Wenger wary of upstarts Burnley

LONDON • Sitting in the boardroom at Burnley Football Club a couple of weeks before the start of the Premier League season, Mike Garlick, the team's chairman, had only one cloud on his horizon.

The summer had been a good one. In May, Burnley had retained their place in the Premier League, finishing 16th.

When Sean Dyche, the team's manager, and his players returned for pre-season training in July, they took up residence in a sparkling new training facility, a physical manifestation of the club's blossoming self-belief.

Now they could focus on how to cement their place among English football's elite. The key, Garlick said, would be to start to replicate their home form in away games.

The previous year, Burnley's stadium - the Turf Moor - had been something of a fortress. Dyche's team had won 10 games at home. On the road, though, the team had struggled, losing 14.

Garlick, like Dyche, had identified improving that record as a priority. And then, in the middle of June, this season's league schedule was published.

"Our first five away games are Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City," Garlick said that day in July. It felt, if anything, a little cruel.

COILED INTENSITY

They know what to do and are patient with that killing instinct of a snake. They put you to their face and then they bite you.

'' ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, on Burnley and their knack for making the most of their chances.

Burnley went into those five games expecting nothing but came out transformed.

Dyche's team won at Chelsea and Everton, and drew at Spurs and Liverpool. Today, Arsenal will visit Turf Moor, the first of the Premier League's superpowers to endure the experience this year.

A win would allow Burnley to overtake Arsenal in the standings - both teams are on 22 points.

Almost a third of the way into the season, Burnley have overcome all expectations, even their own.

According to data provided by Opta, no team has blocked more shots or made more clearances, and no goalkeeper has made more saves than Burnley's Nick Pope.

Metrics from both Opta and Gracenote suggest that Burnley should have conceded 17 goals by now. The actual figure is only nine, a defensive record bettered only by City and Manchester United and matched only by Spurs.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is well aware of the test that lies ahead for his team.

"They are the surprise package," he said. "They have won games with 25 or 30 per cent possession, they are calm, they know what to do and are patient with that killing instinct of a snake. They put you to their face and then they bite you."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 26, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger wary of upstarts Burnley'. Print Edition | Subscribe