Burnley 0, Manchester City 2: Chris Boden’s thoughts on another tough afternoon

After a crucial Sergio Aguero winner in April 2019 helped fend off Liverpool’s title challenge – the ball went over the 2.91cm line – Manchester City fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura said: “Playing at Burnley is like going to the dentist.”

However, these days it’s more like a simple check – many teams leave reporting no issues, with a sticker and a lollipop.

The Clarets have won three of their last 28 home games in all competitions, including a Carabao Cup win against League Two Rochdale.

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TOPSHOT – Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (R) scores the opening goal past Burnley’s English goalkeeper Nick Pope (L) during the English Premier League soccer match between Burnley and Manchester City at Turf Moor in Burnley, northwest England, on April 2. 2022. – EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online use in match limited to 120 images. 40 additional images can be used in overtime. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. 40 additional images can be used in overtime. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online use in match limited to 120 images. 40 additional images can be used in overtime. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. 40 additional images can be used in overtime. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online use in match limited to 120 images. 40 additional images can be used in overtime. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. 40 additional images can be used in overtime. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Burnley were renowned for making life difficult for the big hitters at Turf Moor, giving them harsh scrutiny of their mental, physical and technical abilities.

Too often of late, however, Sean Dyche’s side have struggled to put a gauntlet on elite opponents, Spurs aside.

Saturday was no different. It was a somewhat soft and gentle Burnley, who rather stood on the sidelines and enjoyed a City side who are arguably the best team in Europe and beyond.

When asked if they had shown Guardiola’s men too much respect, Dyche replied: “Those are easy words, but it’s hard when you’re there, 11 players who haven’t played for a few weeks against a top team.

“We tried to change it up, just a bit, to have an extra midfielder there, thinking we hadn’t played for a while and only got our players back on Thursday.

“Trying to shape this in a day and a half is not that easy.

“But it changes the whole feeling when they score after five minutes.

“We looked a little rusty. It looked like they could have anticipated the game better.”

That’s all well and good, but only Nick Pope, Connor Roberts and Wout Weghorst from the starting line-up were absent on international duty, and the tweak was an additional midfielder, who the team know how to play well.

Naturally, Dyche wanted to thicken the midfield against a team that plays effectively with six midfielders, constantly rotating, with full-backs playing either as wingers or in midfield.

It’s hard to judge a performance against a side of City’s quality – and City were a bogey for a long time even before Sheikh Mansour transformed the club – but the Clarets were pretty passive.

Burnley are usually at their best when aggressive – albeit tough and fair – letting their opponents know he’s there, while also having high octane when in possession.

We didn’t see any of that again, in a rather tasteless projection.

Downtown defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake were completely unfazed, allowed to show the range of their passes from behind, under little or no pressure, while Rodri ran the show, allowing Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan to combine to deadly effect with England. trio Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling.

Yes, many teams would struggle to match that quality, but City won at a gallop, with more gears to go.

While City could have reached greater heights, this is a Burnley side whose ceiling has long since been reached.

These players gave their all for the cause and went above and beyond, but the chronic lack of investment after qualifying for Europe in 2018 caught up with the club, as many suspected.

You sensed last season that he would come back to bite, but there were three worst sides, as Dyche pulled another bunny out of the hat.

This season, at first glance, this is not the case.

There could still be major moments of the season to play, with Everton and Norwich next.

If the Toffees win at the rather unpredictable West Ham on Sunday, however, you feel the writing is on the wall.

There is no indication, however, that Burnley will win either of the next two games – having won just three times in the league in 28 appearances, they have failed to beat any of the other five sides in the last six so far this season.

They just need to start helping themselves before it’s too late and the team sleepwalks into the championship.

Legs, hearts and minds – the mantra that adorns the walls of the training ground – gave their all during Dyche’s time at the club.

There was little evidence of any of this against City, and some of the supporters’ hearts and minds are lost along the way.

As said before, with Dyche it’s “not an eternal story”.

And you wonder if we are coming to the end of the most successful period in the club’s modern history.

Six years ago, on his way to the championship title, he said to himself: “As fast as you are a hero, you are a zero, never more than today.

“Modern fans are bored with a manager’s rhetoric and need change, but why do you change?

“Either I get booed or someone comes along and you say ‘I can’t say no, I have to go’.

“Only time will tell.”

No fan would have faulted him for the latter, and I hope it’s not the former.

And you always wonder who on earth would be best equipped to get the most out of those players, regardless of what division they’re in next season.

But we need to see more signs of life. If Burnley are to fall, they must fight.

About Julius Southworth

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