Ben Gibson bolsters Burnley's backline
Burnley is readying a third consecutive Premier League campaign. This summer revealed how manager Sean Dyche wants to improve his squad. Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson was a recent addition, but was he a good buy?
For an accomplished Championship player, £15 million is a fair price tag. Top clubs are regularly paying 3-5 times that for squad players now. Regardless, you expect value anytime you spend for a player. So, what does Sean Dyche see in Ben Gibson that suggests he can make it in the Premier League?
Gibson started professionally with Boro. Born in Nunthorpe he was playing in his hometown. He made two appearances in his first four seasons with the Smoggies, instead sent out on loan. At Plymouth Argyle, York City and Tranmere Rovers between 2010 and 2013, he gained experienced that served him well when he returned to the Riverside.
The past five campaigns have been consistent for the 25-year-old centre-back, which is what a manager desires from the position. Gibson appeared 183 times for the club, including the solitary season Middlesbrough spent in the Premier League in 2016/17. The former Boro skipper carved a reputation but made the hard choice to leave for Burnley. The Boro board couldn't refuse the offer Burnley tabled.
Gibson likes to hold the ball whenever he gets the chance. He is weak in tackling, preferring to herd opponents away from goal. He isn't strong in the air, either. It's his positional sense and anticipation that can contribute to the Claret's cause.
Finishing seventh last season was terrific for Burnley, bringing Europa League qualification. In turn, European nights require further squad depth. Gibson will compete for a starting role in Dyche's XI but, at the least, will find time in cup matches and Europe. Continental experience was something Boro couldn't offer.
Burnley signed nine other players before Gibson, but he was their first major capture. Joe Hart followed from Man City. Running out of Premier League opportunities, Hart joined two days after Gibson arrived. Once the pump is primed, the water flows freely. Matej Vydra was next.
The Derby County striker brought his Championship-best 21 goals with him. In a typical league season, teams tend to average close to a goal per point in the table, give or take. Last season, only three Premier League clubs earned at least ten more points than goals scored. West Brom managed 31 points on 19 goals and, to no one's surprise, finished last. Manchester United crafted 81 points from a mere 68 goals to finish second on the strength of their much-maligned defence. Turf Moor denizens don't call Sean Dyche the Ginger Mourinho for nothing. Burnley finished seventh on 54 points from just 36 goals. Vydra's form will be critical to Burnley this campaign.
But Dyche will always stress his squad's work without the ball. James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Kevin Long were his regular centre-backs last season. It won't be easy for Gibson to claim a spot. Mee was injured towards the end of last season, with Long covering. Gibson will want to contribute more, but the reality for now is he offers Dyche further depth.
Dyche has another defender with Premier League and leadership experience. Gibson has the desire to play more. Burnley's opening fixture comes tomorrow against Southampton. If the new man starts, we'll know he impressed the manager. If not, there's work to be done.