Meet the new boss, very different from the old boss. Vincent Kompany’s tenure at Burnley began with a win forged by new players and a new ethos. His Burnley promise to be the opposite of Sean Dyche’s side and Kompany has already made the right kind of change in some ways. Burnley’s first league win of the past season came on October 30. Victorious in July, albeit in a lower league, they enjoyed their first taste of the championship since 2016.
There was immediate confirmation of the overhaul from Kompany. The winner came from one of his nine signings, Ian Maatsen, the other standout performance from Josh Cullen, Dyche’s game plan featured neither a marauding left-back nor a midfield playmaker and Kompany benefited from both. But Dyche’s beloved 4-4-2 was jettisoned, 4-2-3-1 introduced and unlike previous years when Burnley supporters chanted ‘anti-football’ in unison, they were ironic. Some of their offenses were imaginative. Much of it was excellent.
In the first half alone, they completed 301 passes; They only completed 300 in two Premier League games last season. Kompany seemed more inspired by his old manager Pep Guardiola than the constant at the Burnley dugout for almost a decade. Despite wearing a dark suit in Dyche style, he paired it with white sneakers. It would have been anathema to Dyche but perhaps the Belgian has the common sense to wear a coat in the Burnley cold of winter.
Perhaps his predecessor suggested comparisons. It was only on Wednesday that he belatedly visited the pub named after him, Royal Dyche. If it was a particularly undiplomatic case of timing, Kompany nonetheless began to send it back in time. Caretaker Mike Jackson, who had made a valiant attempt to avoid relegation, oversaw the warm-up for a newly formed back four. They kept a clean sheet, although Charlie Taylor was forced to play as a makeshift centre-back.
It was a reminder that Kompany is covering up the cracks in his squad after Ben Mee, James Tarkowski and Nathan Collins were included in an exodus over the summer. With Jay Rodriguez injured, Ashley Barnes was the only available forward and tried to make up for his lack of pace by being caught offside and who would have scored had it not been for a crunching tackle from Tom Lees.
A radical transformation is ongoing, with Maxwel Cornet likely to join the ranks of departures. You’re the No. 11 to have played almost 1,200 games together for Burnley. Instead, Kompany’s first starting XI contained six debutants: five newcomers plus teenager Dara Costelloe, who missed a golden opportunity thanks to a wonderful cross from Maatsen.
By then, the Dutchman had scored the first goal of the new era, the Chelsea player on loan curled a low shot into the bottom corner. A dummy followed from Barnes who, like the presence of the left-back in the opposition penalty area, seemed unlikely under Dyche.
His momentum suggested that Kompany has shown some nous in the transfer market. So did Cullen’s class. The Kompanys Anderlecht playmaker completed all 47 of his passes in the first half and 79 of 81 overall, but he combined cuts with accuracy, including a couple of delightful balls that split the defense. Two more buys from Kompany shone in cameos, Scott Twine hit the post with a free-kick and Vitinho looked dangerous.
Change can benefit them. Huddersfield had the wrong sort and lost key personnel but fielded a starting XI with no signings. They were stripped of five starters in the play-off final in May, as was coach Carlos Corberan, who concluded that was all he could achieve. The £10m Nottingham Forest received for Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo is unlikely to be spent in this window. Burnley looked a notch above them even if Huddersfield were brighter when Chelsea loanee Tino Anjorin came on. But new manager Danny Schofield’s reign began with defeat, Kompany’s with victory to give momentum to Burnley’s reinvention.