Dan Black's verdict: Ashley Westwood's absence felt as Burnley are beaten by Palace

The defeat at home to Crystal Palace was yet another reminder of just how much leverage Ashley Westwood brings to Burnley's midfield.


The 29-year-old has missed just two Premier League games in the last 25 for the Clarets and his absence has been felt substantially on both occasions.

Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal is tackled by Ashley Westwood of Burnley during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Burnley FC at Emirates Stadium

Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal is tackled by Ashley Westwood of Burnley during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Burnley FC at Emirates Stadium

Sean Dyche's side had flatlined against Newcastle United at St James's Park in February and they missed Westwood's ability to defibrillate the beat back in to their rhythm against the Eagles.

The visitors were compact and absorbed everything in midfield. The central three of Luka Milivojevic, Cheikhou Kouyate and James McArthur applied an almost impenetrable protective barrier - restricting Jack Cork and Jeff Hendrick to sideways passes - while James Tomkins and Scott Dann cleaned up any leaks behind.

"I thought it was a tight game," said Dyche. "Palace searching for a win that they eventually got.

"Away from home they have been good, we know that, doing what they did today which was staying in their shape and then trying to break from it and I thought they did that well enough today when they needed it.

"Palace do that and they do it well. They can absorb a game. And we mentioned that to the players before the game. They (Palace) wait for their chance to build and they did that today.

"They got a break with the first goal of course but they do things well away from home. They stay in their structure and wait for their chances to come in the breakaways and they did it today. That's what they do. The players were aware of that."

Westwood professed to playing in the Michael Carrick mould when arriving at Turf Moor for £5m from Aston Villa on deadline day in January 2017, a claim backed up by former boss Tim Sherwood.

Speaking at Gawthorpe, alongside Robbie Brady, he had told the Burnley Express: “When I first joined Villa I said that I was like Michael Carrick. I keep it simple. He’s very under-rated.

“I know I need to do more, I need to get fitter, get around the pitch more, close people down and I think the gaffer here will bring that out of me.

“I’m not flash, I know what I do. I’ll work hard in every game. I need to go to the next level now.”

And the former Crewe Alexandra man certainly progressed to that next level. The club's Player of the Year has become much more than a ball player, he's evolved into the archetypal midfielder that has characterised many of Dyche's teams during his tenure.

He possesses the influential bite of Joey Barton, the energy and endeavour of Dean Marney and that's what was required to resuscitate Burnley's midfield.The statistics speak for themselves.

Only four British midfielders have clocked up more than Westwood's 613 passes in the top flight, he owns a 72% success rate in tackles made, he's in double figures for interceptions, triple figures (103) for recoveries and he's covering plenty of ground to boot.

"I thought Jeff and Jack stuck at it, it is hard sometimes asking them to play two against three with the help of our centre forward dropping in but they get through a lot of work," Dyche had said in the aftermath.

"I think they stuck at it, Westy has been in good form, we know that, and he was last season. He has a good connection with Corky and we knew that would be a challenge to make anyone fit in there. But they stuck at it and tried to make the game come our way."