Burnley approached last night’s game at Stamford Bridge in the precise manner everyone expected them to approach it: play deep and compact, take advantage of set pieces, foul early and often, and waste time whenever possible.
Check, check, check, and check.
Burnley had all the dark arts in their repertoire working as intended, some at levels not seen in half a decade. When goalkeeper Tom Heaton received a yellow card for time-wasting in the 32nd minute, it was the earliest caution for time-wasting in a Premier League match for almost five years.
Tom Heaton's yellow card in the 32nd minute of the match is the earliest for time wasting by a goalkeeper in a #PremierLeague game since Asmir Begovic in November 2014. #CHEBUR pic.twitter.com/aMIEQgJQ6h— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) April 22, 2019
Chelsea grew increasingly unhappy at these antics — and our own failures to break the 2-2 deadlock — eventually boiling over into a sideline altercation.
Afterwards, David Luiz relayed his frustrations, bringing the inconsistent Kevin Friend into it as well, who let the visitors get away with a fair amount, both in terms of time-wasting and fouling, despite initially appearing to be wise to their methods and willing to stamp down his authority.
“We tried everything to win the game, but it’s difficult playing a team who has two chances, score two goals, but didn’t want to play the game.
”For me, the authority on the pitch is the referee, and when he is not there to try to check what he has to do on the pitch, it’s difficult.
”They were trying to time waste from the first minute of the first half, and then it was anti-football so it’s difficult to play against.”
— David Luiz; source: Sky Sports
To be fair, such tactics aren’t exactly foreign to Chelsea, from the days of Mourinho (Mk.I and Mk.II), to the 2012 Champions League campaign, to the League Cup final against Manchester City just a couple months ago, just to mention a few obvious examples.
Burnley boss Sean “Ginger Mourinho” Dyche inspired his team (who had nothing to play for) to efforts that Mourinho himself would have been proud of and probably would’ve run down the touchline beating his chest a la Anfield five years ago. Dyche defended Burnley’s approach to the game citing their relatively tiny budget and their objectives, where survival is primary and style a distant secondary.
“They can have whatever opinion they want. Everyone is allowed an opinion. If we could afford the players they have, I’d love – all managers – to play 600 pass football and win all the time. But it’s simply not that easy. You have to do what you do to win and be successful. Look at the amount of players we’ve developed, the diligence of the group, where the players have come from to play in the Premier League... You have to enjoy the moment, and we certainly enjoyed the moment.
“Well, for a £58m wage bill, making the most of the players to find a way to get 40 points in the Premier League, I’m pretty pleased to be fair. 28 points from 16 games: you can’t do that with anti-football. You have to play some football to get that many points. We’re in a super strong position, but you work on facts. We know it’s a big marker, 40 points, but we have to see it through.”
— Sean Dyche; source: Goal
Burnley are looking good in achieving their stated objective. Chelsea are in a more precarious position after failing to capitalise on the slip-ups from Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester United this past weekend. They all play in the next two days, after which all four teams vying for the last two Champions League spots will have three games remaining.
Anything can happen, but as the Premier League winds down to the final weeks, it is getting clearer that the Europa League may be our best bet to claim a Champions League spot for next season.