Arsenal: Sanchez reliance is unhealthy… but it works

For Arsenal, our biggest threat is a bit too obvious heading into the game against Burnley. An over-reliance on Alexis Sanchez might be unhealthy, but it’s working for the moment.

In truth, Sanchez has ensured Arsenal’s start to the season hasn’t been disastrous.

After the hysteria of thrashing Manchester City in the Community Shield, the belief from the fans and players has slowly evaporated. Only in games against Galatasaray and Aston Villa have we comfortably won this season. It’s not the Arsenal we are used too – and despite hosting a winless Burnley on Saturday, many fans aren’t as confident as you’d expect.

Burnley might look to take advantage of our damaged defence that includes numerous casualties.

Another weakness is the base of the Arsenal midfield. Whether it’s Mathieu Flamini or Mikel Arteta, neither player contributes as much as they should. With an off-form Per Mertesacker and left-back Nacho Monreal set to start at the heart of the defence, there’s no doubt that Arsenal’s weaknesses right now is straight down the middle.

Our strengths lie in Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez. Both have helped transform a very predictable attack. If Alexis plays at number 10 again, then he could really cause trouble. Both players won’t give you any time on the ball and help implement a system where we sometimes press from the very front.

There’s a lack of urgency, even at home in Arsenal’s play at the moment. Despite an array of attacking talent, Arsenal are actually struggling to break teams down at the moment.

What can you expect from us? We’ll have a lot of the ball. Arsenal will inevitably dominate possession in this game, but don’t worry – we aren’t doing a lot with it at the moment. One thing you can be sure of is we will battle right until the very last second of the game. Many times this season the Gunners have nicked a point, or all three, right at the death.

Hopefully we see better football at the Emirates than we have of late on Saturday, and my fingers are crossed for no injuries.

Oli writes for Fresh Arsenal, and you can catch him on Twitter at @OliPriceBates.

Can we surprise Arsenal? Let us know in the comments below.

Clarets Hallowe’en Nightmares

Boo!

It’s All Hallows’ Eve – one more sleep ‘til All Hallow’s Day – and the one night in the year for which children up and down the country dig out their Luke Chadwick masks in a quest to terrify old women into handing over sweets.

We’re pretty spoilt at the moment at Turf Moor – the only thing we really have to complain about is being bottom of the Premier League, which after decades of lower-league football isn’t the worst thing in the world.

But it’s not always been that way. We asked you on Twitter for your most haunting Clarets nightmares. Here are my top 3.

The Swanky Pants trilogy

RTL
RTL

Horrific beasts of all shapes and forms are synonymous with Hallowe’en. Werewolves have savaged thousands, vampires have fed on juicy blood for millennia, and Chadwi… Frankenstein’s monster signed for Stan Ternent’s Clarets on loan from United.

But none come close to the most horrific beast of all time: the Swanky Pants Dog Troupe.

Back in the spring of 1999, Burnley fans were threatened with half time entertainment in the form of an ‘entertaining dog act’. Three words which still send chills through the spines of Clarets supporters to this day.

What emerged was worse than anyone’s worst nightmares could have predicted. There were no tricks, just a dog in a hat strolling round the perimeter of the pitch. It actually looked freakishly like a claret and blue version of this year’s Halloween movie Annabelle.

It creeped around the ground eyeing up its next victims, then left.

It spurned two sequels and a couple of spin offs such as Chico and Big Brovaz.

Nightmare at Blundell Park

John Lord, Flickr
John Lord, Flickr

We’ve been forced to suffer some nightmarish performances over the years.

Blackburn putting five past us was so bad that I had to overlook it as it would be too painful for you to read (you’re welcome) – but one night in Lincolnshire took place during Hallowe’en week, so just can’t be ignored.

Burnley lined up with Arthur Gnohere and Graham Branch in the centre of defence – so you can see where this is going. The ultimate ‘fright night’ was an 11-goal Thriller in Grimsby, in which both teams looked as though their defenders had been possessed by the freaks from Michael Jackson’s music video.

Grimsby had only scored four goals at home going into the game, but it took them just half an hour to double that. Each defence took turns at being worse than the other.

Steve Kabba scored after three minutes, Gareth Taylor equalised. Steve Livingstone headed Grimsby back ahead, Ian Moore equalised past future Clarets keeper Danny Coyne. Our defence gave the ball to Steve Kabba to restore the lead, before Stuart Campbell doubled it.

