Tuesday 12 December 2017

Laws out of his depth as Burnley sink like a stone

Krystyna Rudzki

Brian Laws may have been hired as Burnley manager after topping a statistical analysis chart but the Clarets' thrashing at the hands of Manchester City on Saturday showed a man out of his depth in the cut-throat world of the Premier League.

His side let in three goals in the opening seven minutes with such embarrassing ease that it seems there is little hope of Burnley escaping relegation this season.

Laws was left furious and shocked in equal measures on the touchline after City's opening barrage. He spent a lengthy time in the dressing-room afterward trying to digest with his players how their plans to replicate Fulham's 'Great Escape' in 2008 went so horribly wrong. He then said sorry to the home fans, some of whom walked out after the third City goal went in.

"I apologise to the supporters for an awful display," Laws said. "It wasn't good enough and unacceptable. I feel I am getting full commitment from the players but I am disappointed and feel let down. Everyone is in shock."

Laws refused to answer questions on his future, but he will do well still to be in a job by the time Burnley face Hull City in their titanic relegation tussle next Saturday. If Burnley cannot muster anything from the KC Stadium, there will be little hope for their remaining fixtures against Sunderland, Liverpool, Birmingham and Tottenham.

"It's not about who is in charge and whether they play for you or they don't," he said. "They're playing for their futures and their families. It's not about one person, whether you like them or not.

"It's about performing. It's about looking in the mirror and saying, 'I gave my all today and earned the right to pick up my wages'."

In 14 games at Burnley since taking over in January following Owen Coyle's departure, Laws has presided over 12 defeats, one draw and one win. The Clarets have still to win away from home this season. Ironically, their only point earned outside Turf Moor was in a 3-3 draw at Manchester City in November.

After Coyle went to Bolton, Burnley asked international consulting firm Deloitte and Touche to examine who was the best Championship manager in terms of delivering results in relation to playing budgets.

Laws came out on top, despite the fact he had been just been sacked by Sheffield Wednesday in November and his only other managerial experience was at Scunthorpe and Grimsby. Perhaps the numbers don't always add up.

For all of Burnley's failings -- and they were too plentiful to list-- City were as unrelenting as the torrential rain, but Roberto Mancini's team can ill afford to be lulled into a false sense of security as they pursue that much-cherished Champions League place even though Saturday's goalfest left them with a much-improved goal difference in the race for the final Champions League spot, with City now on +24 compared to Spurs' +26

Having leapfrogged Tottenham Hotspur, fourth position is theirs to lose but, even though four of their remaining six matches are at home, their run-in is strewn with pitfalls.

With Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Tottenham to play in succession after the game at home to Birmingham City next Sunday, City face a fierce examination, but Vincent Kompany believes they will relish the challenge.

"You could say they are difficult games but I would say they are perfect games for us," said the versatile Belgian, at present operating in the back four. "They are against teams that are direct opponents. If you look at our results, we've often performed best against the top teams.

"We have to get a result against Birmingham and if we can do that then we can really look forward to those four games. The targets are very clear. We have to get fourth place. It feels close, but the home games against Tottenham and Villa will decide it."

City were three up inside seven minutes, through Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez, by which time the first wave of Burnley supporters had begun to leave Turf Moor, and five in front at half-time, with Patrick Vieira and Adebayor adding to Burnley's despair.

With City having also hit the post twice in the first half and squandered two other glorious chances, the home team should have been grateful that they were not 9-0 down. Kompany headed the sixth before Steven Fletcher's reply.

Brian Jensen, the Burnley goalkeeper, and Leon Cort and Danny Fox, the defenders, were particularly awful, but they were afforded no protection by the abysmal Kevin McDonald and Graham Alexander in midfield as Adam Johnson, who set up three of the goals from corners, and his team-mates ran riot.

At least Laws deserved credit for demanding that the officials did not call off the game, despite the pitch resembling a paddling pool -- "that would have been embarrassing if it had happened," he said afterwards -- but surrender was otherwise the order of the day.

Burnley (4-2-3-1): Jensen; Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox; Alexander, McDonald (Cork, h-t); Nugent, Blake (Elliott, h-t), Eagles; Fletcher (Paterson, 80). Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Carlisle, Thompson, Bikey.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Given; Onuoha, Toure, Kompany, Sylvinho (De Jong, 67); Bellamy, Vieira, Barry, Johnson; Tevez (Nimely, 83), Adebayor (Santa Cruz, 79). Substitutes not used: Nielsen (gk), Garrido, Wright-Phillips, Boyata.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Tevez.

Attendance: 21,330.

Irish Independent

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