After a decade of Sean Dyche, Burnley parted ways with their iconic manager in April with the Clarets in a real rut. This decision was widely condemned across the football community. How could Burnley sack the man who had secured their top flight status over and over again on a shoestring budget, and had even got them into Europe?
The truth is, Dyche’s battle-hardened men had begun to look weary where previously they had looked experienced. Many of the players who had run so much and battled so hard were now in the twilight of their careers. They could no longer out-run and out-battle their opponents, as had been the very foundation of their success previously. Despite the more marquee signings, in relative terms, of Maxwel Cornet and Wout Weghourst in Dyche’s final season in charge, this wasn’t enough to invigorate the squad.
With Dyche’s exit such a shock to the footballing community, the fact that the club decided against replacing the ex-Watford manager in the weeks that followed was equally as surprising. However, this was down to the upturn in fortunes in the immediate aftermath of Mike Jackson stepping up to take on the reigns as caretaker manager.
In spite of this, Burnley ultimately didn’t have enough to stay in the division. On the final day of the season they succumbed to relegation after seven successive Premier League seasons.
The club felt like one that needed change. A fresh start, with new ideas and a shake up of the squad. With the unlikely appointment of former Manchester City captain, Vincent Kompany, as manager it feels like a new dawn at Turf Moor. This is a player who lead a team glittered with superstars to countless titles as a player, but has only managed Anderlecht since hanging up his boots. Burnley clearly feel that he is a risk worth taking, though.
Everyone knows about Kompany the player, but who is Kompany the manager? What is his philosophy, his management style, and what impact will he have on the club he will now call his own?
Kompany the manager
When Kompany announced that he was leaving Manchester City at the end of the 2018/19 season, having played a key part in City winning yet another league title, many felt it was premature. The Belgium international captain of seven years was still integral to the City squad, and his unlikely goal from range against Leicester City had effectively been the goal to seal the title for the Manchester Club.
His next move made clear his ambitions to transition into management, though. At 33, Kompany was returning to his first club, Anderlecht, to become player-manager in his homeland. It was a rocky start to life in his new role. Following the club’s worst start to a league season in 21 years, Kompany called time on his on-field management duties late into the first month of the season to concentrate on playing for the duration of games.
After an indifferent season of balancing playing and management responsibilities, Kompany retired from playing and became the full-time manager of the Brussels club in the summer of 2020. His desire to develop as a coach outweighing any plans to extend his career on the pitch.
Having finished 8th in his season as player-manager, Kompany oversaw something of a revival in charge of his hometown club, finishing third in the two seasons that followed. He also reached a domestic cup final, losing on penalties to Gent in April of this year. Despite being unable to improve on their 3rd place finish the season before, Kompany’s violets finished six points better off in his final campaign in charge when compared to his second and also improved their goal difference by 19.
So, what is Kompany’s style? He has worked under a number of top managers and would have absorbed nuggets of information from them like the proverbial sponge. The soft-spoken giant has always had the feel of a player that would go onto become a manager. His leadership skills seemingly too good to waste post-playing career.
In his time at Anderlecht, Kompany has not been a manager to stick with one formation regardless of results and players available. He has shown that he is adaptable and willing to change things in order to improve results and performances and to suit the players at his disposal. For a team like Burnley, who may not have the financial might of others, being able to get the best out of the players and profile of the group available could be a key skill that Kompany will have to use.
That being said, he did favour a 442 formation for the majority of his three seasons in charge of Anderlecht. It is a small sample size to assess a manager’a preferred system and it is difficult to know if this is the way he will want his Burnley side to play or whether he just felt the system was best suited to Anderlecht at that time. However, if he is to opt to play 442 at his new club, it will be provide some continuity for the players that remain as Dyche also favoured a 442 system for the majority of his time in charge.
In his time in Belgium, Kompany has also adopted a 343 formation, 4231, 4411, a 442 diamond, as well as using slight tweaks to these various shapes. He has a footballing philosophy that does comprise of playing good football but this is not confined to any particular shape, at least not at this early stage of his managerial career.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Kompany opts to approach pre-season fixtures with a 442 formation with a view to taking this into the season, but if he feels this isn’t working he is not likely to hesitate to change it. He will also expect his players to be able to adapt to a variety of formations and may tweak the shape dependent on his opposition. He is a man who respects his opponents and refuses to underestimate them and, consequently, his team selection and formation can be influenced by the opposition at hand. Whatever the shape, the principles will remain the same. Attacking, free-flowing football, but not at the expense of results.
