These are historic times for a historic club and miserable ones for what had been a modern-day success story.
Burnley have now recorded a first hat-trick of top-flight wins since 1975 and are still level on points with Liverpool and Arsenal. In contrast, Swansea remain rooted in the relegation zone after a fifth successive defeat. Their American co-owner Steve Kaplan witnessed a wretched display, soundtracked by the 680 travelling fans calling for the chairman, Huw Jenkins, to go. While the manager Paul Clement’s job is not thought to be under immediate threat, too many more such performances will surely change that.
On and off the pitch, Swansea were architects of their own downfall. Both Burnley goals were eminently avoidable. The first, with crushing inevitability, was scored by the man they offloaded in the summer. Jack Cork’s November, which already included his England debut, duly got better. “What a couple of weeks he has had,” said his manager, Sean Dyche. “That was the business that was decided to be done,” said Clement, suggesting it was not his decision. “I like Jack a lot.”
Cork has quickly become integral at Burnley whereas Roque Mesa, the midfielder Swansea signed as he was sold, did not even make the visitors’ bench.
It was one of several instructive choices. Renato Sanches, a European Championship-winning central midfielder, was crowbarred into the team on the left wing as Clement switched to a conventional 4-4-2; he claimed it was an attacking gambit but it seemed a misguided attempt to match Burnley’s shape. The Clarets often attack on the flanks but, with Swansea undermanned in the middle, twice prospered in space in central areas.
Unlike Clement, Dyche is in a golden phase of decision-making. He preferred Ashley Barnes to Sam Vokes, the match-winner at Southampton, to deputise for the rested Chris Wood and saw the New Zealander’s understudy contribute to the first goal and score the second.
For the opener, an unmarked Cork was a catalyst in a move he completed by meeting Robbie Brady’s cross. “I love to see my midfielders driving into the box,” said Dyche. “The days of Bryan Robson flying into the box and heading it in are not as often now.”
Swansea were beaten. “When the first goal went in, belief and confidence got sucked out of the players,” Clement said. Barnes rifled in an unstoppable second. Jeff Hendrick, Barnes and Steven Defour were all denied other goals by Lukasz Fabianski. It was the first time since the opening-day victory at Chelsea that Burnley had scored more than once. They have made comparatively few goals go a long way.
Swansea have not. “Of course I am concerned,” said Clement. “I would be stupid if I wasn’t. I am concerned about our level of performance, our position in the table and the number of goals we have scored. Seven in 12 games is not enough.”
No team have had fewer efforts on target. Swansea added a solitary one to the list, a tame injury-time header from the substitute Wilfried Bony. Tammy Abraham, the scorer of 57 per cent of their league goals, was first starved of service and then taken off with a back spasm. The closest they came was courtesy of a Burnley player, Matthew Lowton’s cannonball of a volley flying past his own post.
“We are playing under our potential and I have to find a way to break this cycle,” Clement added, confident Kaplan will give him the opportunity to do that but aware of the possible consequences of a slide. “If the owners feel there is someone that can get better out of these players, it is their right to do that.”