Robbie Blake and Gareth Taylor pulled Burnley back into the game, before Mark McGregor grabbed the ball in the box, allowing Alan Pouton to give Grimsby the lead again from the spot. Then it was 6-4, before Dimi Papadopoulous collapsed in the box and Blake slotted his penalty past Coyne.

Just two days before Halloween, both managers would have been looking for an exorcist after the match.

Feed the Goat Clarets and he will score

The final nightmare is like that Grimsby game times five – or should it be six, or eight, or even 32?

If there’s one fixture sure to strike fear into the heart of even the most optimistic of Clarets, it’s Manchester City. My god, they love playing us.

This one’s like one of those films where you know there’s someone in the house watching you, waiting to destroy you and everyone you hold dear in the most blood-curdling of ways, but there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

Shaun Goater is the face of City’s Burnley mutilations.

He grabbed a hat-trick as City demolished us 6-0 at the Turf in March 1999, and scored again in a 5-0 cup defeat in Manchester a few months later.

He was at it yet again in 2001 with another hat-trick as we fell 4-2 at home. Amazingly, he didn’t score in the away leg that season. This time it was Paolo Wanchope’s turn to net a treble as City thrashed us 5-1.

Goater – whose chant ‘Feed the Goat and he will score’ almost certainly refers to the Clarets as his favourite meal – got another against us too, in a 2-2 draw in 1998. In total he scored eight goals in five games against us.

Even long after his retirement his spirit continues to haunt Turf Moor. When Manchester City visited the Turf during our last Premier League adventure, we were 3-0 down after seven minutes and it didn’t get much better. Only a torrential downpour in the second half prevented them from adding more than one after the break, and the game finished 6-1.

Incredibly, since Goater signed for City in 1998 they’ve scored 32 goals in eight games against us. Don’t click this link if you have a weak heart.

What are your Clarets nightmares?

Long live Sean Dyche

Today marks the two year anniversary since Sean Dyche was appointed as manager of Burnley Football Club.

He took charge after Eddie Howe’s decision to return home – and what an exceptional reign it’s been so far.

Two years as a manager is something that deserves huge credit in the modern game, where chairman and fans alike can be so ruthless and demanding. That Sean is still here, and the fans want him to remain here despite sitting bottom of the Premier League, is testament to the incredible achievements that he has accomplished.

He arrived at a club scoring goals for fun under Eddie Howe; Charlie Austin was topping scoring records across Europe and echoes of ‘he used to build walls’ were becoming such a regular occurrence they were almost synonymous of a Burnley game. At the same time we were leaking goals for fun. 4-3, 3-2, a 3-3, 2-2, and even a 5-2 score line all took place during the early part of that season. Dyche had to shore us up defensively – and he certainly did. Only one of his first nine matches in charge featured more than three goals, while we kept three clean sheets.

Towards the end of that season we did struggle, flirting slightly with relegation, and some fans were calling for his head. The Huddersfield, Barnsley and Hull home games were difficult to watch. We were a poor side completely lacking in any creativity – quite the opposite to earlier in the season.

I’ll openly admit that I was part of that brigade calling for his head  and I’m absolutely delighted that Dyche has proved me and many others wrong. Humble pie has been eaten over and over again. The criticism he received didn’t affect him at all and in the end we finished a respectable 11th that first season.

During the summer he bought exceptionally well, without anybody taking any notice whatsoever. David Jones, Tom Heaton and Scott Arfield all arrived: £0.00 spent. Astute is the key word here.

He lost arguably his main man, Charlie Austin, on the eve of the new season, and that seemed to empathise him to the Burnley fans. We had been used to selling our best players and not having the funds reused on new players for a long time now, this just another typical Burnley FC event.

The promotion season is indescribable in many ways. We were incredible throughout. Relentless, ruthless, in defence and attack we were sensational throughout.

Everybody will take away their own favourite memories from that season: the Ewood win, QPR at home, the 1st half against Forest, the Wigan performance and goals, the Danny Ings/Sam Vokes partnership, the Dean Marney/David Jones partnership, the best defence in the league. Similarly, everybody has a different opinion on who our player of the year was. Ings, Vokes, Scott Arfield, Jones, Marney, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff and Jason Shackell were all viable candidates and all presented a reasonable argument for taking the crown. Shackell got my vote – and the NNN award – but Dyche got the best out of all his players.

