Will Burnley’s Early Cup Exit Prove to be a Blessing in Disguise?

Sean Dyche has been superb since arriving at Turf Moor, and the gravelly-voiced former defender has helped the unfancied Clarets fight off relegation in each of the last three Premier League seasons.

However, the club are starved of cup success, and they suffered yet another early exit at the hands of League One Sunderland in the EFL Cup on August 28th. FA Cup aside, Burnley can now concentrate on climbing the Premier League table, and their second-round departure could be the key to helping them avoid any unnecessary injury issues over the next couple of months.

Many of their Premier League rivals also featured in the second round of the competition, with a whole host of top-flight sides ensuring their name would be in the hat for the third-round draw. However, this came at a cost. Southampton are expected to be without key winger Nathan Redmond for at least the next three weeks, with the 25-year old seen leaving Craven Cottage wearing a protective boot. Matt Ritchie was on the receiving end of a poor challenge from Hamza Choudhury, and the Newcastle winger is being assessed ahead of the Magpies weekend meeting with Watford. Michail Antonio lasted just seven minutes against Newport County on August 27th, and fans are still waiting to learn the extent of his injury.

Burnley possess the third smallest squad in the Premier League with just 25 players listed at this moment in time, and they can ill-afford to lose any key players at this early stage of the season. The third round of the EFL Cup takes place at the end of September, with Sean Dyche now able to use this period to ensure his squad are fully prepared for a potentially difficult trip to Villa Park.

Burnley have won just one of their last six games in the EFL Cup, and their defeat to Sunderland means that it’s the second consecutive season in which the Clarets have been dumped out of this competition by League One opposition. The club haven’t qualified for the fourth round since Dyche’s first season in charge. Their only victory in the last six years has come against local rivals Blackburn Rovers with Jack Cork and Robbie Brady helping ensure that the visitors left Ewood Park with the bragging rights and a place in the third round.

Their record in the FA Cup isn’t much better, with Burnley making a third-round exit in five of the last eight seasons, and that barren run includes an embarrassing defeat to Lincoln City, who were flying high in the National League at the time.

Burnley finished 15th last season, but suffered an uncharacteristically slow start to the campaign. This was blamed on their Europa League commitments, with Dyche struggling to successfully rotate his squad. If the Clarets are to challenge for a top-half finish this season, they will need to have a relatively empty diary. In the latest Premier League betting markets, they are priced at 4/1 to finish in the top ten, and after picking up four points from their opening three games, fans are confident that the club can go close to repeating their 2017-18 heroics.

Cup runs can be hugely lucrative for clubs lower down the pyramid, and they can also be tremendously enjoyable for the fans. However, Sean Dyche’s priority this season is now purely focused around the Premier League, and despite his poor record in knock-out competitions, it could actually benefit his side in the long run. With a fully fit squad, and no midweek distractions until December, Burnley’s poor run in cup competitions may actually be an inadvertently astute way of ensuring that they are able to improve upon last season’s underwhelming campaign and avoid being sucked into an unnecessary relegation battle.

 

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