When Vincent Kompany was first appointed as Burnley manager, many questioned the Belgian’s experience. However, just 10 months on and they have bounced back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, having won the Championship in style. Now his youthful and exciting side will really test their mettle in the top flight of English football.
Things looked bleak at Turf Moor when Sean Dyche’s decade at the Clarets ended and caretaker manager Mike Jackson couldn’t avoid their standings in the Premier League relegation odds as the club went down to the Championship. Many key players left including goalkeeper Nick Pope, talisman Dwight McNeil, striker Maxwell Cornet and centre-back duo Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, who had been dependable at the back for years. But this gave Kompany a completely clean slate, one in which he could mould the club in his image.
Both culturally and stylistically, you can see the Pep Guardiola imprint on Kompany’s Burnley side. He avoided the safe transfer approach of exclusively signing experienced and established players, instead bringing in a host of fresh faces and changing the way they play. The centre-backs split and play out from the back, there are actual transitions between the thirds instead of a direct long ball — these things were unheard of when Burnley were in the Premier League.
Relegation has perhaps come as a blessing in disguise and it took a year in the second tier for Burnley and Kompany to gain invaluable experience, winning the league title at the home of their Lancashire rivals, Blackburn Rovers. Kompany was rewarded with a new deal that sees him extend his stay until 2028.
“For my pathway, this is the right decision, but it helps when we try and recruit players,” he said. “When I’m trying to convince a player to come here it’s easier just after I have signed a new deal. We have had a massive advantage planning for next season, because we have known about promotion of a long time.
“We faced doubt at the beginning of this season and it will be the same next season. It’s for us to use that to rally around. It starts now. The goal for me next year is to make our fans proud and have a bit of fun in the Premier League.”
Ironically, it was Guardiola who exposed the weaknesses Burnley might face when they begin their Premier League campaign in August. The Spaniard worked with Kompany at Manchester City for three years but all friendship was out the window when the Clarets visited the Etihad in the FA Cup. Burnley were plucky and stayed in the game whilst sticking to their philosophy, but you always felt as soon as the first goal went in that it could be a whitewash. City thrashed the visitors 6-0 on what was a reality check for Burnley if they want to thrive in the top tier.
Burnley certainly have the architecture of a top side, especially if they renew a lot of their key loans or even make them permanent. However, they may require some extra experience if they want to perform on a consistent basis. No doubt their fearlessness will win them points, and with Turf Moor a fortress many expect them to stay up, but if they ship too many easy goals there’s every chance they could be dragged into a relegation dogfight.
For now though, Kompany has the summer to sit back and appreciate his work from the Championship campaign, but knowing the Belgian’s mentality, he’ll already have one eye on August.