“I think this is too tense to enjoy,” said Alan Green on BBC Radio 5 Live. No Alan, this was too sh*t to enjoy. When the winning side registers a 53% pass completion rate, we can safely conclude that a game is light on quality. And that’s the kind of ‘light on quality’ that’s basically a polite way of saying ‘my God, I will never get those 90 minutes back’.
Thank you Burnley, it’s been lovely to see you all run around an awful lot, heartwarming to see journeymen like Jason Shackell in the Premier League again, baffling to see Lucas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell in the Premier League at all and Sean Dyche really has done an admirable job with a laughable budget to even take your survival campaign into May, but you will not be missed by many. We will patronise you in failure just as you were patronised at every faint sniff of success.
The cliche uttered by every player who transfers to Nottingham Forest or Leeds United is that they are joining ‘a Premier League club in all but name’; to watch Burnley v Leicester was to watch a Championship game in all but name. The simplest passes went astray, the longest passes were hoofs, defensive headers cleared the half-way line and neither side knowingly put more than three passes together.
People will write dramatically of the minute that changed Burnley’s season – within which Matt Taylor missed a penalty and Jamie Vardy scored at the other end – but the Clarets’ now-almost-inevitable relegation was sealed in three months of tourniqueted transfer activity that saw them start a Premier League season with a Championship squad. If you are promoted to the top flight and cannot buy a single player wanted by any of the other 19 clubs, you need nothing short of a miracle to survive.
Does anybody believe that Taylor converting a penalty would have made a smidgeon of difference with Burnley playing three of their last four games away from home, where they have picked up just one point in their last six attempts? Would ‘no goals in eight hours from open play‘ have sounded that much better with that caveat included? Romance schmomance…this Burnley side is simply not good enough. And there’s absolutely no shame in that.
Leicester are barely better – and will need serious summer investment if they finish 17th or higher – but many would like to see their late-season gung-ho attitude rewarded while either Hull or Sunderland are punished for their attempt to sleepwalk towards perennial survival. The Foxes were truly abject at Turf Moor but they have precious momentum and a struggling side that wins three straight Premier League games earns the luck required to win a fourth.
“The game is cruel sometimes. I think that was a show of it today when it was at its cruellest,” said Dyche after defeat to Leicester. He will join Burnley fans in cursing individual moments, but the real cruelty came with a season-long task equivalent to pushing a massive boulder up a hill with only Scott Arfield on hand to help.