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Burnley have been one of the major surprises of the ongoing Premier League season. Sean Dyche’s side were expected to struggle on their return to the Premier League and were tipped as the favourites to drop back to the EFL Championship at the end of the season.
However, the Clarets have put up a strong fight and against all odds, and look set for another season in the English top flight. They currently sit 14th in the league table, with 36 points from 33 games, 4 points off the magic 40-point mark that is usually considered as the benchmark for safety in the Premier League.
While safety isn’t totally guaranteed yet, it is almost certain that Burnley will stay up and plans are underway for next season as Dyche looks to maintain the Premier League status of the club. There are several players who have been linked with a move away from the Turf Moor in the upcoming summer, chief among them being their top performers – defender Michael Keane and forward Andre Gray. There have been some names that have been targeted by the club over a summer move as well.
Here is how a dream Burnley XI (Formation: 4-4-2) would look like next season:
Captain and first-choice shot-stopper Tom Heaton has been one of the stand-out performers for the Clarets this season and he will continue to start between the sticks next season as well.
Matthew Lowton at right-back has been doing decently well and enjoys the trust of the manager. At 27, he still has a lot of years left and he should stay as the preferred option for the upcoming season.
At centre-half, Michael Keane has been linked heavily with a move away from the Turf Moor with the likes of Liverpool, Everton all interested in a move. But if they manage to keep hold of the former Manchester United man in the summer, it will be no short of a coup.
Alongside Keane, Ben Mee has been excelling quietly and away from the limelight. He has been the leader of the backline for the Clarets and should continue as the defensive mainstay.
And slotting it at left-back will be Stephen Ward. The 31-year old has been one of the most consistent players for Burnley this season. While Dyche should be looking to add a backup to the position, Ward should remain the preferred option in the starting XI.
George Boyd hasn’t had the best of the seasons in terms of goals and assists, but he remains one of Dyche’s most trusted lieutenants. He will remain in the XI on the right-hand side of the midfield.
Nottingham Forest’s Ben Osborn has been linked with a move to Burnley and if they manage to close the deal down, the versatile 22-year old, who can play anywhere across the midfield, could find himself in the centre of the park for the Clarets.
Alongside Osborn, we could see Steven Defour in the playing XI. The Belgian international has had a stop-start debut season at Turf Moor but could come into his own in the upcoming term.
And on the left-hand side of the midfield, January signing Robbie Brady could make the spot his own. He has been overlooked at times in favour of Scott Arfield, despite impressing with the opportunities he has got. But that could change now, with the 28-year old being linked with a move to Newcastle United.
Striker Andre Gray is now the leading goal-scorer for the Clarets two seasons running but has been linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. If they manage to convince him to stay for another season, it will be as good as a new signing.
And partnering him will be Ashley Barnes. The 27-year old has been impressive at the top for Burnley and has chipped in with 5 goals in the league. The fans will be hoping for a better goal return though for the upcoming season.
While that is how the fans would want their ideal playing XI to look like, here is how the line-up would look more realistically (4-4-2 Formation):
Tom Heaton is certain to stay with the Clarets for the next season and will start in goal without a doubt.
Matthew Lowton is another who will be staying put at Turf Moor along with Stephen Ward and they will keep their spots in the full-back positions.
Michael Keane could very well be on the way out and a replacement in the form of Swansea City defender Kyle Bartley, who is currently on loan at Leeds United could offer the resolution for Burnley. He will be partnering the ever-present and ever so consistent Ben Mee.
With George Boyd set for a new deal with the club, he should be in the playing XI on the right-flank, while the central midfield positions will most likely be taken up by last summer’s signings Jeff Hendrick and Steven Defour. On the left-hand side of the midfield, Robbie Brady should start as the preferred option irrespective of whether Scott Arfield stays or leaves in the summer.
Andre Gray will most certainly leave if Tottenham come calling in the summer. If that happens, Dyche will have to bring in a replacement. But if they fail to find a suitable alternative, it could mean a starting berth for youth side star Dan Agyei who has impressed Dyche in the past year or so.
The responsibility of leading the line will fall on Ashley Barnes, who will need to step up in a big way if Gray does leave in the summer.