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Burnley 2020/21: What will be the target for Sean Dyche and the Clarets this season?

After a few weeks of will he, won't he, Sean Dyche is leading Burnley into a fifth straight Premier League season, and there appears little reason why the Ginger Mourinho can't keep working his magic at Turf Moor.

A superb end to the 2019/20 season, which saw the Clarets match their best top-flight points tally since 1966, has given the club a springboard into the new campaign, albeit with new arrivals currently thin on the ground in the north west.

The introduction of two additional substitutes following the coronavirus break highlighted the job Dyche has done with a limited budget and small squad at his disposal, with a number of youth graduates involved in games since the restart. But without significant additions to add to his lot, how many times can he keep working miracles?

Where they stand

Burnley were not so much the team of the restart; closer to the team of 2020. They lost only four games after the turn of the year - including their first two - with a 2-1 win over Leicester on January 19 a season-defining turning point.

After Nick Pope saved Jamie Vardy's penalty and Chris Wood and Ashley Westwood completed a turnaround victory, Burnley would pick up 27 points from their 15 remaining games, as many as Mikel Arteta's Arsenal.

The key to that success - unsurprisingly for any Dyche team - was a water-tight defence, which conceded only 12 goals in those 15 matches, leaving Nick Pope in the running for the Premier League Golden Glove until the final weekend of the season.

Where they're strong

Burnley have serious aerial power at both end of the pitch with a league-topping 968 headers last season. Of those, 185 came in their penalty area - with centre-back James Tarkowski winning a team-high 199 aerials across the pitch.

Along with the stellar performances from goalkeeper Nick Pope, that defensive solidity helped the Clarets keep 15 clean sheets - level with champions Liverpool and two shy of Manchester City's league-high 17 shut-outs.

Where they need to improve

Burnley set a new club record by winning 15 Premier League games and equalled their points record of 54, while losing only twice in the final 16 games of the season.

But, for all the positives, the squad is shallow. Sean Dyche has called for contract situations to be addressed after losing Jeff Hendrick, Joe Hart and Aaron Lennon when their deals expired and recruitment is required.

The situation is best summed up with their league-low 44 changes to starting XIs last season, in addition to using the fewest number of substitutes - by some distance.

Dyche has never shuffled his pack too frequently, but one senses the stats below are increasingly borne from necessity, instead of preference.

In addition, the Clarets' success with their unique style is almost enigmatic, with league-low numbers for passes and dribbles - and below-average attempts at goal. It's a well-oiled approach now, and their success defies the numbers.

What has the manager said?

"It is clear and evident that we need people in," said Dyche about Burnley's slow summer of transfer business. "We are trying to affect that, it's rare that we get business in early.

"We are still waiting on the reality of the situation with the ones we feel we have a chance on. We have to look at people who can at least challenge our group with immediate effect.

"We are not close to anything at the moment but that is often the case."

Key man

Even in a team where the sum of the side's parts is often more than its individuals, it's difficult to look beyond goalkeeper Nick Pope, rated so highly he has been looked at by Chelsea as a replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga this summer.

Burnley's defence has always been their strongest factor but there is a reason why the 28-year-old was still in the hunt for the Golden Glove by the last day of the season.

Pope's save ratio was less than one per cent lower than that of Ederson and Alisson - while he made only two errors leading to goals across the whole campaign, one less than the Man City stopper.

One to watch

It's a little late to tip him as an up-and-coming figure at this point, but it is worth remembering Dwight McNeil is still only 20 and does not turn 21 until November.

And yet, he started every one of Burnley's Premier League games last season, created more chances than anyone else in a Clarets shirt, and only three players across the entire division completed more crosses throughout the campaign - with the throwback winger undoubtedly the provider of one of the best deliveries in the league.

Still awaiting his first England call-up, McNeil will want to add more than the six assists and two goals he produced in 2019/20 this time around, with another season of development under his belt.

What is success for Burnley in 2020/21?

Realistically, more of the same. Burnley have been punching above their weight for some time under Dyche, even during a mildly disappointing 2018/19.

With such a small squad to work with and a budget dwarfed by most of the sides around them, another top-10 push for the Clarets could only be viewed as a success; that stunning run to seventh in 2018 was a special one, but the sides pushing for Europe in recent years, such as Leicester and Wolves, have made the top-half fight even tougher than it was then.

Burnley finished on the same points tally in the last campaign as they did that famous season, but were knocked down three spots to 10th. If nothing else, keeping hold of Dyche after murmurs of unrest earlier this summer has already proved a big plus, and keeping his key men fit during the season play a major part in determining whether they can keep pushing against the glass ceiling.

Source: Sky Sports

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