Connect with us


Burnley highlight flaw in big four armoury

Man u downfallBefore the new campaign got underway, many pundits were predicting the most open title race in years. Critics scoffed, but for once the result looks set to match the hype, after the champions became the second member of the ‘big four’ to lose in under a week.

Liverpool’s opening defeat to Tottenham Hotspur certainly whetted the appetite but it could also have been perceived as a mere anomaly in an otherwise predictable process. In order for that result to take on greater significance, another had to follow; that’s where Burnley come in.

It’s certainly not unusual for Championship play-off winners to be written off, but following an opening day defeat to Stoke, the negativity surrounding Burnley’s chances of Premier League survival plunged to new depths. With this in mind, few expected the Clarets to trouble champions Manchester United but trouble them they did, as a fine Robbie Blake strike earned the home side a famous victory.

It’s also a victory that vindicates the football odds of a much tighter league from top to bottom – last season’s top three lost a combined total of three games against the bottom 16 teams, this season the tally already stands at two.

One of the main reasons for this sudden change also happens to be the reason for the gap in the first place – money. The likes of Manchester United and Chelsea no longer have the pick of the worlds best players and when a team like Manchester City or Real Madrid comes calling, they face a struggle to keep hold of their own stars.

It doesn’t matter what anybody inside Old Trafford tries to tell you, United are weaker without Ronaldo and Tevez and against Burnley and to a lesser extent Birmingham, it showed.

All of which makes it so ludicrous that some were writing off Liverpool after their defeat to a rejuvenated Spurs side. Sure enough, last year’s runners up moved quickly to silence the doubters as they cruised to victory against Stoke. Few have written off United, yet the 4-0 win puts Liverpool above the holders on goal difference.

Elsewhere Chelsea picked up a second straight win but question marks remain over their new formation after two less than impressive performances. So that leaves outsiders Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur as the only other potential challengers on maximum points; a recipe for an exciting, dramatic and unpredictable season if ever there was one.

200+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
  • Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
  • Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
  • Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
  • Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
  • Price: $4.99/mo
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more


  1. Gaz

    August 24, 2009 at 7:43 am

    I know you we’re all agreed not to speculate so early… etc, etc, etc. But it’s fun. 🙂

    I think one of the current 4 will have a very difficult time getting that 4th place spot this year (and it’s not Liverpool or Chelsea). It just seems that the 5-10 holders are getting stronger and stronger. The points may be a little more spread…

    As for the Man. United game, I thought it was priceless. Burnley = this year’s Hull.

    • Gaz

      August 24, 2009 at 7:44 am


      Should read: “I know we all agreed…”

  2. ish

    August 22, 2009 at 6:43 am

    manU have had to change the way they play, they are playing a different system with different players. Now add to it the fact that their first team defenders are all injured.
    ManU havent played amazing football but when they get the ball rolling they will start winning. Its wrong to write off manU they are a great team and even losing ronaldo and tevez(not a big loss really) they still have great players.

    Chelsea have played some amazing football but they struggle in front of goal. They are clinically wasteful and it will cost them. Now they have a great team but it should be interesting whether they can keep it up. Remember they started very strongly under scolari as well.

  3. wllmhll

    August 22, 2009 at 12:59 am

    early season form is important but not key to end of season success. last season, united started the season with a home draw against newcastle. then a win, loss and a draw. its too early to draw up conclusions

  4. Lyle

    August 21, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Paul Doyle on the Football Weekly Guardian podcast has predicted Manchester United will finish 5th or 6th… if Man City, Tottenham, and the like get their act together. He thinks they’re the weakest of the top four. Interesting.

  5. Rob

    August 21, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Cheers Oliver, I didn’t have the stats – but those are about as telling as it gets – real domination in the 1st 2 games by Chelsea..but all in all it’s true – it’s very early..we shall see – should be a great season!

  6. NewtonHeath

    August 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    fully echo the sentiments regarding not reading too much into the first few games. united got off to a slow start last season as well. liverpool also lost the same fixture last year. no need to hit panic buttons just yet.

    for the record though, i do think our boys in red white and black got weaker with the departure of tevez & ronaldo. it will take time to adjust to the new teammates and formation. as such, i told friends before the season began that this is chelsea’s title to lose since they have a virtually unchanged (and arguably stronger) squad.

    either way though i’m just looking forward to exciting football ahead. if these upsets continue though that’s fine by me because it makes for a much more exciting premier league. i just think everyone is getting warmed up though just like last year.


