a central attacking midfield role yet his previous injury issues suggest we would be unwise to count on him next season, but we should be giving the Iceman a contract for life thanks to this tweet.
As Samuel Bastien has yet to impress he is another who could benefit from a loan spell while Scott Twine’s inability to make an impact bar that one sensational strike to beat West Brom means that perhaps a temporary move would make sense for him too.
On the wings, 20 goals and nine assists in all competitions from Anass Zaroury and Manuel Benson have played a key role in our promotion and run to the FA Cup quarter-finals. It is arguable both of them could be even better in the Premier League, where referees tend to give creative players a lot more protection. But we could face a battle to keep Zaroury, who has reportedly been watched by Borussia Dortmund.
Then there is Nathan Tella, Burnley’s top scorer with 19 goals. Tella’s future could depend on whether Southampton stay in the Premier League. With two years left on his contract, the Saints are in a relatively strong position but we would surely love to keep him. Signing Tella on a permanent deal could be our most important business.
Darko Churlinov has shown flashes of quality but a lack of end product leaves a question mark the winger’s future. After making only six appearances in the Championship, a loan spell where he can play more regularly might make sense. Dara Costelloe was a starter for us at the beginning of the campaign before a spate of signings but he will probably go out on loan in the Football League again.
In attack is where the biggest changes might happen. We know Barnes is leaving and Jay Rodriguez could yet follow him. Injury issues have seen Jay sit out the second half of the season. It would be a shame to see him go and his experience means he is surely worth keeping around, if only as a squad option, if he is able to regain full fitness.
Michael Obafemi’s loan from Swansea is expected to be converted into a permanent deal for the striker, so he will join Lyle Foster as an option down the middle. Both players have been used out wide, though, with Barnes making the central spot his own.
That indicates Burnley could be in the market for another striker in the summer, but Kompany also has to decide what to do with Wout Weghorst. No goals in the Premier League on loan at Manchester United suggests he will not be staying at Old Trafford.
Weghorst’s pressing and hold-up play may actually make him a solid fit to play up front in our current system, but his lack of goals and rumblings over his attitude make it a tough one to call. Roberts, for one, might not welcome him back at Turf Moor…
Like Nottingham Forest last season, our promotion has come partly thanks to our use of loans. Being able to keep some of our loanees is a must if we are to avoid a rebuild as Tella, Beyer, Harwood-Bellis and Maatsen have been among our best players.
What’s for sure is the social media team will need to crank ouy some more videos.
Wide open POTY race
Those four loanees above are strong contenders to win our Player of the Year. The fact a case can be made for at least half a dozen players shows our collective strength.
Personally, I’d have the top three as Beyer, Cullen and Tella, probably in that order. But you can add Brownhill, Muric and Maatsen as other worthy winners for sure.
Beyer has hardly made a mistake all season and he stepped up in a big way when Harwood-Bellis was injured. His driving runs from the back have become a key feature of our play while his passing and recovery pace marks him out as a big talent.
He gets my award but rarely has the race to win the Player of the Year been so open.
Who gets your vote for Player of the Year? Let me know in the comments, by replying to this email or by tweeting me @JamieSmithSport. Cheers!