Chelsea are not an easy club to like. Over the years they have ostentatiously splashed around their owner’s cash with the kind of wanton abandonment that cannot fail to irritate supporters of other teams.
Factor in the impression the Blues exude of Metropolitan elitism and entitlement and it is easy to see why other clubs cherish the opportunity to bring these over-privileged upstarts down a peg or two.
Clubs just like Burnley in fact, the only problem is however, that Chelsea have found their recent visits to Turf Moor very much to their liking, a trend which was continued in Saturday evening’s televised Premier League encounter.
At least this season, under Frank Lampard's tutelage, Chelsea have curbed some of their more infuriating excesses and due to having a transfer ban imposed upon them, have given some of the talented youngsters at their disposal the chance to shine in the first eleven.
This is a philosophy that previous managers, who worked under constant fear of incurring Roman Abramovic’s displeasure would not countenance. Fair play to Frank, his bravery is paying rich dividends.
As for Burnley, it seemed that they had not learned the lessons from last month’s defeat by Liverpool, namely that when faced with technically superior opponents, unforced errors must be avoided.
After twenty one minutes, Matt Lowton got his feet in a tangle on the half-way line and was robbed of possession by Christian Pulisic. Burnley’s defenders regrouped and corralled Pulisic wide of their goal, but the USA international managed to thread his shot past three Clarets defenders, plus goalkeeper Nick Pope and into the corner of the net.
Burnley contested a fairly even first half and had their chances to equalise, first with an Erik Pieters volley which Blues’ goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga managed to palm away, and then a golden opportunity at the far post for Ashley Barnes, the striker miscuing his header from virtually under the crossbar.
Such profligacy rarely goes unpunished and when James Tarkowski’s lacklustre and easily telegraphed pass was picked off by Willian, Pulisic was swiftly sent through on Burnley’s goal for a second time. This time he received the benefit of a deflection off Ben Mee for his, and Chelsea’s second goal. A terminal blow coming, as it did, just before half time.
For most of the second half, Chelsea hit their stride and dominated all passages of play. Pulisic completed his hat-trick with a clever near post header and Willian’s low angled shot made it 4-0; prompting some Burnley fans, fearing that they would witness a drubbing of the type suffered by Southampton the night before, to leave for the solace of the pub or to head home to watch “Strictly”.
In my piece last week, after the Leicester match, I ventured to suggest that Burnley could do with some help from VAR. Well, it arrived, but irony of ironies, not until the Clarets were 4-0 down and the match virtually lost.
Referee Michael Oliver initially awarded Chelsea a penalty when Callum Hudson-Odoi went tumbling to the ground. But VAR spotted Tarkowski pulling out of his challenge and the spot-kick award was overturned.
This seemed to spark the Clarets into life; Jay Rodriguez struck a beautiful long range shot which arced gracefully in the air away from Arizzabalaga’s dive and into the goal. This was followed shortly afterwards by a strike from Dwight McNeill which was deflected into the net.
It was too little too late of course, but the two Burnley goals did at least apply a cosmetic veneer of respectability to the scoreline and had the effect of nullifying some of the displeasure that the remaining Burnley supports in the stadium had been gearing up to vent.
Burnley deserved little more than they received from Saturday's game. For all their endeavour, particularly evident in the first half, their play lacked precision and was punctuated with unseemly and unusual errors.
There now follows a sequence of fixtures for the Clarets, which on the face of it offers the prospect of some points to be harvested.
The first of these is a trip to newly promoted Sheffield United next Saturday; a fixture which is unlikely to enrapture the purists and has a “last-on-Match-of-the-Day” feel to it.
Following back to back defeats, Burnley really need to emerge from Bramall Lane on Saturday evening with something to show in the points gained column. It will not be easy against a resurgent set of Blades.
Written by the somewhat depressed uber Claret Dave Thornley, on behalf of Clarets Mad. (TEC).