Vincent Kompany is shaping a new-look Burnley built on young players with potential; Belgian had been in charge of Anderlecht since 2020; Twenty-one players have left the club with Maxwel Cornet set to join exodus
Thursday 28 July 2022 18:34, UK
New Burnley manager Vincent Kompany has wasted no time in getting to work at Turf Moor as the Belgian looks to inspire an immediate return to the Premier League.
Kompany has moulded a new-look squad, bristling with young talent after a summer overhaul that continues apace.
Dwight McNeil has joined Everton for a fee worth in excess of £20m while Maxwel Cornet is also heading for the exit amid interest from West Ham and Nottingham Forest.
Cornet is training with the club but will not be considered against the Terriers due to his physical condition. Those departures won't perturb Kompany, whose focus remains on making a fast start to the Championship campaign.
The Clarets face a trip to Huddersfield on Friday night to lift the curtain on the new EFL season at the John Smith's Stadium, live on Sky Sports.
For now, Kompany says Ivory Coast striker Cornet will be integrated into the matchday squad if he is still at the club next week.
The Burnley boss said: "He is one of them that I have had to manage. At the moment he is at the club. Is he ready to play on Friday? No.
"But that is a physical level. But we can't have players on the wage bill and not have them play.
"If next week he is still here and nothing has developed then we are going to have to look at integrating him at least into the matchday process."
If Cornet does depart he will join an exodus this summer that has seen a host of established players leave the club, with Dwight McNeil, Nick Pope, Nathan Collins and Ben Mee all moving on.
The big overhaul of Kompany's squad in his first few weeks in the job is why the Belgian is warning it might take time for the Clarets to enjoy success.
"There are loads of reasons to be positive. But I don't want to get out of the way of the reality," he said.
"The starting point for us is that we have lost and released a whole bunch of players who were the core of this team for many, many years.
"All the success associated with this club, many of those players have gone. We are trying to replace them with the restrictions that everyone knows.
"That is the job I signed up for. For me to come and tell you we are going to have the best performance ever on Friday, I hope so but it has to be a more long-term planning.
"I want to be really direct with this. I have painted the picture. I want everyone to be clear this is what I signed up for, so it is not a surprise.
"There is a part of it that we have lost a huge core of the team without really making money, the idea is that we find players that suit the system and the way we want to play and we grow with them.
"We build foundations and to be healthy again, because this club has been healthy for many years."
Twenty-one players have departed the club this summer including nine aged 29 or over. Kompany has masterminded a whirlwind six weeks to ensure Burnley have a squad ready to compete for promotion.
The Belgian has recruited nine players with Josh Cullen the oldest at 26 while he has also gone back to City three times to sign CJ Egan-Riley, goalkeeper Aro Muric and Taylor Harwood-Bellis. Vitinho is the latest to join from Cercle Brugge for an undisclosed fee.
Kompany knows Cullen from his days at Belgium while he has moved away from the use of a battering ram up front. Chris Wood and Wout Weghorst have left meaning 22-year-old Scott Twine will lead the line after signing from MK Dons, where he scored 20 goals last term.
Samuel Bastien is a cultured midfielder who has arrived from Standard Liege for an undisclosed fee which will allow John Brownhill to play in a more advanced role.
Captain Mee has joined Brentford but there is still remnants of the old guard with bags of Premier League pedigree and experience of playing in the Championship. Brownhill is joined by stalwarts Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes and Ashley Westwood.
Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra will provide additional firepower while full-backs Charlie Taylor and Matt Lowton contain the ammunition from out wide.
At 28 years and 343 days, Burnley had the second-oldest average starting age in the Premier League last season, only narrowly behind Watford. Across the 38-game campaign, the Clarets made just 62 changes to their starting line-up and used 23 players, a league low.
Given the heavier fixture schedule, Kompany knows additional bodies are needed besides the inevitable player sales.
When a 33-year-old Kompany took his first tentative steps into management as Anderlecht's player-coach in June 2019, he said he was "no Pep Guardiola", but the four-time Premier League winner is a student of the game who has learnt a lot.
"It was like being at university every day. He explained everything with such clarity and I learnt an enormous amount from him," Kompany said of his experience working under the Catalan. "I am no Guardiola by any means, let me make that clear. But I think I was a good student."
One of Kompany's best qualities is making young players better and giving them confidence, brought home in a touching montage of a visit to Anderlecht's RSC academy following his departure.
Sambi Lokonga earned his big-money switch to Arsenal while Kompany took Lukas Nmecha on loan from Manchester City last season and the striker scored 18 goals in 37 appearances. Given the closer proximity, he will certainly be monitoring promising talent with a view to more temporary deals.
West Ham academy product Josh Cullen brought an end to his 15-year spell at the club in the summer of 2020 to work with Kompany, and the Republic of Ireland midfielder says comparisons can be drawn between the Belgian's managerial style and that of Pep Guardiola.
"Working under Vincent Kompany was a massive factor in me coming here," Cullen told Sky Sports. "His career in the Premier League as a player speaks for itself and the managers that he worked under. To come here and pick his brains every day, to learn and develop under him has been fantastic.