  7. oliver

    August 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    “The likes of Manchester United and Chelsea no longer have the pick of the worlds best players”

    Did Chelsea *ever* sign the worlds top players? I.e. players at their peak who would be considered among the top 5 in the world?

    As for Chelsea being less than impressive, according to the OPTA stats, they had 75% of the possession, 26 attempts on goal (to Sunderlands 4) and 14 corners to Sunderlands 1.

    Against Hull it was 70% possession, 33 shots to 8 and 12 corners to 4.

    What would they need to do to be rated as impressive by you?

  8. Lyle

    August 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Everyone is stating the obvious… that’s it’s early days yet and that the first couple of weeks never tell a tale. All true… all true, but it is fun to speculate about the likes of Manchester United possibly getting relegated out of the Big Four.

  9. Tyson

    August 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Oh for gods sake stop buying into this crap man.

    For Manchester United in particular they started the season with a draw, followed up with a shallow 1 goal win at Portsmouth and then a loss and another draw last year.

    Two games in doesn’t mean anything the big boys aren’t even warmed up yet.

  10. The Gaffer

    August 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    My personal take on all of this is that we can’t seriously began analyzing a team’s chances for the 2009/2010 season based on the first few games of the season. We have to wait until at least after the end of the transfer window.

    For now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rollercoaster ride of the first few weeks of the season, and then prepare for more predictable results and undefeated runs after that — while at the same time hoping for the opposite!

    The Gaffer

  11. JLay

    August 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Well said, Chris. As a United fan, I’m not worried. I didn’t think that we’d lose to Burnley, but they scored a brilliant goal, they defended well and we couldn’t find the back of the net despite many chances. It’s part of the game.

    United have seen a lot of change this summer. Of course the loss of Ronaldo makes us weaker – he’s probably the best player in the world right now and ANY team that lost him would be weaker. But we’ve lost great players before – and historically we’ve recovered quite well.

    Money is a factor, but I don’t see that as anything new – and I don’t think that it will change much at the top of the league. City’s spending may create a “Top Five”, but it doesn’t guarantee them success. With a few key injuries and/or managerial instability they could fail miserably this year.

    I also applaud SAF for holding on to the fee we got for Ronaldo. Player values were drastically inflated this summer, and there weren’t many “great” players available. To those of you who are calling for more spending, who would you buy? Would you really put the club further in debt to bring in a Ribery, an Aguero, or a Silva? Good players all – but not great, and certainly not worth the asking price. The reality is, we have debts to service – debt that brought us players like Berbatov, Nani, Anderson, and Hargreaves in recent years. It’s time to pay the piper – but have faith that those guys will develop as Fergie thought they would.

  12. Tim

    August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am

    “outsiders Arsenal”

    yep, keep saying that, fine by me.

  13. Chris from Texas

    August 21, 2009 at 10:49 am

    People are making too many assumptions based on a season 2 games in. Manchester United has started the last two seasons getting 5 points for less from 3 games, so a loss early on isn’t all too surprising.

    As for Liverpool, they lost to the Spurs at White Heart Lane last season. They did beat Stoke (a team that held them to two 0-0 draws). Looking at the two results and comparing them to last season, Liverpool are +2 from last year.

    We won’t get a good idea of who is going to win the league until December. Remember Hull last year? They were amazing before they dropped like a rock…

    • Lyle

      August 21, 2009 at 11:10 am

      Manchester United losing to Burnley isn’t surprising?

    • Dave

      August 21, 2009 at 11:52 am

      People’s assumptions change from week to week in this game. If Wigan gets blown out tomorrow, all this is forgotten.

  14. Rob

    August 21, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Less than impressive performance from Chelsea? I could understand that in the Hull game but they were spot on in the Sunderland game – absolutely dominant, Sunderland did not get out of their own half in the 2nd half. You obviously didn’t see that game or are a Chelsea hater. As a Blues fan, I’m excited for the year and think the title is ours to be had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in General

Translate »