How Kompany transformed Burnley into a ready-made Premier League side

A transformation of the playing style, canny recruitment and an ability to lean on the influence of Pep Guardiola… how Vincent Kompany transformed Burnley into arguably the greatest Championship team of all-time and one primed for the Premier League

  • Burnley are flying at the top of the Championship with 76 points from 34 games 
  • They have been transformed ever since Vincent Kompany took charge last year 
  • He has overseen a squad overhaul and implemented an attractive style of play 

When Burnley appointed Vincent Kompany in the summer, many questions marks were raised over the former Belgium defender’s arrival at Turf Moor.

Following their relegation from the Premier League after six years in the top flight, the future seemed bleak for the Clarets.

Not only was a mass player exodus expected after the unpopular and ultimately unsuccessful decision to sack long-serving Sean Dyche in April, but there was also the cloud of heavy debts hanging over the club following a leveraged buyout by American investment group ALK Capital in late 2020.

There was also the fact Kompany came with a mixed record from his three-year spell as Anderlecht boss. 

Initially arriving as a player-manager upon leaving Manchester City in 2019, Kompany quickly stepped back from his role after a difficult start, before taking over as full-time boss the following summer when he retired from playing.

Burnley are flying high at the top of the Championship, 19 points clear of the play-off spots

The Clarets have been completely transformed since Vincent Kompany took over last summer

Kompany has reshaped the squad in his mould after several experienced players such as Nick Pope (left) and Ben Mee (right) departed the club in the summer, with sales totalling £67.3m

They finished fourth and third in his two campaigns in charge before he pitched up at Turf Moor to join a club that was expected to undergo a significant overhaul. 

Fast forward nine months and the impact the Man City legend has had is nothing short of remarkable.

Burnley sit at the top of the Championship table – reinvigorated under the Belgian –  with 76 points from 34 games.

They are 12 clear of second place Sheffield United and an astonishing 19 clear of third place Middlesbrough, leading to pundits and fans alike labelling the Clarets the ‘greatest Championship team ever’.

The club has been completely reshaped in Kompany’s image and under the guidance of the 36-year-old Burnley are storming to the title, on course to amass 103 points if they maintain their current points-per-game average.

This would be the third highest total ever in the Championship after the Sunderland side that finished with 106 points in 1998-99 and the Reading outfit under Steve Coppell who earned 106 points in 2005-06.

The fact Burnley’s Kompany are even being talked about among the pantheon of great second-tier sides is testament to the job he has done.

It is the way they have been transformed too with Burnley – previously renowned for their direct and efficient football under Dyche – now taking the Championship by storm with a sparkling style of play.

They have even been likened to ‘Man City-lite’, with Kompany clearly picking up plenty from his time working under Pep Guardiola. 

The Clarets average 63.55 per cent possession in games this season, with only Swansea City – a club which has a passing style of play ingrained in its DNA – the one team to average more at 64 per cent.

They have also scored 68 goals – an average of two per game – and conceded just 28.

The doom-mongering around Turf Moor has been replaced by elation and it is hard to imagine the club would have ever undergone such a transformation if they were still in the top flight.

A big part of Kompany being able to implement this exciting style has been through his signings, with a significant turnover in players this season.

They faced several blows in the summer by losing long-serving stars such as Nick Pope, Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, Dwight McNeil, along with other talents such as Maxwel Cornet and Nathan Collins.

In total, 13 senior players left the club at the end of last season, along with a smattering of youth products. 

However, the club sold £67.3m worth of talent, thereby raising funds to bring players in, with 21 recruits arriving in total at a cost of £33.6m.

Southampton loanee Nathan Tella has been a star, netting 12 times in 31 Championship games

Kompany has adopted a possession-based style of play, with several signs of Pep Guardiola’s influence, including the invertion of full-backs Connor Roberts (pictured) and Ian Maatsen 

Fulham won the Championship title last year with 90 points but Burnley are on course for 103

Burnley are running away with the Championship this year, 19 points clear of third place

The recruitment has been spot on, with a clear hint towards Kompany’s vision receiving full-backing from the board.

Nine players arrived from Belgian clubs, with Manuel Benson, Anass Zaroury and former West Ham youngster Josh Cullen three players who have been integral in their rise to the top of the table.

Kompany also used his City connections and relationship with Guardiola to sign England Under-21 centre-back Taylor Harwood-Bellis on loan and keeper Arijanet Muric on a permanent deal.

Both players have not only been superb, but they have been able to help implement an attractive style of play, with Muric’s ability on the ball arguably the best of all Championship goalkeepers. 

The Clarets have tended to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation like City and other aspects of Guardiola’s side have been evident in Burnley’s play.

Not only do they have a fluid front-line, but Ian Maatsen and Connor Roberts have also played as inverted full-backs this season, helping to create overloads in midfield, akin to what has been seen with City in recent years through Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and now Rico Lewis.

Kompany has also utilised the loan market to fantastic effect. Chelsea left-back Maatsen has been ever-present for the Clarets, while Borussia Mönchengladbach loanee Jordan Beyer is a rock at the heart of defence.

But the real star on the loan side has been Southampton youngster Nathan Tella, with the winger their top scorer after netting 12 times in the league, having featured across the forward line.

Kompany has also been able to find the perfect blend of players and – despite several long-serving stars departing over the summer – an experienced core remained at Turf Moor.

This included Jack Cork, Josh Brownhill, Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Taylor, who have all helped to provide stability for the Clarets.

The mentality that has been developed is clearly a title-winning one, with Burnley undefeated at home and only losing two games all season.

A 1-0 defeat to Watford in the third game of the campaign can be seen as an early blip.

However, a 5-2 loss to promotion rivals Sheffield United in November after a defensive horror show threatened to derail all the progress that had been made.

Since then there have been no such problems for the Clarets, however, who responded in destructive fashion by winning 10 games in a row, scoring 24 goals and conceding just three in the process. 

Burnley have consistently taken teams apart, with eight wins this season seeing a margin of victory of three or more goals.

Having come into a club that had lost 24 of their previous 47 league games and was seemingly in the doldrums, the job that Kompany has done – by transforming not only the club’s results but also the playing style – is one that cannot be underestimated.

The Belgian has surely thrown his hat into the ring as a contender for the prestigious LMA Manager of the Year award, with the Clarets also set to face Man City in the FA Cup quarter-final after beating Fleetwood Town 1-0 on Wednesday.

Primed for an instant return to the top flight, and in with a chance of securing a record points haul, it is no surprise Burnley are being hailed as the greatest second tier side ever.

Having been thrashed 4-0 by the Clarets on Saturday, Huddersfield Town boss Neil Warnock – a veteran of the Championship – could barely hide his admiration for his opponents.

He said: ‘They [Burnley] are the best side I’ve seen in 25 years really. When I’ve seen them this season they are a Premier League team.’ 

Former Man City keeper Arijanet Muric’s ability with his feet has aided Burnley’s build-up play

An experienced core of players like Charlie Taylor (L) and Josh Brownhill (R) have had a key role

Huddersfield manager Neil Warnock said Burnley were the ‘best side he’s seen in 25 years’

With canny recruitment, an overhaul of the style of play and an ability to blow opponents away, Burnley look ready made for the Premier League.

Given how teams such as Fulham – who finished with a mere 90 points last season in the second tier – have taken to the Premier League after promotion, it would be no surprise to see Burnley carry their momentum into next season and enjoy a comfortable finish.

After all the questions over Kompany’s arrival in the summer, every one has been quashed in the same way Burnley have dealt with anyone daring to get in their way of promotion back to the top flight. 

For now, the good times are back at Turf Moor. 

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