"I've loved every day in training trying to take in as much information as I can to improve my game as an individual, learning more about the game tactically. It's been thoroughly enjoyable.
"It's hard for me to say just how similar he is to Guardiola as I don't know exactly how Pep works day in day out, but some of the ideas if you watched our games and the style we try to play, you'd see similarities between Guardiola's teams and the way our manager here sets us up and tries to play.
"The manager has been brilliant for me and we've enjoyed working under someone of his pedigree as a player and the knowledge he has of the game."
The City legend has been keen to return to the North West in order to be closer to his wife Carla's family, and opted for the Turf Moor post despite interest from Bundesliga team Borussia Monchengladbach.
Parachute payments will certainly help soften the blow, and Kompany will relish the atmosphere of two East Lancashire derbies against Blackburn. After Derby boss Wayne Rooney was also linked to the role, chairman Alan Pace has clearly targeted a young and hungry manager with a pull factor.
In some ways, it is the galvanising effect the former Manchester United striker had on the Midlands club, creating a siege mentality when it felt the world was against him and his team, that can be viewed as a source of inspiration for Kompany.
Burnley are ready to take a risk on him and vice-versa. One of the Premier League's greatest defenders pitching up at Turf Moor feels a left-field Hollywood appointment but it is one that suits all parties.
Kompany was first named player-manager of Anderlecht after leaving the Etihad in 2019, but after presiding over their worst start to a league season, he returned to playing duties for the rest of the campaign.
Finishing third in the Belgian top division would not historically be viewed as a success given the club's stature in their homeland, but Kompany belatedly revived Anderlecht's fortunes having finished in eighth and fourth position respectively in his previous two seasons.
CEO Peter Verbeke said in a statement that "Vincent was an essential part in rebuilding a renewed Anderlecht" but it was not a view shared universally within the club's hierarchy.
A sign of the friction that existed was seen when owner Marc Coucke posted on Instagram in April: "How to kill an entire season in one week" following a poor start to the play-offs, and defeat in the Belgian Cup final to Gent.
It was not quite the ideal of 'Champagne Voetbal' and given the expectations as Belgium's record champions, some may argue this is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.
There are parallels and therefore logic, however, between the attractive possession-based approach that Kompany instilled and the shift Jackson started at Burnley.
With players likely to leave and debts to repay, Clarets supporters fear a bleak future. After six years in the Premier League, the home defeat to Newcastle on the final day consigned them to the Championship for the first time since the 2015/16 season.
Burnley may be forced to turn to an academy that is at risk of being downgraded.
A significant proportion of a £65m loan owner ALK Capital took out when buying the club must be paid back following the club's relegation due to a clause inserted in the deal, so these are far from ideal circumstances that Kompany has inherited.
Yet the 36-year-old is already used to handling turmoil as a manager. When he first took up the Anderlecht post, the club were coming to terms with there being no European football for the first time in 56 years as unrest reigned off the pitch.
There were violent protests, crowd trouble, flares on the pitch, insults and banners protesting against Coucke's ownership, but the arrival of one of the country's biggest icons of the past 30 years papered over the cracks of mismanagement.
Kompany will not be afforded such a luxury at Burnley, where he will struggle to shake off being viewed predominantly as a Premier League legend who won four titles, two FA Cups and four League Cups with City.
Patrick Vieira arrived at Crystal Palace with a similar reputation but his fine first season at Selhurst Park is changing people's perceptions, and Kompany will now hope to do the same.
Sean Dyche guided Burnley straight back to the top-tier as champions in 2016, his second promotion as manager, and that was borne out of sensible spending and a long-term vision when they were relegated from the Premier League a year earlier.
There will be some supporters who feel he would have been the perfect man to negotiate the rigours of the Championship at a time of significant rebuild - but the financial calamity of relegation this time means it might just have easily tarnished his legacy.
Post-Dyche Burnley was always going to be a strange concept given his nine-year association, however, the club's U23 boss Mike Jackson demonstrated during his spell in interim charge how a more progressive playing style could be reached without losing any of the aggression fostered under the old boss.
Dyche was synonymous with Burnley just as Kompany is with City, their battle-hardened captain who has swapped picturesque chalets in leafy regional parks on the outskirts of Brussels for the Manchester drizzle that has brought him so much peace.
Standing at 6ft 4in, his presence is intimidating but his demeanour reassuring. Jackson expressed how the pain of relegation would "always be there", but the process of shifting from Dyche's pragmatic tactical strategy has not been an onerous one, and Kompany's ambition to succeed can make Burnley's return to the Championship a short stay.
Ten points in Jackson's first five games as caretaker manager were gained through shorter passing and greater possession. He would constantly refer back to the "togetherness" of his group, but there was much more besides the intangibles; Burnley's xG per game rose from 1.05 to 1.97 and their xGA dipped from 1.72 to 1.54. Their shot count went up from 10.2 to 14.0 per game and shots decreased from 16.2 to 13.4.
These figures were not sustained as one point was taken from the final four matches, but Kompany will look to tap into how Jackson made Burnley less direct and more pleasing on the eye.