Sean Dyche has warned Burnley still have a long grind ahead of them despite an uptick in form which has lifted them clear of the Premier League relegation zone.
Last week’s victory away at Anfield was notable not just as Liverpool’s unbeaten home league record was ended after 68 games but also as a sign of Burnley’s ongoing resurgence after they started the season with only two points from eight games.
Dyche said he had not panicked during Burnley’s poor start and he will not get carried away now despite also picking up wins against Arsenal, Wolves and Sheffield United in the last six weeks to move seven points clear of 18th-placed Fulham going into the midweek fixtures.
“My years of being here, my years of working with this group told me we’d find a way out and we are doing somewhat,” he said
“We’re only approaching halfway but we’ve had a good points return over the last nine or 10 games, a couple of good rounds in the FA Cup and we’re getting fit.
“It doesn’t guarantee you anything but it gives you a better chance.”
Dyche has injury doubts over Charlie Taylor, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes and Josh Brownhill for Wednesday’s match against Aston Villa but all are minor niggles – and there is a correlation between recent results and an shortening queue for the treatment room.
Earlier in the season Dyche was struggling to name a full squad for matches, but on Sunday he was able to make nine changes to his side and enjoy a 3-0 FA Cup win away to Fulham.
“When you get everyone fit you have an in-house competition,” he said. “There are players who are really playing with that edge to make sure they keep the shirt.
“I think that run of performances and some of the results has come from the fact that the group’s now fitter, getting stronger and that in-house competitive edge where no one’s relying on a shirt and has to earn it, then I think that’s good for the team.”
Villa will provide an interesting test of Burnley’s form, having mixed it in the battle for the European places before a coronavirus outbreak led to fixture postponements that allowed others to overhaul them as games in hand piled up in the new year.
Even so, they look a different side to the one that only avoided relegation on the final day of last season, their first back in the Premier League since 2015.
“The fact they stayed up last season gave them a big lift and affected things,” Dyche said. “They had that twist of fate with the VAR goal that was or wasn’t (against Sheffield United), it maybe kept them up and they built on that. Fair play to them. They’re a good outfit.
“But as much as Aston Villa have started strong, we’re getting strength in depth as well so we’re in a good place ourselves.”