Burnley FC produced another strong display at Turf Moor to restrict league leaders Chelsea FC to a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Burnley came into the match with the prospect of repeating history, with Sean Dyche and his men already unbeaten in their last five home games. Chelsea, on the other hand, had an excellent opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 12 points.
And, as the fixture was billed, the match turned out to be a very even affair which saw an early Chelsea lead cancelled out by a Robbie Brady stunner. Chelsea, though, still managed to extend their lead to 10 points at the top of the table despite being held to a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
We at The Hard Tackle attempt to explore some of the significant talking points to emerge from the game.
A Case of ‘What Could Have Been?’ for Burnley
Burnley’s home record this season is truly remarkable. The Clarets have earned 29 points at Turf Moor in 14 league matches, including the 1-1 draw at Chelsea and equaled a previous record of six games unbeaten at home in the Premier League.
Burnley sit fourth on the table ahead of the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, if only home games were counted. But, when you see the overall picture, you can’t help but feel disappointed. Sean Dyche’s men have earned just a single point from 11 away games this season so far.
29 – Burnley have already won more points at home in the PL in 2016-17 (29) than any newly-promoted side in the previous 3 seasons. Fortress pic.twitter.com/ik84vakDfE
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 13, 2017
The worst away record in the Premier League this season has left Burnley fans and football fans in general in amazement to how far up the newcomers might have been on the table if they had a decent or average away record. Sean Dyche, too, might be wondering the same thing.
6 – Burnley have gone six top-flight games unbeaten at home for the first time since September 1975. Stronghold.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 12, 2017
If you can’t handle me at my Burnley away, you don’t deserve me at my Burnley home
— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) February 12, 2017
The Clarets look set to beat the drop at the present moment and record a comfortable mid-table finish. And the fans would hope they can start showing some form on their trips, which could lead to a higher finish in their first season back in the top flight.
Manchester United academy graduates spell doom for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea
Three players from Burnley’s first eleven team; Tom Heaton, Robbie Brady and Michael Keane are former Man United’s academy/youth players. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/Mf4zgTi53Y
— Roro O’Monstro.™ (@Roromeo_MUFC10) February 12, 2017
While Manchester United’s academy has failed to churn several players to make the grade at Old Trafford, many of the players to come out of the youth setup have made a name for themselves in England at other clubs. And on Sunday, it was two Manchester United academy graduates who made sure Chelsea did not record a win at Turf Moor.
While Robbie Brady, new Burnley signing, scored a stunner to equalize for the home side, Michael Keane produced another impeccable performance at the back to keep the beastly Diego Costa at bay for the full 90. In fact, Keane’s performance was so good it earned him the Premier League Man of the Match.
Michael Keane’s game by numbers vs. Chelsea:
14 passes completed
5 aerial duels won
Big performance at the back. pic.twitter.com/8Q4EokI7q1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 12, 2017
Tom Heaton, another Red Devils academy graduate, did not have a spectacular game but he was not poor by any means and has been, in general, amazing for Sean Dyche as the quality of the academy graduates to rise from Manchester United continues to be highlighted time after time.
No win for Conte but still a great Chelsea performance
We know this may not be a topic people can readily agree on but someone has to state the fact – Chelsea did well to earn a point at Turf Moor. Burnley are no pushovers when they are playing at home. Their home record is exemplary, as stated above.
Also, their losses at home have come against Swansea in the season opener and then to Arsenal and Manchester City, all by a margin of a single goal. Chelsea did fail to capitalise on the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table to 12 points but other results meant they ended up gaining on the chasing pack.
Burnley isn’t the easiest place to come and get a result and the fact that they avoided a defeat further adds credibility to the label of title favourites that Conte and his Chelsea side have earned through their displays.
Cesar continues to impress
Cesar Azpilicueta is perhaps the best versatile defender in the Premier League. The Spaniard has donned three positions since his move to Stamford Bridge and has not given much to criticise about in any of those roles. But, his transition into a right-sided central defender is perhaps the best suited of the lot.
The Spaniard represents a player capable of doing his defensive duties impeccably while being a natural ball-player, which adds to the comfort factor of a wide-central role in a back-three. He has been consistent throughout the season and was solid again on Sunday.
César Azpilicueta completed 101 passes vs. Burnley, more than any other player in the Premier League this weekend. pic.twitter.com/oeLhOd0lP3
— Chelsea FC (@CFC_Arena) February 13, 2017
Defensive duties aside, Azpilicueta recorded 101 passes against Burnley, more than any other player in the Premier League over the weekend and Conte would indeed be more than happy at the Spaniard’s natural ease with the ball at his feet. Certainly a prime candidate to make the Premier League’s Team of the Season.
Diego Costa – the tamed beast?
Sunday marked the third successive Chelsea game that saw no contribution from Diego Costa, in terms of a goal or an assist. And the player has managed just a single goal in the new calendar year, very unlike the fiery Spaniard. His brilliant run of form was one of the catalysts of Chelsea’s run.
Diego Costa has not had a shot on target from open play in his last three Premier League games for Chelsea.
Uncharacteristic spell. pic.twitter.com/bMqL2QeAJ1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 12, 2017
But, in a side-effect of a great vein of form, Costa was linked with a move to the cash-rich Chinese Super League, with suggestions of an offer that would make the Spaniard the highest paid player in the footballing world. While the move did not end up happening in the January, there are rumours of an agreement in place for a summer transfer.
Dry spells are common but it is the nature of the spell that is concerning. Costa has failed to even trouble the opposition goalkeepers in the last three games, a truly unfathomable statistic for a player of Costa’s quality.
The aforementioned may or may not be behind the recent comparitively dry spell of his but something has definitely changed and Conte would hope Costa finds his scoring boots fast enough, before the teams playing catch-up manage to do so.