The most memorable quote to describe Dyche’s time I think doesn’t actually come from Dyche. Danny Ings at the Player of the Year awards night was asked about promotion. He said: “Who says it’s the end, the journey has only just begun.”

Let’s all hope our journey with Dyche at the helm has a long time left yet.

No matter what I, or anybody else says, we will not be able to describe the simply marvellous job that Dyche has done. But, the simple facts are:

  • Two years he took over a team leaking goals, and sorted the defence
  • He took relegation favourites to second in the league, and kept them there all season
  • He did the above on a budget of £0, after selling our star man
  • He reconnected the club to the town
  • He made Burnley Football Club a top flight side again

And he did it all in his own, unique, brilliant way.

Sean Dyche. Thank you. I salute you.

2 years of the Sean Dyche applause

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years at Turf Moor. But forget promotion – my highlight from his time with us so far is the ‘Dyche Applause’.

Sean Dyche was appointed as Burnley boss on 30 October 2012.

In the two years since, we’ve noticed he’s developed a signature move.

He always makes a point of applauding the fans with his hands above his head.

It’s his own cool yet professional look.

Even with loads of cameras in his face he looks unfazed.

Sometimes he mixes it about with a thumbs up

Or a scary wave

Once he even tried to start a rendition of YMCA

But more often than not he sticks with the faithful hands-above-head-applause.

I hearby name this move the ‘Dyche Applause’.

He pulls it out before the match…

…during it…

…and afterwards.

So please can we have a round of applause…

…for Sean Dyche’s round of applause.

And we’re done

Win a retro Clarets scarf

Savile Rogue scarves give a nod to football terraces of yesteryear, shunning logos and cheap nylon in favour of a traditional bar design and the comfortable materials.

We’re giving one away in Burnley colours, worth almost £40.

To enter the giveaway, enter your email and first name and click ‘enter now’.

Entry by the form above closes at 3 November at 17:59. Completing the form will sign you up to the No Nay Never mailing list, we will usually email you once per month but on rare occasions there may be one-off extra emails. You must still be subscribed to the mailing list when the competition closes. There is one winner. We’ll contact the winner via email. No Nay Never management (members of the management group on Facebook) are not eligible.

Enjoy the ride

As a first time writer, I hope you take on board my thoughts and give me a bit of slack if you don’t agree with any of it…

We just need to pause and take on board where we are and what we have achieved. I write this article on the 27th October 2014, and this time last year I, like many other Clarets of my age, had never seen my club beat Blackburn Rovers. I had, at that point, seen my team play in every division and ticked off 48 grounds in the process. I had also seen them win promotion on four occasions, including that away trip to York as a ten year old – “they came to York in their thousands, they’re going home as champions” – plus two play-off victories at Wembley.

My dad has seen the great days of Burnley Football Club and after Robbie Blake’s stunning volley at home to reigning champions Manchester United in 2009, in our first ever home Premier League game, I remember telling him that, “a major cup win aside, that night I had probably seen my team at their highest possible point and that it would probably never be topped”. Some Burnley fans do need to remember where we actually are and where we have come from.

I have lots of friends who support different clubs and the two lads who were best men at my wedding last year are Everton season ticket holders. I have often said to them, no disrespect, but how dull it must be supporting Everton. They are of a similar age to me and in their time following Everton, they have rarely flirted with relegation and very rarely finished in the top six, and they have played the same teams and visited the same grounds year after year, while I have had the pleasure of seeing my team play all over the country at every professional level. Grimsby, Leyton Orient, York, Chesterfield, Wrexham, Rotherham, Preston, Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Everton to name but a few.

As we all know, our last promotion to the Premier League was unexpected. I never thought I would see Burnley playing in the Premier League. It was then ruined on that snowy January day when Mr Coyle upped and left, taking with him everything and everyone but the kitchen sink. The second half of that season was horrible, not only because we got relegated, but because some of our fans found it easier to whinge and moan and not give Brian Laws a chance. We must get behind this team!

A few years in the Championship followed and I never thought I would see us in the Premier League again. If we all think about it realistically, with the money in football now and the size of our town, the Championship is our level. I got married the day after the Bolton game at the start of last season, and if someone had told me that Burnley would win promotion to the Premier League in the season that I got married, I would have got married years ago. At this point, please try to remember the start of last season and did any of us realistically think we would finish second in the league and achieve promotion?

