MATCHDAY PROGRAMME

Liverpool told who to target, with Burnley “resigned to the inevitable”

Liverpool will expect to beat Burnley on Boxing Day and, while confidence in the opposition fanbase is low, a win over Fulham has given some fresh hope.

The Reds drew 1-1 at home to Arsenal on Saturday, as they failed to go top of the Premier League over Christmas, but they are still in a strong position.

Burnley find themselves at the other end of the table, sitting in 19th place and finding life in the top flight tough under Vincent Kompany.

Ahead Burnley vs. Liverpool, Henry Jackson spoke to Matt from No Nay Never podcast (@NoNayNever) to discuss both teams, the title race and much more.

 

How would you assess Burnley’s start to the season?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Friday, August 11, 2023: Burnley's goalkeeper James Trafford during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City FC at Turf Moor. Man City won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Oh, much worse than expected.

Only the really optimistic of us expected anything other than a bottom-six scrap this season, but nobody thought we would be breaking unwanted records by losing seven home games on the bounce and being worried about not beating Derby’s lowest-ever points total for a season.

This isn’t the squad that romped to the Championship title last season – 15 new faces this summer have made the team unrecognisable at times.

For that reason, the fans are struggling to connect with them and give the patience and understanding they may need in this situation.

 

Is Kompany still the right man in charge?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 18, 2023: Burnley's manager Vincent Kompany during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester City FC and Burnley FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. Man City won 6-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Some fans say no because he’s getting things wrong tactically. He’s as naive as his squad and he should be sacked in favour of Premier League survival.

Others are trying to be more patient, however, saying that we probably got promoted quicker than Kompany or the board were expecting.

He is only on year two of a longer-term plan for assembling and developing a squad that can compete at the top level.

Kompany has the board’s backing and signing an improved five-year contract at the end of his first season in charge certainly suggests that he is prepared to see his plan through.

He is only in his fifth season of managing overall, but he’s not doing his reputation and chances of a top-six job any good the way he’s going about things, on the pitch this year.

 

Who has stood out and who has struggled?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Friday, August 11, 2023: Burnley's Luca Warrick Koleosho looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City FC at Turf Moor. Man City won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s been hard to pick standouts so far this season, but notable performances have come from Lyle Foster up front in the early weeks, before he took some time to manage his mental health.

The re-introduction of Charlie Taylor at left-back after being in the wilderness last season, and also with the distinct possibility another left-back will be sought in January, has been the brightest spark of our limited attack.

Luca Koleosho has been good on the left wing, too.

The rest of the defence has struggled at this level and Kompany has not found a settled back five, let alone his best XI.

James Trafford in goal has had a baptism of fire, with his large price tag maybe weighing him down, and Kompany seems reluctant to bring Arijanet Muric back in for a bit of stability.

A standout performance at Brighton has gone some way to re-build Trafford’s reputation among fans, but it’s going to be a long season if we don’t shore up a leaky backline that looks like conceding from every set piece.

 

Do you think the Clarets will avoid relegation?

In a word, no. You look at previous years’ stats from all teams to see how often they recover from similarly poor starts, and it doesn’t happen often – but it can.

You always look for three teams that could be consistently worse than you and, so far this season, there only appears to be one. That’s Sheffield United, who have just hit the emergency Chris Wilder button, which seems to have had the desired effect so far.

But that still leaves you looking for two others; Luton may well fade and struggle, but then who else is there? Bournemouth look like they will have enough and Sean Dyche seems to have Everton playing consistently well.

Many are resigned to the inevitable already.

 

What’s one thing you would change at the club?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 18, 2023: Burnley's manager Vincent Kompany during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester City FC and Burnley FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. Man City won 6-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It may seem harsh, but the set-piece coach has a lot to answer for this season.

So many goals have been conceded from not being able to defend basic corners or crosses into the box, and our best chances are coming from open play, rather than having effective set-piece options.

Being better at defending these situations would go a long way to shoring up our defence.

The squad also need to show some fight. Fans will accept relegation, but they won’t accept it happening with a whimper.

 

What do you think has improved with Liverpool from last season?

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - Thursday, December 14, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp applauds the supporters after the UEFA Europa League Group E match-day 6 game between Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Liverpool FC at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Union SG won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Looking at the squad and regular starters, I think transfers and injuries have combined to freshen up a squad that had maybe gone as far as it was going to go.

New faces coming in and challenging for places brings renewed energy to those established players around them, and things seem to be gelling and starting to work for Jurgen Klopp.

Early on in the season, a title challenge was looking slightly less likely, but the tide seems to be turning and you look like you will be back in the fight for it.

 

As for Boxing Day, where will the key battles take place?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Friday, August 11, 2023: Burnley's Victor Alexander da Silva 'Vitinho' (L) challenges Manchester City's Phil Foden during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City FC at Turf Moor. Man City won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s harder to pick out individual contests this season, as we’ve not had an entirely settled side yet due to injuries, suspensions and Kompany’s tweaking.

We’ve seen some consistency in the last few matches, and assuming this doesn’t change too much then I guess Taylor will have his hands full with Mohamed Salah.

Meanwhile, Sander Berge will be trying to keep control of your new-look midfield.

We saw the return of one of last season’s shining stars, Manuel Benson, against Everton, so he may feature more and hopefully give your left-back a headache.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 20, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the Football League Cup Quarter-Final match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 5-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s hard to see anything other than a Liverpool win at the time of writing, but stranger things have happened.

We did see a reaction to the Clarets’ poorest display of the season at home to Everton last week, winning 2-0 away at Fulham on Saturday, so I will be optimistic as it’s Christmas and wish for a 2-2 draw.

Merry Christmas!