Burnley 1 (Wood 61)
Leeds United 1 (Bamford 86)
Well, at the end of the day a point away is never to be sneezed at but I guess on first reflection many of us will be disappointed not to collect all three. However, events conspired against us in this one before the game even started . The match stats were fairly even apart from our inevitable dominance of the possession but Burnley could be said to have been more efficient to match us with goal attempts despite that.
The news ahead of the game that we ‘d be without both Matty Klich and Junior Firpo due to positive Covid tests was a blow that meant more than just losing the two players. As we well know by now, when Junior can’t play Bielsa relies on Stuart Dallas to fill in at the back and so that loses us arguably our most energetic midfielder too. Thus we went into this game effectively without the core of our midfield.
The next issue during the game was that Burnley were again at their niggly, nastiest worst, trying every trick in the book to bully us and disrupt the flow of the game. I fully expected a referee of the standing of Michael Oliver to be wise to that and to give us a bit more protection but today, for some reason, Oliver didn’t seem to understand what the Burnley game plan was. His refereeing generally today was poor, we only ever ask for consistency and we got precious little of that – similar fouls sometimes drew a yellow card or sometimes a nonchalant wave of the hand, seemingly only depending on his mood at that moment in time.
The final issue today was that we appeared to have a few players not firing on all their regular cylinders – maybe this damned Covid bug is to blame, who knows? I thought Rodrigo was again far too quiet, playing on the fringes of the game and I have to say I thought Tyler Roberts, rough as he is round the edges sometimes, and while nowhere near of the same technical ability as Rodrigo, well, I thought he brought more to the party when he was on with those familiar little bursts of pace and energy that often just create something the opposition isn’t expecting. Difficult to leave £27 million of talent out for a youngster like Tyler but… worth a shot? What do you think?
Raphinha too was careless with the ball more often than we expect to see. Raphinha has not yet hit the heights this season so the sooner he does the better and it will make a huge difference to us when he does. Luke Ayling is another player who’s struggled, in my opinion at least, to match the highs of previous seasons, maybe it’s just that in the games to date he’s not had the opportunities to push forward as we’ve been under pressure from the opposition but we’re still tending to dominate possession so you’d think it was more to do with Luke than the opposition.
Neither goal today was a thing of beauty, the Burnley goal came from a spell of pressure with the ball not being cleared decisively after a Tarkowski header hit the bar and then at about the third or fourth attempt a weak shot had the good fortune to find Chris Wood just a few yards from goal to divert it past a scrambling Meslier. The Leeds goal was no better, although it did start with a bit of that Raphinha magic we want to see more of. He beat his man and cut inside but didn’t hit his shot too well, it came back to Shacks who concentrated on accuracy not pace and again it was fortunate that Patrick Bamford was lurking at the back post to deflect that one home or it would have gone wide.
So, only 2 points from our opening three games and we’re actually a couple of points shy of the total we got from the same games last season when we beat Burnley twice of course. If we can just get our best XI fit and all playing at the same time I still think we’ll be a match for anyone, but in football we all know some player or other will usually be missing for most games and then we are into that wafer thin bench of ours. With the transfer window about to slam shut I do still hope and pray that we may have an eye on, and can capture, someone who could help bolster our resources for times such as these when the unexpected occurs. It doesn’t get any easier of course; we come back in two weeks to face the might of Liverpool!
Burnley Leeds United
Possession 36% 64%
Shots 12 12
On Target 3 2
Corners 5 5
Fouls Committed 13 9