So to this season and our chances.

I hoped and still hope that we could/will somehow manage to scrape enough wins to stay up, but with our budget, and the size and position of our town, it will be very difficult. I keep hearing “we haven’t signed enough players” and “we haven’t signed the right quality of players”. In my opinion, I think Sean Dyche has done as much as he could have possibly done in the transfer market.

Stan Collymore was asking on Talksport yesterday if Burnley fans think they should have signed more Premier League quality players? Our problem is that for the Premier League quality players that we can attract, moving to a small town in the north-west of England, with a small budget, is unfortunately not a huge attraction. Matt Taylor and Steven Reid are about our level and they are surely better signings than Leon Cort, Richard Eckersley, Frederic Nimani and Brian Easton from last time? I would also like you to compare our squad now to when I began following Burnley. I would definitely select Tom Heaton, Jason Shackell, Scott Arfield and Danny Ings ahead of Chris Pearce, Peter Zelem, Phil Malley and Steve Taylor.

We are hugely punching above our weight and this is shown by the the games that we “should” be looking to win in the Premier League. QPR and Leicester were tough games last season and now we “need” to win them this season and please also look at the quality of some of the players that the likes of Sunderland, West Brom, West Ham and Hull have in their ranks. It really isn’t a level playing field.

Many things have been said about our club in my time supporting them. “Dare to dream”, “we have champagne tastes on beer money”, “should we bet the ranch”, Preston fans singing about how they are “superior” and all that “35 years” nonsense from our Championship neighbours. I would definitely prefer to dream on beer money while keeping the club on an even keel, instead of betting the ranch. I hope that Preston continue to be as superior to us as they are at present and it’s now four years, not 35. I take you right back to my earlier words and we need to remember where we have come from and where we now are. At this point last year, I had never seen my team beat Blackburn Rovers.

Whatever happens for the rest of the season, we need to remember that it is seasons like this that make the dark days worthwhile. Bottom of the league, or in the top 20 of English football? “Glass half full” and embracing the fact that we are punching way above our weight or “glass half empty” and whinging and moaning about losing to the top sides in the country after an unexpected promotion?

Bootham Crescent, York, or The Emirates Stadium, Arsenal. It’s your choice, but I know where I’d rather be…

Reasons to be cheerful

Go on. Raise a smile!

10         Danny Ings has scored his first goal in the Premier League

9          Burnley are still the highest placed team in the whole of Lancashire

8          Our manager has a Lego Man created after him

7          We are going to play Arsenal on Saturday, at a stadium that cost £390 million to build.  Blackburn are at home to Reading and Preston are away at Rochdale

6          We get another international break in three weeks

5          Blackpool Football Club

4          Leeds United Football Club

3          You can buy a pie with an App

2          Nigel Pearson is not our manager

1          Venky’s

What are your reasons to be cheerful? Comment below.

Podcast 54: What’s going wrong?

Jamie Smith is joined by a bumper panel for this week’s podcast.

Regulars Kevin Robinson, James Bird and Andy Devanney are on, as well as Everton fan Ben Rathe and making his NNN podcast debut, ex-Claret Paul Weller.

The 3-1 defeat at home to the Toffees is dissected by the team, with a particular focus on Burnley’s defensive issues, with 12 goals conceded in the last four games.

Were there are positives to take from the match? We’ve had a go!

There are details of how you can vote for No Nay Never in the FBAs too. We’re hugely grateful for the support that got us nominated but we need your votes again to win.

You can listen online here or below. To listen to all previous episodes of the NNN podcast, please visit our mini-site, where you can also find links to subscribe on iTunes. If you have any feedback or want to be a guest one week, please email us at podcast@nonaynever.net.

Vote for October’s player of the month

Voting is now open for the No Nay Never – Burnley Express player of the month award for October.

Just the one point on the board this month, but there have certainly been a lot of positives. We’ve started scoring goals and are looking a lot more threatening on the ball. As we move forward, though, leaks are opening up at the back.

Remember, this is your award – so make it count.

How to vote

This season there are three ways to lodge your vote.

You can vote on Twitter by tweeting your nomination and reason why you’re voting for him, with the #claretsPOTM hashtag. We’ll include the best ones on the site.

