Cup loss highlights Burnley's squad deficiencies
Going out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle is no great disaster for Burnley, but the 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night did highlight a number of areas of concern.
Sean Dyche rotated his squad for the Lancashire-Yorkshire encounter at Turf Moor, making seven changes to the team that lost 1-0 at Swansea at the weekend. Matt Gilks and Stephen Ward made their debuts, while Ashley Barnes and Marvin Sordell came in up front.
It was a chance for squad players to make their case for a place in the team, but instead a lack of strength in depth was on show as Burnley went out to a late penalty from Atdhe Nuhiu.
Burnley's lack of options down the spine of the team has been obvious for weeks, with the club failing to sign either a specialist central defender or midfielder despite seven new arrivals at Turf Moor. The Clarets ended up with Scott Arfield and Matt Taylor in a midfield two against Wednesday, with both of them playing out of position.
Having no cover in two key positions is a shocking state of affairs for a Premier League club, but with David Jones and Dean Marney both picking up injuries, Dyche's options in central midfield are minimal.
Burnley have problems at the back as well as in midfield. Kevin Long came in for the rested veteran Michael Duff and struggled, but he was the only other available defender.
It hasn't helped Dyche that his skipper, Jason Shackell, has started the new season looking shaky after being imperious throughout the Clarets' promotion campaign. Shackell conceded the penalty from which Wednesday scored. Last year, he conceded a penalty as Burnley went out to West Ham. The competition appears to have it in for him.
Dyche said after the loss to Wednesday that he felt it was a "nearly" performance, but only five shots on target out of 20 attempts suggests Burnley struggled to make a positive attacking impact throughout the game. It was a disjointed display -- perhaps to be expected with so many players rested -- but that does not excuse the result.
The Clarets had a bright period at the start of the second half, but for much of the match they were well below par. Dyche will not be too disappointed to be out of the Cup, and it was an indication of his feelings about the competition that his front-line strikers, Danny Ings and Lukas Jutkiewicz, were given only seven minutes to turn the tie around.
Another disappointing factor for Clarets supporters was that Dyche did not use the match as an opportunity to blood youngsters. Players such as Cameron Dummigan and Steven Hewitt have been on the brink of the first team for a while, but if they do not get minutes in the early rounds of the cups, fans will wonder when they will get a chance. Dyche had a reputation for bringing through youngsters into the first team at Watford, but that has not been the case during his time at Burnley.
The loss highlights Burnley's need to complete transfer deals before the window closes on Monday. The Clarets have lost all three of their games this season, and the deficiencies in their squad have been on show for several months. However, the club seem as far away as ever to landing a top target, with Watford striker Troy Deeney set to sign a new contract and Wigan midfielder James McArthur on the brink of a move to Leicester City.
Sheffield Wednesday have become a bogey team for Burnley in recent years, with the Clarets failing to win any of their past nine home games against the Owls. And despite Dyche's protestations that his side could have had four penalties, the visitors deserved their win at Turf Moor. Stuart Gray's side have started the season well, and a Premier League scalp will give their Championship campaign a boost.
For Burnley, a cup game against lower-league opposition represented a chance to get a much-needed win on the board and build some confidence ahead of Saturday's clash with Manchester United at Turf Moor. As it is, both teams go into the fixture on the back of defeats in the Capital One Cup, and the sides lack momentum after slow starts in the Premier League.