It is a sobering and inescapable fact that Burnley have led in three of the four Premier League matches they have played this season and have not gone on to win any of them.
Despite some good passages of play in all of their matches, it is ultimately the points column on the table which defines how good or bad a team is and right now, the Clarets have accrued just one.
At Goodison Park on Monday night, Burnley assumed control of the match throughout the first half and into the second; those home supporters who were not grumpily silent were venting increasing irritation as the Clarets pressed forward.
A wickedly curling Dwight McNeil cross early in the game grazed Chris Wood’s forehead when the striker should probably have made firmer contact and given Burnley the lead; later a melee from a corner almost resulted in a goal for Ben Mee and might have given cause for a penalty as James Tarkowski was bundled to the ground as the corner was launched.
Josh Brownhill shot directly into Jordan Pickford’s grateful arms when he might have angled his effort beyond the Everton keeper; but although the first half ended goalless, Burnley, and Sean Dyche, had every reason to feel satisfied.
It was no surprise therefore when another teasing cross – this time from Johann Berg Gudmundsson – was met by Ben Mee’s firm header to put Burnley a goal up. Three points looked there for the taking.
But a moment of defensive slackness allowed former Claret Michael Keane enough space and time to head in an equaliser on the hour and ushered in seven minutes of total Burnley collapse in which the game was put emphatically beyond them.
First, Andros Townsend, a gifted player whose career has been illuminated by a number of spectacular long-range goals, unleashed another after Burnley had backed off him sufficiently to invite the shot. Then moments later, Demarai Gray found only open pasture between him and Nick Pope’s goal, his assured finish made it three one.
Had not Doucoure been flagged for offside and Andre Gomes missed a sitter, then the final score might have been even more embarrassing than was the eventual 3-1 result.
All defeats hurt, but this one was particularly alarming for the manner in which Burnley surrendered the lead and the initiative in a game they had under their control. Alarming too for the fact that Sean Dyche was out-manoeuvred and out-coached by Rafa Benitez.
The Everton manager made a tactical switch with the score at 1-1, introducing Gomes and tweaking his formation. Neither Dyche, nor his players were able to respond to the switch and the results were immediate.
I yield to no one in my admiration of Dyche and the work he has done at Burnley, but his reticence to make changes beyond like-for-like switches to relieve tiring limbs and make tactical adjustments whilst the game was in progress was shown in a harsh light in comparison to the intuitive and decisive Benitez.
Burnley are capable of much better than their results are currently showing. I hope I am wrong, but the current run of results, highlighted by the previously referred to tendency to relinquish winning positions, hints at a comfort zone in which some players and maybe the manager are currently dwelling.
Comfort zones are no place in which to linger if the aim is to remain in the Premier League. Burnley need to rediscover their sense of purpose, their intensity and their sheer bloody-mindedness.
Dave Thornley relects on a miserable second half defensive performance from the Clarets. If Burnley are to retain their English Premier League status this season, much improvement is needed. (TEC.)