Vincent Kompany’s Burnley didn’t do everything their way in their win over Huddersfield, but Ian Maatsen’s winner summed up the newfound dynamism to offer a glimpse of what’s to come as the defender started and finished a eye-catching move to start the club’s new era with three points.
The Clarets completed more than 300 passes in the first half, only achieving such a feat in 90 minutes twice in the entirety of last season to show the early impact of their new manager. No wonder Kompany said he was inspired by Pep Guardiola’s pre-match. The Manchester City boss will also have relished the winner, although it came from a Chelsea player who marauded into the area from left-back before choosing the bottom corner.
Burnley have taken a game-changing approach to their new era with six debutants in the starting lineup. Maatsen, a constant threat on the left, and Josh Cullen in midfield were the most impressive of the roster of rookies from a whirlwind summer that saw a revolving door transfer policy – and some more comings and goings can be expected at Turf Moor before the window closes.
The heat of battle seemed to get to Kompany early on; the Belgian felt the need to take off his suit jacket with less than four minutes on the clock. It will not be a tracksuit manner. He watched as Burnley learned their new roles and system on the job, but they quickly found their feet, much to Kompany’s delight.
Cullen settled into a central central midfield role fastest, helping those around him catch up, helping Burnley control the game in the process. He was the man behind everything positive with his neat touches, passing and ability to read the game, showing why Kompany was so keen to reunite after working together at Anderlecht. “I know him as a person,” Kompany said. “He helps bring people together, he communicates on the pitch. It’s good for him that he was the man of the match but knowing him is not his priority.
Burnley fans found their early-season joy in a long stretch of passing, something not to be seen in the days of Sean Dyche, with every side pass finding its target with a near-sarcastic ‘Olé’ by the end packed as the Clarets dominated possession. . “I thought the first half was quite disappointing, I thought tactically maybe we weren’t quite right, we lost midfield,” admitted Danny Schofield.
The old and the new combined thanks to Ashley Barnes’ clever job of faking a pass to create space in the box, he would eventually get back on his feet from Josh Brownhill, allowing him to control and inadvertently place the balloon on the beginner’s path. Maatsen, who showed a desire to sprint halfway to pounce and go home.
Kompany’s vision of an attacking side was starting to be seen in flashes as confidence grew. Shortly after the opener, a second should have happened when a one-two between Connor Roberts and Cullen saw the full-back latch on to a dink over the top, but his close-range shot was stopped by Lee Nicholls.
Advice was constantly sought on the sidelines by Kompany from his predecessor Mike Jackson. While they will rejoice that having almost three-quarters of possession of the ball, the two defenders in the canoe will be delighted not to have conceded a shot on target. “I wouldn’t be a manager if I was happy with everything. A lot is going to happen, I’ve heard a lot about the style of play. For me in the foreground is Burnley and Burnley is hard work. I’ve seen players who have been brave. There were good bases there,” Kompany said.
Sensing a shift in dynamics, Schofield on his managerial debut made a double substitution by bringing on Jack Rudoni and Tino Anjorin just before the hour mark. The latter had an instant impact when he was fouled on the edge of the area by Cullen who received a caution for his troubles, while provoking the ire of the crowd.
Whether Burnley can put out such a sustained effort over a 46-game season remains to be seen. The players weakened in the closing stages on a wet night against relentless opposition but, above all, managed to hold on. The foundations have been installed for Burnley to build on, they only need to reach Kompany standards for over an hour.
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