Vincent Kompany’s Burnley did not have it all their own way in their victory over Huddersfield but Ian Maatsen’s winner summed up the new-found dynamism to offer a glimpse of what is to come as the defender started and finished an eye-catching move to start the club’s new era with three points.
The Clarets completed more than 300 passes in the first half, they only achieved 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 pre-match. The Manchester City boss will have enjoyed the winner, too, even if it did come from a Chelsea player who marauded into the area from left-back before picking out the bottom corner.
Burnley went with a revolutionary approach to their new era with six debutants in the starting lineup. Maatsen, a constant threat down the left, and Josh Cullen in midfield were the most impressive of the swathe of recruits from a whirlwind summer that has seen a revolving door transfer policy – and a few more comings and goings can be expected at Turf Moor before the window closes.
The heat of the battle seemed to get to Kompany early on; the Belgian felt the need to remove his suit jacket with less than four minutes on the clock. He will not be a tracksuit manner. He watched on while Burnley learned on the job about their new roles and system, but they soon found their feet, much to Kompany’s pleasure.
Cullen settled the quickest in a pivotal central midfield role, aiding those around him to get up to speed, helping Burnley control the game in the process. He was the man instigating everything positive thanks to his neat touches, passing and ability to read the game, showing why Kompany was so eager for a reunion after working together at Anderlecht. “I know him as a person,” Kompany said. “He helps bring people together, he communicates on the pitch. It is good for him that he was man of the match but knowing him that is not his priority.”
Burnley fans found their early season cheer during a sustained period of passing, something not witnessed in the Sean Dyche era, with every sideways pass that found its target given a quasi-sarcastic “Olé” by the packed away end as the Clarets dominated possession. “I thought the first half was quite disappointing, I thought tactically maybe we didn’t get it quite right, we lost the middle of the pitch,” Danny Schofield admitted.
The old and the new combined thanks to clever work from Ashley Barnes to dummy a pass to create space in the box, it would eventually come back to his feet from Josh Brownhill, allowing him to control and inadvertently lay the ball into the path of debutant Maatsen, who showed desire to sprint from the halfway to pounce and curl home.
Kompany’s vision of an attacking side was starting to be seen in flashes as confidence grew. Soon after the opener, a second should have arrived 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 jab was stopped by Lee Nicholls.
Advice was constantly sought on the sidelines by Kompany from predecessor Mike Jackson. While they will be pleased that by having almost three-quarters of possession, the two defenders in the dugout will be ecstatic that they did not concede a shot on target. “I wouldn’t be a manager if I was thrilled with everything. A lot is going to be made, I heard a lot about the style of play. For me at the forefront, it is Burnley and Burnley is hard work. I saw that from the players who were brave. There were some good foundations there,” Kompany said.
Sensing a shift in dynamic, Schofield, on his managerial debut, made a double substitution by bringing on Jack Rudoni and Tino Anjorin just before the hour mark. The latter made an instant impact when fouled on the edge of the area by Cullen who received a caution for his troubles, while inciting the ire of the crowd.
Whether Burnley can put in such a sustained effort over a 46-game season is yet to be seen. The players waned in the final stages on a humid night against an unrelenting opposition but, most importantly, managed to hold on. The foundations have been installed for Burnley to build on, all they need to do is reach Kompany’s standards for longer than an hour.