Scott Arfield is determined to replicate the goalscoring form of fellow Scot George Boyd in hope of propelling the Clarets away from the Premier League drop zone.
The 26-year-old former Falkirk and Huddersfield Town midfielder netted nine times in all competitions last term as Sean Dyche’s side secured promotion from the Championship, but has failed to score in his last 20 outings this season.
Boyd, on the other hand, has four goals to his name and an assist to boot. After opening his account in the 3-1 defeat to West Ham in October, the one-time Tiger found the net in fixtures against Newcastle United at Turf Moor and St James’s Park as well as the 3-3 draw with champions Manchester City at the Etihad.
Now Arfield wants to contribute by adding to his goal on the opening day of the season against Chelsea. “Goals are the hardest thing to come by as a midfield player but you can’t put all the demand on the strikers,” he said. “It’s up to me to try and get the goals but it’s not really happened since the first game of the season. I won’t get too down or too anxious I’ll just hope they start coming.
“Goals from midfield go a long way and Boyd has certainly stood up to the challenge. He’s scored some crucial goals as well and he’s really enhanced the squad. If I can benefit like that in anyway I’d be delighted.
“The calibre of player you’re up against is better and teams are defensively switched on. It’s a hard thing to do anyway. I got nine last season and got off the mark in the first game this season so I want that to carry on. Hopefully I can do that in the second half of the season.”
Much debate has surrounded the demands of a hectic festive fixture schedule in recent weeks, particularly from the likes of Manuel Pellegrini and United boss Louis Van Gaal. But it’s not a concern for Arfield and his team-mates who now have to deal with three games in seven days due to the FA Cup third round replay against Spurs at White Hart Lane.
“I feel great,” said Arfield, who has only missed the 2-1 victory against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. “I think there’s a lot made of that. As a professional football player you’d rather play games than train anyway. It’s a tradition in Britain to have this festive period and I’m for one all for it.
“I think it’s brilliant having these amount of games. As a minimum as a professional football player you should be working hard. Of course you’ll get tired but I don’t think it’s a problem.
“It’s the minimum you should do and you should enjoy it as well. After games you feel tired but you’re ready to go - you recover with the right fluids, get the food in to your system and you’re ready to go again.”
He added: “It’s great for the fans to have a team that never say die and never give up. That’s something the manager has installed in the dressing room. You can see that in every performance - the minimum we’ve got to do is work hard and make it difficult for teams. We won’t accept defeat in any given situation. Hopefully our quality will shine through.”
The first game of that schedule is against QPR today and Arfield acknowledges the importance of the fixture as well as those on the horizon against Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Brom.
“It’s a big game due to the positions of the two teams,” he said. “This month could be crucial by the end of the season, there’s no getting away from that, but this season like last year is all about taking it one game at a time. I don’t think that’s going to change.
“It’s QPR on Saturday - we’ll deal with that then we’ll deal with the others. This coming period is against the teams around us so the significance of them is a bit more important.”
And the fixture also marks the return of striker Charlie Austin - the most potent Englishman in the Premier League. “He’s a terrific player and a terrific goal scorer,” said Arfield. “He’s done exceptionally well down there and he’s their main man really. He’s got quality, he’s hit the headlines with his goals and rightly so.
“It’ll be tough keeping him quiet but that’s what we need to do. It’s always difficult coming back to your old club but you always want to make a point. I’m sure he’ll be fired up for this game.
“Down there we had some good chances. I had a chance in the first minute and the keeper’s made a great save from Boyd’s effort. But then Charlie pops up with the goal and you’re on the back foot. Goals change games in any league or any situation you’re in. Hopefully we can get then first one and build on it.”