Maxwel Cornet – Burnley’s bright spark taking the Premier League by storm

After Maxwel Cornet put pen to paper on a move to Turf Moor this summer, there was an element of confusion in the air.

Burnley notoriously deploy a route one approach, opting for the big target-man in Chris Wood with steel and determination preferred over trickery and skill. In the Ivorian attacker turned winger-back, are The Clarets moving away from their regimented style?

It looks to be that way, with Cornet providing goals and a flair option to The Clarets so far this season. Scoring four in six this season, he is their bright spark with Burnley struggling elsewhere in that final relegation spot. In finding Cornet, Burnley’s dogged defensive displays – which have seen them retain their Premier League status year in year out – have begun to run dry. Why have Burnley opted to risk it all with this exciting Ivorian from Lyon?

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Looking at Cornet when he was with Lyon, it was only a matter of time before a big league came calling for his services. A loyal servant to Olympique Lyonnais, amassing over 150 appearances in six years for the French giants, he decided the time was right for pastures new. Often played as a winger in his time in France, later Lyon managers have seen Cornet excel more as an attacking full-back option. Replacing Lacazette on his Lyon debut as a striker, it’s an interesting one to now see Cornet move towards playing a defensive role of sorts. Still, under Rudi Garcia changing him to this wing-back style player, the attacking impetus in Cornet’s game has never ceased.

The Ivory Coast International would have come onto the radar of English football fans when Lyon shocked Manchester City in the Champions League Quarter Finals, playing a star role in the away leg at The Etihad. Cornet would open the scoring for his unfavoured side, seizing the ball after Dembele was tackled and curling past a napping Ederson in the Manchester City net. Two more goals would go in for Lyon, a 3-1 away success seeing them clinch an unlikely Champions League semi-final. In a side featuring Hassem Aouar and Memphis Depay, the attacking winger turned wing-back more than held his own.

Originally turning down an opportunity to join Burnley, Maxwell Cornet was announced as The Clarets’ big signing at the end of August this year. Used sparingly at the start of September, coming on as a substitute against Arsenal among others, his arrival into the Premier League came in the Leicester away match. Cornet had five minutes of madness at The King Power, opening his Premier League account with an audacious volley before a booking followed shortly after.

In first half stoppage time, he was substituted off by Sean Dyche owing to injury. Thankfully, these flashes of brilliance would become more drawn out for all those concerned at Turf Moor. Unlike Rudi Garcia’s reimagining of Cornet as this expansive wing-back, Dyche has switched between playing him down the flanks whilst also utilising his attacking ability as a quick striker alongside the sheer height of Chris Wood.

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A brace would come soon after in an away trip to St Mary’s, securing a lucky point against a dominant Southampton team. Hard to contain, Cornet was becoming Burnley’s flair player. Nodding in a conventional Clarets-like goal for his opener, a cross finding its way into the box after a neat move from Dwight McNeil, his second was the antithesis of what you’d expect from Dyche’s workmanlike side. The Cote D’Ivoire man hitting a shot first time, a volley his trademark finish. McCarthy could only muster a fingertip to the shot, Burnley’s number 20 lapping up the bewildered Southampton support in front of him. A goal out of nothing, a useful player for a Clarets side often finding goals hard to come by.

With two more goals coming against Brentford and Crystal Palace – the Bees goal culminating in a 3-1 Clarets victory – Cornet is only behind Jamie Vardy and Michail Antonio in the scoring charts. Outscoring Cristiano Ronaldo on his Old Trafford return too, he is proving to be a great buy at Turf Moor.

The defence has come at a sacrifice however, entertainment not exactly meriting wins or points on the board due to leaky performances at the back. Burnley scoring three in a match would often be considered the stuff of fable, but Dyche’s men have scored three goals twice in a row now on their home patch. Yet, they had to settle for a point against Vieira’s Crystal Palace last time out. Moving away from a rigid, defensive first approach, has it been a culture shock for a squad conditioned to play that way? With 20 goals shipped in 14, they have outscored lowly Norwich by double so far this campaign. Yet, one win remains from their fixtures to date.

In Maxwel Cornet, Burnley have their most exciting player in some time. Swapping Ligue 1 for Premier League football with Burnley was a bold move for the Ivorian, a move that has paid off for him personally. If Burnley continue to struggle, will interest from higher up in the league begin to emerge? Burnley need to find a happy medium between being able to harness Cornet’s attacking ability, whilst remaining defensively secure and tight.

With James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, the experience is there to stop the goals from going in. Moreover, Sean Dyche is the correct man to see Burnley turn it around under. An established Premier League club due to the 50-year-old, he should keep The Clarets up. If they do continue to struggle, expect their new star-man from Lyon to leave.

The Author

Kelan Sarson

Peterborough United supporter, football writer for various websites too. Mainly focus on EFL, Premier League and European football. Twitter account for football writing - @sarsonkelan

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