In August 2021, Burnley, led by their manager Sean Dyche, fielded a starting XI against Liverpool that broke a record standing since 1998. Below is a picture of that game. Can you guess what record it was?
Cannot guess? Let us enlighten you.
The Clarets became the first team since Charlton Athletic in 1998-99 to start a Premier League match with jersey numbers 1-11 only.
An instant classic and people loved it.
But look at the players in that picture and you will notice something else too.
All players are White. Dwight McNeil was the only player of colour in that line-up, but he too is an Englishman.
In fact, this trend of Burnley was something that was talked about often and the club was even criticised for it, accusing that they are racist and purposely do not recruit certain players.
Darren Bent, a pundit on TalkSPORT, had also posted a tweet which has since been deleted, saying “Strange considering Burnley have NO black players in their squad at all.”
McNeil, one of the two black players in the squad, along with Aaron Lennon, condoned these sorts of tweets, calling them disrespectful.
Whatever the reason, club, manager, or unintentional, Sean Dyche consistently put out a starting XI predominantly white for the Clarets, a team he managed till April 2022, after which he was dismissed due to the club’s low position in the league table.
Almost half a year later, Dyche found employment at Everton, a team looking to secure survival this season after a horrendous first half of the league under former boss Frank Lampard.
The first two games under Dyche for the Toffees are not the easiest, first come league leaders Arsenal, and then the team in blue goes across town for the Merseyside Derby, facing Liverpool at Anfield.
So most fans would have forgiven the new manager for getting 0 points.
But Dyche made the perfect start possible, winning 1-0 against Arsenal.
Everything went to plan for the struggling Everton, from defending with passion to attacking with urgency, one can even say that the Gunners were slightly lucky to not go into the break one goal down, with DCL an inch short of a tap-in and Doucouré mistiming an open header.
While many things can be picked out for the unlikely debut win, Twitter has attributed the success to something that many may have not seen coming.
The “BLM Midfield”.
The Toffees started the game in a 4-5-1 formation with Iwobi and McNeill on the wings and Onana, Gueye, and Doucoure, forming the midfield.
Notice something here? All players are black. A stark difference from Dyche’s Burnley team. And Toffee Twitter was quick to pounce on this.
BLM, for anyone who is confused, stands for “Black Lives Matter”.
The trio has been nicknamed the BLM Midfield as every player is black.
So how was this much-praised midfield really?
Omnipresent Onana – The Man of the Match, Onana had already won the Evertonian hearts even before the match began, thanks to him pledging loyalty to the kind-of sinking blue ship. But his performance in the game was absolutely massive.
Vintage Gueye – Back to his favoured role of sitting just ahead of the defence, he protected the back four as well as he could, kept the play ticking and put in a calm and mature display
Returning Doucoure – Doucoure was a man frozen out, either by design or unavailability, but found himself in the Dyche’s first starting XI. He was understandably rusty and missed an easy header fairly early in the game. But apart from that, the Frenchman was the engine of the side, covering the pitch and will only regain confidence from hereon.
The team goes to Liverpool next, a team that is struggling massively this season and just got beaten 3-0 by the Wolves. And many are fearful of what this newly energized BLM midfield will do at Anfield.
The trio’s average rating of 7.3 was higher than any player in Arsenal’s starting XI barring Bukayo Saka, such as the control they had on the play.
Will they be able to replicate this against their local rivals?
They will have to if they wish to take out anything from that game.
Sean Dyche may or may not have liked players of colour before this, but he will surely value them now.