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A 2-1 defeat to Brighton to start the season, so let’s get into it…
Barnes sub proves costly
Burnley were great in the first half and probably should have had the game sewn up, with both Johann Gudmundsson and Ben Mee hitting the woodwork. If even one of those goes in, Burnley probably take all three points. But they didn’t and the second half was a different story. For me, Saturday’s game turned on our first substitution.
Ashley Barnes has always been divisive and it’s probably fair to say nobody is going to change their mind about him now, seven years after he joined. And the pairing of Barnes with Chris Wood has worked in the past, albeit a couple of seasons ago now.
But bringing on Barnes for a tiring Jay Rodriguez, who was perhaps the only surprise selection, was a puzzling first change from Sean Dyche. There were 20 minutes to go and Burnley, while starting to sit a little too deep, were still in control of the game.
It’s at this point we have to acknowledge the relative lack of depth in Burnley’s squad compared to Brighton. They brought on Adam Lallana - who made 34 appearances for England - then Poland international Jakub Moder and Alexis Mac Allister, who has two caps for Argentina. Moder created the equaliser and Mac Allister scored the winner. They obviously had a massive impact on the end result with the old weakness in the left side of Burnley’s defence ruthlessly exposed with two easy balls in behind Charlie Taylor, though Dwight McNeil’s lack of tracking back didn’t help either.
But while Dyche has a paucity of options (a bench with three defenders and three strikers is pretty lopsided, though at least there was only one goalkeeper) it is right to question whether he makes the most of them. Matej Vydra earned himself a starting spot in the side last season but, for whatever reason, he appears back to being fourth-choice, which is harsh. Vydra and Wood were developing a handy partnership that offers variation, with the Czech both dropping deep and stretching teams with pace.
Barnes is 31 now and has contributed nine league goals in his last two (injury-hit) seasons. After getting caught drink-driving recently, he is arguably lucky to still be in his job. That gave the club an opportunity to move him on and free up a space in the first-team squad for the exciting teenage talent Lewis Richardson. And yet…
Dyche and his favourites, eh? Sometimes I don’t think it’s a fair accusation, but in the case of Barnes it’s hard to come to another conclusion. Barnes hasn’t consistently produced a notable impact on games for some time and bringing him on to play with Wood when Vydra for Rodriguez was a far more obvious, like-for-like change signalled we were done playing football and just resorting to hoof and hope to try to see it out.
Barnes is clearly not to blame for two soft goals being conceded, but neither is it a coincidence we were winning when he came on and losing within just a few minutes. The confusing subs continued with Josh Brownhill coming on to play on the right initially, then switching into central midfield soon afterwards. Nearly 10 minutes between Brighton’s winner and Vydra’s introduction made no sense at all. Why wait?
The most worrying thing for me was how tired Burnley looked in the second half. Before the break, we looked terrifically sharp, hungry to press and win second balls. We easily had Brighton beaten in terms of energy and drive, no doubt with adrenaline pumping thanks to the backing of a loud Turf Moor. But as the game went on, so many of our players looked absolutely shattered, especially the midfield four and Wood.
Tired legs were understandable last season due to you-know-what, but after a full pre-season I’m not sure what the excuse is for running out of puff in the very first game.
At least we won on xG - that’s the real quiz.
Booing taking the knee is a racist act
I was really disappointed to hear so many boos on Saturday. I’ve seen people say that it was a minority and it was quickly drowned out by cheers, but where I was in the back corner of the CFS, that just wasn’t the case. There were a lot of boos in the CFS - it seemed like it was coming from both the home and away fans. Cheering and clapping was fairly minimal. I was clapping as loudly as I could and I felt very uncomfortable.
Look, Premier League players have been taking the knee for over a year now. It’s been confirmed it is here to stay for the season. We don’t want to be talking about boos every week. According to the BBC, there was no notable booing at other PL games.
Here’s a reminder of what Burnley’s captain Ben Mee said so eloquently after that “white lives matter” message was flown over the Manchester City game last season:
“I’m ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium,” said Mee, who was clearly emotional. “There are a group of lads that are in there embarrassed to see that. It’s missed the whole point of what we’re trying to achieve and these people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves as a lot of us do. It doesn’t represent what we’re about, what the club is about, what the players are about and what the majority of the fans are about. It’s a small minority of people and I’m really upset that it happened.”
Booing the knee is affiliating yourself with these types of people. Please, think again.
Opposition view: Fine margins in Brighton’s favour
Back to the football. Thanks to Liam from @AlbionAnalytics for their take:
Massively a game of two halves IMO. And the fine margins went in our balance in terms of finishing, but then for once we got our shots the right side of the woodwork and our opponents didn’t! Incredibly physical first half and we looked rattled due to atmosphere and we were certainly outplayed. You got around us too easily and too quickly for my liking in organised possession. And we were too sloppy in build up for the first hour.
Quality of pass wasn’t as perfect as it needed to be when playing into central areas. Too many turnovers and Sanchez’s kicking was pretty poor for the first 2/3 of the game. But our counter press improved towards the end, when we did lose it we started winning it back more, and Lallana on helped turn the tide I think. He’s just glue in that team.
On this week's podcasts
This week’s main podcast is already out with Natalie, Rich, George and (a hungover) Tom giving their verdicts on the Brighton game and finally being back at a full Turf Moor after such a long time. Listen in all the usual places or on the NNN site here.
Preview show with Dave ahead of the Liverpool game is out on Friday as usual.
Two questions for this week, one easy and one hard. Answers on the preview pod.
Burnley won at Anfield for the first time in a Premier League match last season, thanks to Ashley Barnes' penalty. But which player was denied a winning goal in the previous season's meeting there, when his shot in the final minutes struck the crossbar?
Other than the four players we included in our 'Club Connection' poll (Les Shannon, Brian Hall, Danny Ings, Peter Crouch), how many other players can you name, who have played competitive matches for Liverpool and Burnley since World War II?
Birthdays and anniversaries
Promising young defender Kevin Long will be 31 (!) on Wednesday. Two days later, his fellow Ireland international Stephen Ward, now at Walsall, will be 36.
#OnThisDay in 2018, Burnley beat Istanbul Basaksehir 1-0 thanks to Jack Cork’s stunning strike in extra time. Burnley in Europe feels a while ago now…
The NNN PL fantasy football league is back. Here's the league code: 7ixae7.
Blowing my budget on Bruno and Salah paid off (though I captained the wrong one) so I got off to a flyer with 96 points despite 15 points from Ayling and Sarr on my bench.
But our early leader is Josh Bond, who scored a whopping 118 points thanks to Antonio, Richarlison and captain Bruno. Is it Wildcard O’Clock for your team yet?
Tweet of the Week
This is so great - exactly why we all love Burnley FC as much as we do.
Lots of data-y stuff from the Brighton side on the @AlbionAnalytics Twitter.
No letters as such yet (are you all shy?) but lots of people did get in touch to say they enjoyed last week’s launch. I’m not quite egotistical enough to print them all here but I am very grateful for all the support. Now write in with a proper letter please! Reply to this email or tweet either @nonaynever or me @jamiesmithsport with your views. A couple of features are new this week - good, bad, indifferent? Let me know.
I won’t be at Anfield (but I am making the trip to Newcastle for the Jeff Hendrick Derby). Next week’s newsletter is therefore a good chance for people to contribute, so you don’t have to read more of my waffle. Shout up if you have an idea - I’m all ears. Slide into my DMs on Twitter or you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thought of the day
Why is the (not very) big screen located so about a quarter of the ground can see it?