Burnley's transfer inactivity unsurprising yet worrisome
It's been almost two months since Burnley concluded a historic Premier League campaign. Barely three weeks before another begins with a Europa League trip to Aberdeen. Yet, Sean Dyche has remained mute concerning possible new signings. The Englishman is keeping cards firmly to his chest.
While every soul in Lancashire's claret half basked in the euphoria of a first European place for 51 years, Dyche was busy taking notes for next season. A staunch believer in his own transfer principles, he wasn't prepared to waver anything. Not even to fit among the continent's elite.
We have to be mindful not to overfill the club because you lose some of the attention and detail we want to put on players, for them to continue maturing.
Under Dyche, Burnley have been a work in progress. After a painful maiden Premier League campaign, culminating in prompt Championship return, they have grown leaps and bounds. Due to the Clarets' thin budget, the 47-year-old had to work out an effective business model. He chose a long-term plan: building for the future.
Instead of overspending on wildcard luxury buys, Burnley invested in hungry prospects. Talent and obscurity weren't enough, though. Ability to blend into Dyche's system was also essential. With no way of matching the top teams' attacking flair, he had to rely on a practical approach, based on defensive solidity and teamwork rather than individual skill.
Boom. The Clarets achieved promotion at the first attempt. Dyche then embarked on a shopping spree. Steven Defour, Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady were the notable January arrivals. Each broke the previous' club record fee. Others joined on the cheap including Nick Pope, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Ashley Westwood. It proved enough to retain top-flight status for another year.
Such a respectable campaign beamed the country's spotlight on Burnley's stars. Michael Keane was lured by Everton. Watford temped Andre Gray. Dyche, however, refused to panic. Around 14 rookies moved to Turf Moor. Besides Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor, both signed from Leeds United for a combined £15 million, the rest were free transfers. The result was an unthinkable seventh-place finish.
The Clarets' successful model has gained widespread acceptance. Especially among newly-promoted sides. Last time out, Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion adopted similar templates to stay up. Neil Warnock isn't ashamed to join the bandwagon. The Cardiff City boss stated: "I look at Sean Dyche, who I speak to quite a lot, and I admire him and he's done the things that I would do."
Yet Dyche's utter silence this summer is unexpected. His three disciples, Warnock, Chris Hughton and David Wagner, have all been active in the transfer market. Finishing in the top-half means Burnley received nearly £120 million. Factoring in the small take-home bonus should they beat Aberdeen implies there's some cash to spend.
The Turf Moor faithful must have concerns. Not keen on rotation, Dyche prefers a tightly-knit squad. He sticks to the same team all season long. In a lengthy, arduous Europa League campaign, fatigue will certainly surface. Clarets supporters potentially face dreams shattered. Ipswich Town's fatal capitulation in 2001-02 after European qualification is lesson enough for the Lancashire natives.
Ins and outs
Burnley's bare-bones squad has been further hit following three summer exits. Dean Marney was released after eight years, in which he made over 200 appearances. Fellow midfielder Scott Arfield was freed, with the Canadian returning to Scotland. George-Kevin N'Koudou has gone back to parent club Tottenham Hotspur.
In terms of arrivals, the Clarets have been strongly linked with three former players in Danny Ings, Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriguez. Dyche's attention seems as though it's turning to West Bromwich Albion. In addition to Rodriguez, the Clarets have reportedly shown interest in Ben Foster, Craig Dawson and Matt Phillips.
Time is running out. The earlier Dyche wraps up deals, the better for Burnley's chances next season.