And you can now vote by text message. Text the squad number of your nomination to 07520 615 224 – for example, to vote for Scott Arfield, your message should be just “37”.

Alternatively, you can vote online below.

[yop_poll id=”13″]

What happened in October

Leicester 2-2 Burnley

We scored some goals! No, really. After almost two months without a goal, Michael Kightly grabbed a deserved equaliser for the Clarets midway through the first-half, following a neat knock-down by Lukas Jutkiewicz. Unfortunately, Leicester restored their lead moments later. Unlikely hero Ross Wallace salvaged a very welcome point with a superb free-kick with 97 minutes on the clock.

Burnley 1-3 West Ham

The Clarets returned from the international break looking like a new team. In the first 45 minutes we carved Big Sam’s team open and should really have done better in front of goal. George Boyd smashed the crossbar in our closest attempt. Within ten minutes of the restart we were 2-0 behind after failing to defend balls into the box. Boyd pulled one back but our defence soon left Carlton Cole unmarked in the box to add a third for the visitors.

Burnley 1-3 Everton

Another 3-1 home defeat where we played well for a period but conceded sloppy goals. One of those was, surprise surprise, from a cross which Samuel Eto’o headed in on just three minutes. Danny Ings opened his account for the season with a superb goal, which launched 10-15 minutes of intense pressure from the Clarets. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as Romelu Lukaku finished off a 24-pass move, before Eto’o grabbed his second to make it 3-1 with a superb finish from distance.

Who have you voted for? Comment below.

The small-print: You can vote up to once by Twitter, once by text message and once on the website. In the case of multiple votes, your latest vote will be used and earlier votes discounted. Voting closes at 23:59 on Wednesday 5 November 2014.

Criticism of Danny Ings has been fair

Remember last season?

The Clarets would win on a Saturday afternoon to continue their quest for promotion, and we would all go home happy revelling in our unexpected success.

Unfortunately, the last time we went home in that spirit was way back in April, more than six months ago, when a Michael Kightly goal was enough to defeat Ipswich Town.

How times have changed. Today we sit joint bottom of the Premier League after our winless run extended to nine games. Fans are growing increasingly restless. Players are starting to come under fire. And now even the manager’s ability is being questioned.

Any realistic fan knew it was going to be hard this year; we are effectively using a Championship-standard squad that over performed last year against some of the best players in the world. But now, even though it seems strange to say it, some of those same players are now underperforming.

Number one: Danny Ings.

I would just like to start this piece by saying this not a personal attack on the striker, far from it. But aside from the disappointing nature of our defeat to the Toffees on Sunday, the one thing that really irked me about the game was Danny Ings’ goal celebration.

Fans who have been quick to attribute his celebration to the lack of atmosphere during the game are chatting complete nonsense. While our drab atmosphere is a problem in itself, the striker’s celebration was a clear bite back at fans who have questioned his performances this season.

But has the criticism been fair? For me, yes.

This is a player who was instrumental to our success last season and rightly became our stand-out player. However, ever since his famous goal at Ewood Park back in May, Ings has hit the back of the net just twice and has looked a shadow of his former self.

Forgetting his goal on Sunday, what has the 22-year-old contributed to the side this season? He is hesitant going forward at the minute and has, on more than one occasion, been snatching at chances. Although he has yet to find the back of the net, Lukas Jutkiewicz has arguably been far more impressive this term.

Ings is supposed to be the reigning Championship Player of the Year, but unfortunately he looks well short at the minute. If Ashley Barnes had gone through the same barren spell, he would have been slated. So why should Danny be exempt from criticism?

Criticism is part and parcel of football. Fans pay good money to watch their teams and have the right to express their opinion, be that from the terraces or social media. But Danny Ings is a professional footballer and as such should know better than to hit back at the fans.

Had Ings already committed himself to the club, I might have slightly more sympathy with him. But the fact he has stalled over a new contract for so long shows to me that he isn’t as committed as we once assumed. In all honesty, does it really take this long to agree a contract? Even if we did go down, clubs would inevitably still come in for him at the end of the season if he proves himself. What is the delay?

Personally, I don’t think individual criticism is the way forward. But when a player makes a clear gesture to the fans who have a right to question his performances, then it comes across as disrespectful.

It’s time to take the criticism on the chin Danny and let your football do the talking.

Was Danny Ings’ celebration disrespectful? Comment below.