As part of a new series looking ahead to the new season, we’ve spoken to fans of the 19 other Premier League clubs to get their views on their clubs’ chances next season, as well as what they think of us.
Part One: Crystal Palace and Liverpool
Part Two: Arsenal and Everton
After pretty much walking the league last year, what are your chances of doing it again?
Always difficult to predict. There’s no doubt that not being in Europe helped as it meant Conte could pretty much choose from the same 13 each week. The demands of the Champions League and the need to succeed in it will make it harder for us this season. I also expect Utd and City to be more of a challenge this season. And then there is the success or failure of the transfer market (amend on or after 1st September!). Add to this we are losing our top goal scorer and Hazard will miss the first few games then it will be tough. It’s arguably harder to retain a title than it is to win it but having said that Conte’s track record at Juventus points to the fact that in spite of everything that’s going on I wouldn’t write off our chances of retaining it just yet…
How do you rate your transfer activity so far? How big of a loss is Matic?
There’s a lot of panic about it all at the moment and while it’s not ideal that we don’t appear to have transferred in enough players to challenge on all fronts before the season starts, it must be remembered that the window has 3 weeks or more to run yet. Luiz and Alonso were bought late in the window last year and made a significant impact on our title winning season. We basically have the same first eleven with Morata, Bakayoko and Rudiger replacing Costa, Terry and Matic. The issue is that we need to add to the squad depth and replace a number of experienced players who left last year and a number of young players who have either been loaned out or sold. Matic is/was a decent player but given that Bakayoko was brought in he would most probably have found himself on the bench which is why he left for Utd I suspect. Ultimately he has not been the same player since Ashley Barnes tried to break his leg and certainly not the superb player he was in our 2015 title winning side. He will not be missed as much as many think I suspect.
This year, you have the added distraction of a Champions League campaign – do you think Chelsea are equipped for that?
To be honest no. If we are to challenge for the Premier League and the Champions League then we need to strengthen the squad in terms of quality and quantity. The fact that we seem to be merely replacing those who have left rather than adding to the squad does concern me, as apparently it does Conte. That said, we still have a number of players with Champions League experience and like all cup competitions you need a fair amount of luck to progress. Right now though I’d be surprised if we get beyond the quarter finals when faced with the likes of strong sides such as Bayern; Real Madrid; Barcelona; Atletico; Juventus and PSG. Getting to the semi-finals or beyond would be some achievement.
How big of a moment was your win at Stoke last season?
It was a weird end to the season because although we seemed to have it wrapped up with months to go it appeared to be fairly tight going in to the final furlong. That means that every win was vital to keep the gap between us and Spurs open. Away at Stoke is always a tough match so getting 3 points there will always be hard earned, so Cahill walloping in the winner felt huge at the time.
Do you see Stoke as a guaranteed three points? From the outside looking in, how do you rate our chances next season?
Not at all. As I said – playing Stoke in the icy cold windswept Britannia sorts the men out from the boys and if you can pick up 3 points there you will have earned them. It seems as if Sparky has got Stoke fairly settled in the Premier League but without huge additions to the squad I don’t see you doing much better than mid-table. It will be interesting to see how Kurt Zouma does with you this season. He looked very promising for us before he got a nasty injury so I hope he gets back to his best. If he does he’ll be a good player for you.
Finally, predictions for where both Chelsea and Stoke will finish this season.
Definitely top 4, probably 2nd or 3rd but hopefully 1st for Chelsea, if I can remove the splinters from my rear end. Stoke 10th I reckon.
With safety secured last season, will Burnley this season be looking forward to progressing or is survival still the main aim?
Survival is definitely the key to our season. Nothing much has changed and you often find that newly promoted teams face the same, if not slightly more, struggles as their first. Naturally, you want to progress each season, so a couple more points here or there, or one or two positions higher would be grand. However, I would snap your hand off now to guarantee 17th.
Last season you were pretty unbeatable at home but disastrous away, do you think you’ve got what it takes to compete on the road this time around?
God knows! I was glad to see us finally get that elusive win away from home, but I am not convinced we did enough to completely exorcise that demon. Plus, unless SD changes his tactics away from home and loosens up a bit, then I cannot see how we will be any different. You cannot go away from home in the PL and nit it up for a draw; you are pretty much guaranteed to get beat every time!
What do you think of Dyche’s style of football, is there not room for a bit more flair there?
I think SD has been very savvy so far; don’t fall into the trap of believing that SD has a “style” and that style is just what you saw last year. He assesses the task in hand and then adapts the tactics to get the job done (admittedly with varying degrees of success … see comments on our away form above!) He learnt from the mistakes a lot of newly promoted sides (including us) have made; if you start playing open and attractive football in the PL when you don’t have the ability to stop the floodgates, then you will get beaten heavily and you will go down.
Also, a very important point that a lot of people forget; Pl “flair” players cost a lot of money and (with respect) what to play for Utd and Chelsea and not Burnley. So even if we could afford flair players (which we can’t), we would struggle to sign them on. Those players will come in time. Right now, it’s about growing and developing and getting the job done.
You’ve signed Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley from us this window. What’s the reaction been to those two signings in East Lancashire?
Mixed. The dreamers amongst us were frustrated with “average” signings and feel that unless we sign Messi then we are not showing ambition (yawn). The rest of us were pleased. SD has clearly decided to bring in experienced PL players who will guide us through Second Season Syndrome and hopefully maintain that league status for season 3.
Do you think there’s an extent to which you’ve become ‘the new Stoke’ – unglamorous but industrious and winning a lot of admirers?
No, not yet. Not from one season anyway. Saying that, given you are entering your 10th consecutive PL season, then I would very much like to be the new Stoke!
Where are the main strengths and weaknesses in the Burnley XI?
Last season it was all about an unbelievably strong defence, and if SD does have a “style” then he does like to tighten up his defences. I suspect that we will try and do the same again this season, although I worry how effective that will be without Keane. Weaknesses, unsurprisingly, are a lack of creativity, leading to a lack of goals. Andre Gray could be a 20 goal a season in the right side. That side, at the moment, is not us.
Finally, a prediction for where Stoke and Burnley will finish this season?
Stoke 13th. Burnley 17th.
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