Vincent Kompany shows signs he can influence all areas of Burnley’s rapid rebrand

Vincent Kompany was reflecting on a debut win in charge of Burnley fc. It came courtesy of a bold display of passing, with a playmaker at the heart of it. As he discussed the architect of victory at Huddersfield, he invoked a manager in Manchester. But not Pep Guardiola. Perhaps comparisons will be inevitable even without Kompany encouraging them. “At Man Utd, [Erik] Ten Hag took a few players from Ajax,” he said, explaining the recruitment of Josh Cullen.

Family bred contentment. There may be a jarring juxtaposition of Burnley new and old with Ashley Barnes barging his way around in attack and Cullen stroking the ball around in midfield. But such has been the scale of the Kompany revolution at Turf Moor that he forgot how many signings he has made – “I think we are at eight,” he said, a day after Vitinho became the ninth – and such has been the speed that he has had to skimp on scouting at times. A third of his signings have come from the Belgian league, another third from Manchester City.

“When you have to do so many deals, you don’t have a full 12 months to assess the market so it is important to know your players,” he said. Vitinho was one he knew from Belgium and the Brazilian lent entertainment on his bow; Cullen, the heartbeat of his Anderlecht team, required still less research. He came as his manager’s voice in the center circle. “He can communicate on the pitch,” Kompany said. Man of the match on his debut, Cullen seemed in the vanguard of a revolution.

A game in, Kompany is looking ideologue, manager and director of football in one. The Premier League’s most direct team completed 598 passes on their return to the Championship. He has a side with a new look – eight players debuted at various points – and approach but he cited the more traditional Burnley who, in their own way, had as clear an identity as any Guardiola side. “A lot is going to be made about the style of play,” he said. “For me at the forefront, it is Burnley and Burnley is hard work.”

That is the Burnley that looms large in the imagination. But there was a time, before Sean Dyche, when Burnley were often a byword for attacking football, if not necessarily defensive dependability. Owen Coyle and Eddie Howe’s teams were scarcely Dychean. Identities shift, but rarely as quickly as Burnley’s seemed to on Kompany’s bow. Arsene Wenger was actually the French evolutionary at Arsenal, George Graham’s back four giving a sense of permanence at the start.

Kompany has stability in no departments. Even one of the players who has spanned eras, left-back Charlie Taylor, was given a new position. “He looked a centre-half. I have been in the position a bit in my life,” said a self-deprecating Kompany. He is rebranding Taylor and rebranding Burnley. An old team have become a young one, an anti-possession side could become a passing unit. The biggest challenge is to turn one acccustomed to losing into regular winners.

Under Kompany, Burnley looked a different team overnight

(Getty Images)

Burnley were a continuity club in the Dyche years: same tactics, same manager, same players. Now they already have a full 11 of departures, which could be augmented by Maxwel Cornet. Nine signings could become 13 as a portion of the proceeds of Dwight McNeil’s sale are reinvested. The challenge of remembering the number of recruits could get harder but it is a makeover on a budget. “We haven’t done anything crazy so far,” Kompany argued. “Are we able to use some of that money? Yes. But we need the body count to go up, to lose one player and get four or five.”

All of which feels a task that would daunt a far more seasoned manager but Kompany has rarely lacked confidence. If Burnley had seemed to hope his charisma would propel them to promotion, they have early evidence his coaching prowess, eye for a player and more progressive style of play might. Beating last season’s play-off finalists was an auspicious start but the next fortnight contains further barometers, meetings with Luton, other top-six finishers then, and Watford, who have kept more of their Premier League players after relegation. “Can we be consistent?” Kompany wondered. “I can’t give you the answer now. I do believe at some point it is something we are going to be able to produce regularly.”

Providing the finishing touches to an overhaul could entail finding a finisher. The injured Jay Rodriguez missed Kompany’s bow. Barnes led the line with trademark doggedness, but he has not scored from open play in his last 30 appearances. Burnley needed a winner from a left-back, Ian Maatsen.

Kompany sounded unworried as he drew a parallel with his Anderlecht side. “Last year I was fortunate to be part of a team that scored 107 goals across all competitions and it was just shared,” he said. “There was no one there with 30 goals.” There is a precedent in Manchester of a manager whose teams can score a century by sharing the goals around. Perhaps it is something he can borrow from Guardiola.

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