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Long-serving boss Sean Dyche was not only given the funds but the scope to recruit from outside the British bubble the Lancashire club has worked so well during their five-year stay in the top flight.
Although Dyche opted to raid the EFL Championship for promising Welsh right back Connor Roberts from Swansea and hugely talented centre half Nathan Collins from Stoke City, the cheque book was well and truly opened for Ivorian left back Maxwel Cornet. The Clarets paid £13.5m to Ligue 1 outfit Olympique Lyon, bringing the 24-year-old to Turf Moor on a five-year contract. It was a watershed moment for Burnley, with Cornet the first overseas recruit in five years.
In 2020, Premier League clubs sustained losses totalling £700m as a collective, with the football economy deemed “unsustainable” without the fans according to an official EPL statement released in September 2020. Fortunately, the fans are back in their droves, but still many Burnleyfans look nervously towards their club’s balance sheet.
The Clarets’ recent takeover by ALK Capital was partly funded using the club’s own money, loading the club with an additional £90m of debt. There is genuine unease on the terraces that relegation from the EPL in 2021/22 could spell disastrous consequences. It’s therefore imperative that the club’s new recruitment approach pays dividends – on and off the pitch.
It is true that boss Sean Dyche revelled in working the British transfer market. He was most comfortable signing players that were known quantities and could adapt to the rigours of the EPL and his style of football fast. Dyche is a manager that likes doing his due diligence on new recruits, getting under the skin of their personalities to ensure they are a seamless fit in the dressing room.
Nevertheless, Dyche has also admitted that the club needed to move with the times if it was to rid itself of this never-ending cycle of staving off relegation year in, year out. The previous board wouldn’t alter its approach – nor did it have the financial muscle to do so either. As a consequence, the relationship between Dyche and the Clarets’ hierarchy began to sour.
The club’s new owners and chairman Alan Pace are committed to making ambitious yet calculated acquisitions to beef up Dyche’s squad – as demonstrated by the signings of Cornet, Collins and Roberts, all of whom have significant resale value at the ages of 24, 20 and 25-years-old respectively.
Has the new recruitment strategy come too late to save Burnley from a 2021/22 relegation dogfight?
After their opening four league games, the Clarets find themselves rated as fourth favourites for the drop in 2021/22. That’s behind Newcastle and newly promoted duo Watford and Norwich. Burnley registered just a single point from those first four fixtures, with their latest 3-1 defeat at Everton suggesting that the Clarets are very much a work in progress. Dyche’s men took the lead through defender Ben Mee, but three goals in six second half minutes turned the match in the Toffees’ favour.
Interestingly, summer signings Nathan Collins and Connor Roberts weren’t even part of the travelling squad to Goodison Park. Meanwhile Maxwel Cornet was an unused substitute. In fact, only one of Dyche’s summer signings featured against Everton, with veteran winger Aaron Lennon, who’s returned from Turkish football for a second spell at Turf Moor, coming on as a late second-half substitute.
Former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan has rushed to the defence of Burnley’s approach to the English top flight. He said on talkSPORT that Burnley’s existence in the EPL is all a matter of perception. It could be viewed as “treading water” but it could equally be viewed as playing “among the elite clubs in the Premier League”. Jordan said he would rather own a “lesser-run” EPL outfit that “survives every season” than take charge of a club that is “brave” in the transfer market and “gets it wrong”, resulting in an immediate return to the Championship.
Breaking their transfer record for Maxwel Cornet could certainly be considered brave of the Clarets’ ownership this summer. Whether Sean Dyche has the time or capability to rid the stereotypes surrounding Turf Moor and look further up the EPL table remains to be seen.