As a manager, Kompany’s win percentage is 43.59%. This is perhaps a little underwhelming considering he has only been in charge in one of the biggest club’s in Belgium, however this was not a vintage Anderlecht side. Defensively, perhaps unsurprisingly given his expertise as a centre back, his record is good; with his side conceding an average of 1.08 goals per match in his three years. Goals have not been especially difficult to come by either, with an average of two goals scored per game across his 78 as a manager.
A depleted squad in need of incomings
This never felt like a team who got too carried away with the highs or the lows and there is certainly merit in keeping a few of the experienced heads around the dressing room to help steer the new era. Kompany may even decide to lean slightly on a few of his senior pros due to his relative inexperience. In Dyche’s time in charge the team spirit at the club was their biggest asset. They were a group of players who knew their limitations but also bought into the hard-work and effort required to allow them to brush shoulders with the big boys. There is no harm in that. In many ways it is a commendable trait for a group and one that Kompany may be wise to draw on at times.
On the flipside of this, after a decade of Dyche, it may be a good thing that a number of the players who worked under him are likely to leave. Players burdened by the disappointment of relegation can make way for those wide-eyed with the prospect of success and the club returning to the promised land of the Premier League. A blend of experience and players hungry to make that next step may be the perfect blend for Kompany.
The other positive with players who have become accustomed to the methods of the previous regime exiting is that it should mean that it is easier for the Belgian manager to implement new ideas and the feeling of a fresh start is heightened. It becomes a positive thing to start again, rather than a tiresome reboot. The fact that Kompany isn’t directly replacing Dyche, who has undoubtedly secured a place in Burnley folklore with his achievements, is also likely to be a good thing for the new man at the helm.
Jackson’s temporary time in charge should ease the passing of the baton from Dyche to Kompany and should take some of the heat off the man who, despite his knowledge of English football, is a newcomer to the rigours of the Championship.
In total, 14 first team players have left the club following the Clarets’ relegation. This is a significant number for any club; especially as Burnley’s squad was already reasonably light on numbers prior to this exodus.
James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have been synonymous with Burnley’s defensive solidarity across the last few seasons but both will leave upon the expiration of their contracts this summer. Even in relegation, Burnley had the 10th best defensive record in the top flight last season and, with Nick Pope also joining Newcastle United, their is a gaping hole left to fill at the back for Kompany’s men.
Other notable exits involve the likes of Aaron Lennon, Dale Stephens, Erik Pieters, and Phil Bardsley. January signing Wout Wehorst reportedly has a relegation clause in his contract and is not expected to be at the club come the start of the season. The same can be said of Maxwell Cornet, who was one of the most impressive performers at the club and will be subject to a great deal of interest, especially at a cut-price.
On a more positive note for the club, Jack Cork has agreed a two-year contract to stay at the club and talks are ongoing between striker Matej Vydra and the club to extend the Czech international’s stay. In Bailey Peacock-Farrel the club have a ready-made replacement for the departed Pope. Peacock-Farrel spent last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and, while he isn’t yet at the level of Pope, is Northern Ireland’s number one goalkeeper.
Scott Twine has signed from MK Dons in the close-season and is an exciting attacking player who managed 20 goals and 13 assists in League One last term. Irish defender Luke McNally has also joined to bolster the options at the back. With the depleted numbers currently attached to the club, the change in management, and the gruelling Championship season ahead, there are sure to be many more coming through the door at Burnley to reinvigorate a squad badly in need of a refresh.
One element that must have factored into the Burnley hierarchy’s reasoning for appointing the four-time Premier League winner as manager is the draw that he will have for these potential signings. His stature in the game will mean there is a lot of interest and scrutiny on how he does in his new role, but also that moving to Burnley to work under a legend of the game becomes a very attractive proposition to players that may previously have turned their nose up at the club’s advances.
It is sure to be an interesting new era at Turf Moor, but will Kompany prove to be the right man for the job?