Burnley managed to pick up another point and another clean sheet on the road despite some late pressure from a wasteful Aston Villa side to climb out of the relegation places.
Both sides came into the game off the back of strong away wins in the previous gameweek, with Villa earning a late derby win at Molineux, and Burnley getting their first away win against Arsenal since 1974. With both teams exhibiting shaky form prior to those games, both managers will have been hoping to use the previous results as foundations for a decent run of form to propel them up the table.
Dean Smith made several changes to his side for suspension, injury and rotational reasons. Ahmed Elmohamady, Kourtney Hause, Marvellous Nakamba and Anwar El Ghazi all came into the starting XI, showing a good level of squad depth for the Villa men, whilst the Clarets unsurprisingly chose not to dip into their shallow squad and remained unchanged.
Unfortunately, this issue stems from the sins of Burnley’s recent failed transfer windows. Now, Aston Villa have received massive financial backing, backing that Burnley will unfortunately never get, but it is nevertheless frustrating to see a team that is only in their second year in the premier league (since returning) retain their key players and shape a deep and well rounded squad, whilst Burnley, an established premier league club, have stood still in the market and watched the squad has get older and thinner as the league continues to run away from them.
Again, I am not expecting Burnley to spend £80m every transfer window like Villa, but for the club to essentially make a profit from player sales when there is such gaping vacancies in the squad is criminal, and is plays a large part to the struggles we are facing this season.
The match in some ways replicated the chess match Mourinho and Klopp played out at Anfield last night, with the hosts applying sustained pressure with some good fluid football against some defensively resolute visitors who looked dangerous on the counter attack.
And the first decent chance fell the the visitors as some lovely interplay in the attacking third found Ashley Westwood on the edge of the box, whose shot just flashed wide of Emiliano Martinez’s post.
The Clarets soon after forced the Villa keeper into his greatest action of the game as he flew through the air and got good hands to a strong Chris Wood header.
Meanwhile, Villa were experiencing a lot of joy down the left hand side as Jack Grealish and Anwar El Ghazi weaved down the flank, finding a lot of space and digging out some lovely crosses. One such cross found Betrand Traore at the back post, requiring a crucial tackle from Charlie Taylor to prevent a certain goal.
The Burnley defence sat deep and limited their opposition to minimal space, nicking possession where they could. And they were thankful for it as a long range shot took multiple deflections before heading goalward off of Ollie Watkins, but Matt Lowton, with incredible defensive instincts, was there to head off the line and protect the clean sheet.
As half time approached, the game really started to open up. Firstly, an Anwar El Ghazi free kick forced the save of the day from Nick Pope, who tipped the goalbound effort onto the bar.
Burnley were able to win the ball from the resulting corner, and counter attacked with a much improved Dwight McNeil, who carried the ball past several players and into the Aston Villa box. He would’ve been bearing down at goal had it not been for the returning Betrand Traore, who managed to clear.
Minutes later, another Villa corner spelled trouble for Sean Dyche’s men, but Kourtney Hause could only find the bar following a flicked on corner routine.
Half time: Aston Villa 0-0 Burnley
In the second half, Villa continued to find space on the left hand side, with El Ghazi and Grealish all to ready to cut inside onto their right hand side to shoot or play in a fellow attacker.
Over the course of the game, Aston Villa racked up 27 attempts on goal. 20 of these must’ve been from El Ghazi who found himself time and time again in really good shooting opportunities. However, his shooting abilities left something to be desired, as his efforts either found the Holte end or were directed straight down the gullet of Nick Pope, who was all to happy to collect.
Burnley, as has happened all too regularly this season, were unable to properly get the strikers into the game in the second half. Whether the issue is with the midfield not supporting them well enough or the strikers are not doing enough with their service can be argued day and night, but the Clarets now have 4 more points in the premier league than goals scored, which is impressive yet worrying.
Maybe it is time for Matej Vydra to come into the side. He can drop deep, put a foot on the ball and does look sharp from give and go scenarios. He might be a good linker between the industrial midfield and the attackers, which are bypassed in games too easily.
Burnley best chance of the second half came from a miss-kick from the Villa goalkeeper falling to the substitute Ashley Barnes, who had the opportunity to hit it first time but lingered on the ball before the chance fizzled out.
The home side then spurned a glorious late chance to take all three points as they won another (soft) free kick in a promising position. They took the free kick quickly, catching Bunrley napping, but Tyrone Mings’ header flew wide of the Nick Pope’s.
As the referee blew an end to the game, the story seemed to be pre-written in the wider media, with Burnley SURVIVING the 27 shots Villa were able to make.
However, whilst Villa did dominate the possession and were fairly productive with it, this is not unlike other results we have witnessed with a Sean Dyche side. In fact, it is exactly this strategy of the Sean Dyche low block that has helped us already earn five clean sheets this season.
Dean Smith bemoaned his side wastefulness, but neither him nor the wider media seem to give Burnley credit for minimising clear cut chances and forcing shots wide or into the centre of the goal. The back five were superb again in this game, and with Dyche’s tutorship, I fully expect the number of clean sheets to continue to rise.
Another 0-0 on the road is hardly a bad result and another point towards survival. But the lack of goals is becoming a serious worry that I hope can be fixed sooner rather than later.
Aston Villa 0-0 Burnley