Sheffield United 3, Burnley 0 - Chris Boden’s match verdict

Charlie Taylor
Charlie Taylor

When Sean Dyche was appointed Burnley boss on October 30th, 2012, he made few promises.

But what he wanted to get over to the supporters was a desire to “instil a culture that suggests minimum requirement is maximum effort, honesty, integrity, pride, passion...

“The team will sweat in the shirt.”

His teams have done that, and much more in his seven years at the helm to date, smashing hoodoos, breaking records and scaling heights most felt were long beyond a club Burnley’s size.

However, on the corresponding weekend of his first game at the helm in 2012, a 2-0 win at home to Wolves in the Championship, his Burnley came up against a team who out-Burnleyed then.

Much has been made of Chris Wilder’s respect for Dyche and the job he has performed at Turf Moor, seeing them as something of a template for his Sheffield United to follow.

Wilder said ahead of the game: “Sean goes his way and I go my way. The one thing we both ask our teams to do is run around and compete. I'm not embarrassed to say that's what I want my teams to do.

"Being organised and being disciplined. I'm not embarrassed by that and I don't think I should be. I don't think Sean should be either."

But the Blades ran around and competed to far greater effect than Burnley, and were better organised and disciplined.

It is a rare occasion that Burnley are out-worked. You can talk about systems and formations until you are blue in the face, but, ultimately, Sheffield United showed they wanted it more on Saturday, putting in a shift that made the Clarets look distinctly ordinary.

In the face of such high-octane, persistent pressure, they wilted.

It looked like a performance from the first half of last season, largely perceived to be a blip, bearing in mind the injuries, Europa League commitments and struggles in the summer transfer window.

But Burnley have to be careful that the mistakes that have crept in over the last couple of games don’t become endemic.

Dyche noted: “They started better than us, more aggressive in their manner, their body language, on the front foot, more energy, more commitment to the cause, and that remained throughout the first half.

“We made mistakes, they capitalised on it, and we don’t want that to become a habit after last week.

“It was as poor a showing we’ve had since early last season, first half.”

In the context of this season, it was a rare off-day. Yes, they conceded four to Chelsea last week, but don’t be blinded by score lines, a look at the oft-derided expected goals shows Burnley, as suspected on the night, were better than a 4-2 defeat suggested.

They simply made simple errors and failed to take any of their gilt-edges chances.

On Saturday you couldn’t say that. They were harried and hassled into errors, and struggled to create anything of note.

While they were out-fought and largely out-thought, it was an afternoon when that lack of craft and guile stood like a sore thumb.

When Burnley don’t run over sides as they have done time and again under Dyche, they can look somewhat one-dimensional and limited.

Dyche himself bemoaned his players “knocking it forward with no need” in the first half.

They were poor in and out of possession, and while you could argue they performed relatively well against Leicester and Chelsea, that is now nine goals conceded in three games, with that defensive discipline awry at present.

Dyche admitted he could have changed his entire back four at half-time, but settled for one change, a popular one with the supporters, as Charlie Taylor replaced Erik Pieters.

Taylor would surely have started as first choice this season but for some bad luck with injury in pre-season, and he has been hard done to to be on the sidelines for most of the campaign to date.

He was far and away Burnley’s best player at Bramall Lane, showing that desire and persistence that had been missing.

You would imagine Taylor will start on Saturday against West Ham, and he probably won’t be the only change.

Striker Chris Wood has been sorely missed in the last two games, and players like Ben Gibson and Phil Bardsley will he thinking if they don’t get a shot after Saturday, when will their chance come?

West Ham’s visit to Turf Moor last season was a huge game in terms of Burnley’s fortunes, with a 2-0 win setting them off on a club record Premier League unbeaten run, and away from the jaws of relegation.

Dyche made five changes, and you couldn’t argue if there as many again.

The stakes may not be as high this time around, but Burnley will want to arrest a run of three-successive defeats, against a side who have themselves lost their last four.

The outcome may well point the direction as to where Burnley’s season is heading, for another battle for survival, or the relative comfort of mid-table.