The new manager bounce appears to be over after a rotten display on Saturday.
Luck running out
I don’t think Burnley have actually started a game well under Mike Jackson, but the way we completely failed to get going on Saturday might have been the worst yet.
Even before Danny Ings - for of course it had to be him - ran through to score it had the feeling of one of those days. As Stan Ternent used to put it, we threw one in.
Burnley have been pretty solid at the back since Jackson replaced Sean Dyche, but we were a mess against Aston Villa. Their two rapid strikers combining with the smart positional sense of Emi Buendia at no10 exposed our defensive weaknesses easily.
Watching the highlights back, it’s two simple balls to put Ings through. You can’t get cut open that easily. Jack Cork - virtually faultless recently - is absolutely nowhere and Nathan Collins’ lack of pace was clear as Ings burned away from him to finish well. Both midfielders were ball watching as Buendia stole in to tuck away Villa’s second.
It was a strange game because Burnley trailed 2-0 at half-time but had looked pretty good in attack. Dwight McNeil was in magnetic form on the right, with the complete lack of cutting edge in our front two preventing us from testing Emiliano Martinez.
McNeil hasn’t played that well for ages. Every time he got the ball, things happened. Unfortunately the thing that happened was normally a striker being utterly useless.
Prior to Maxwel Cornet’s late consolation, our last eight goals had been scored by eight different players. That was a sign of players stepping up in times of dire need, but it also demonstrated how badly we continue to struggle for goals from strikers.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but I still don’t know what to make of Wout Weghorst at all. We know by now he isn’t really a target man, but does he really have to look so scared of heading the ball? He ducked under one under no pressure. For all the “upgrade on Chris Wood” chatter, I don’t think the big Kiwi would have wasted the peach of a cross McNeil stuck on Weghorst’s head in the first half quite so badly.
At one point in the second half, with Burnley 3-0 down, Weghorst was helping out Charlie Taylor at left-back for some reason. It was absolutely baffling to watch.
I don’t like criticising strikers when they get no service, but Weghorst has been getting chances lately. He just doesn’t even look like he might score a goal. He obviously tries - though I would question the relevance of some of his pointless “pressures” - but he was signed to score the goals to keep us up. It isn’t happening.
Not to downplay the turnaround under Jackson, but we have rode our luck at times.
That seems to have run out. Needing to start Ashley Barnes due to both Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez being injured left us with a substandard attack, while stand-in skipper James Tarkowski having to go off was another massive blow. Cornet, our top scorer this season by absolutely miles, was only deemed fit enough for the bench.
Without the two strikers, as well as first-choice centre-backs Tarkowski and Ben Mee, plus Ashley Westwood and the forgotten man Johann Gudmundsson, we are down to the bare bones again thanks to a growing injury list. At least Big Erik is back, eh?
On the bright side, we can’t play any worse at Villa next week and Spurs will have nothing to play for at the weekend if they lose the North London derby on Thursday.
There is also every chance Leeds lose the rest of their games, having had a total meltdown yesterday, though Everton now look to be out of it after another win.
Hope isn’t lost, but we need better news on injuries and a bit of luck to stay up now.
Why not Emma Hayes?
It seems to have gone a bit quiet regarding our search for Dyche’s long-term successor, so I’m going to throw out a name from outside the box: Emma Hayes.
The Chelsea boss led her side to a third straight league title over the weekend, making it 10 major medals since she took charge some 10 years ago. They are also through to another FA Cup final, so have every chance of making that haul 11 by the summer.
Last year, there was some talk about Wimbledon potentially being interested in Hayes. She rightly questioned whether a job in the League One relegation zone would be a step up from the very top of the women’s game, with Chelsea boasting some of the best players in the world such as Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby.
Women have managed men’s teams elsewhere, but not yet in English professional football. I do think it is a matter of time, though, and if Hayes is at all keen on switching to the men’s game there would certainly be no shortage of interest.
Alan Pace has talked endlessly about making Burnley everyone’s favourite underdog. I’m not suggesting appointing a manager specifically to fit that brief, but Hayes would tick that box. Her players also clearly adore her and would run through walls for her.
Hayes’ public profile grew exponentially during Euro (not) 2020 when she featured regularly on ITV, her smart tactical insights deservingly seeing her given a Pundit of the Year award as a result. With all the upheaval at Chelsea off the field right now, maybe the time is right for her to move on from the club after a decade in charge.
Look, I don’t know if Hayes would be keen or not. But building Chelsea from nothing into one of the strongest forces in the women’s game deserves more attention. She has certainly achieved an awful lot more than some of the men being linked with the job.
Podcasts and quiz question
The answer to this week’s quiz question will be in the preview show for Spurs away:
Against which team did Cork score his first Burnley goal, and what was the year?
Birthdays and anniversaries
Today is the 65th birthday of Clarets great Billy Hamilton. The striker played nearly 250 games for the club, scoring 76 goals, and he starred at the World Cup for Northern Ireland too, scoring a brace in his country’s 2-2 group stage draw against Austria.
We actually have a great record #OnThisDay with three wins out of three. In 2010, we were 2-0 down but scored four at home to Spurs to at least end a bad season on a high:
That’s it for this edition. Anyone got a hamstring they can lend Tarks for a few weeks?