Aston Villa defeat proves Vincent Kompany's point, Burnley may have to suffer some pain

Vincent Kompany summed it up fairly succinctly in the space of his first nine words during his post-match press conference.
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“Learning comes at a price in the Premier League”, he responded, when asked for his thoughts on Burnley’s second defeat in as many games at the start of the 2023/24 campaign.

It was always going to be a tricky return to the top flight for the Clarets, especially when the trip to Luton was postponed. It’s fair to say the fixture list hasn’t been overly kind.

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Facing the reigning champions Manchester City first up was something of a free pass, you could argue, and as it turned out, despite the 3-0 scoreline, Burnley actually played fairly well and there were plenty of encouraging signs.

But against Villa, albeit a resurgent and impressive outfit under Unai Emery, Kompany’s men were well beaten. During the first-half it was like men against boys.

To their credit, Burnley emerged a drastically different side at the start of the second-half and halved the deficit within two minutes through the impressive Lyle Foster, who deservedly won the Man of the Match award for the second game running.

But just as the Clarets sensed what had previously been deemed an unlikely equaliser, Villa embarked on another devastating counter-attack to make it 3-1 through Mo Diaby’s low effort across James Trafford.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Lyle Foster of Burnley appears dejected as Moussa Diaby of Aston Villa (not pictured) scores the team's third goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Lyle Foster of Burnley appears dejected as Moussa Diaby of Aston Villa (not pictured) scores the team's third goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Lyle Foster of Burnley appears dejected as Moussa Diaby of Aston Villa (not pictured) scores the team's third goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Things to work on

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There’s no doubt Villa displayed an array of ruthless finishing, just as City and Erling Haaland did on the opening night of the campaign.

But on this occasion, Burnley were guilty of shooting themselves in the foot, offering up far too much space as Villa sliced through them like a knife through butter time and time again.

The big positive from this game, despite the defeat, is that Burnley were more than capable of creating openings and putting Villa under threat. Defensively, however, there’s plenty to work on.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Connor Roberts of Burnley attempts to take the ball from Matty Cash of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Connor Roberts of Burnley attempts to take the ball from Matty Cash of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Connor Roberts of Burnley attempts to take the ball from Matty Cash of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

But that comes back to the crux of Kompany’s argument; this will take time. But unlike in the Championship, where you can learn on the job and still pick up the odd win here or there and some draws, if you’re not at it in the top flight you’ll get punished. Clinically so.

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With 13 new arrivals this summer, Burnley need to go through the same process of gelling and working on squad cohesion as they did under Kompany this time last year. But doing that process while you’re playing Man City and Aston Villa, two sides in European competitions this season, is easier said than done.

This is where some patience is required. Burnley have got to feel their way back into the Premier League and there’s no doubt it might take a bit of time.

Unfortunately it doesn’t get much easier. Once Burnley navigate their way through their Carabao Cup second round tie against Nottingham Forest in midweek, where Kompany is expected to ring the changes, Ange Postecoglu and his rejuvenated Tottenham side are next up at Turf Moor.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Zeki Amdouni of Burnley reacts after a missed chance during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Zeki Amdouni of Burnley reacts after a missed chance during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Zeki Amdouni of Burnley reacts after a missed chance during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t just his presence at the back Burnley missed, it was also his ability to bring the ball forward and waltz through the lines.

Debutant Hannes Delcroix, starting on the left-hand side of defence, didn’t do too badly in his first outing in claret and blue. But collectively the back four, as it was on this occasion after the brief flirtation with a five against City, struggled to cope with the direct running and dynamism of Villa’s attacks.

Positives

Aside from Foster, who used his strength to good effect and carried out his defensive duties well, the best performers for Burnley actually came off the bench.

Johann Gudmundsson, a half-time change for Manuel Benson, who was hooked off after struggling with Villa’s tight marking, made an instant impact, nodding down Connor Roberts’ deep cross into Foster’s path for the goal back just two minutes into the second-half. His delivery from corners also posed problems.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Vincent Kompany, Manager of Burnley, reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Vincent Kompany, Manager of Burnley, reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Vincent Kompany, Manager of Burnley, reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on August 27, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
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Jay Rodriguez, meanwhile, was only on the pitch for nine minutes yet he still managed to make an impact, squandering a couple of good chances when he made a real nuisance of himself both aerially and on the deck.

Had he scored five minutes from time when his angled drive flew narrowly over, rather than into the top corner, it would have made for an intriguing final few minutes. Tails would have been up and the crowd would have been majorly invested again, as they were after the interval when their side rallied.

But as it was, Villa managed the remainder of the game well, wisely and with experience, and cruised to a comfortable and admittedly deserved 3-1 victory.

Losing back-to-back games and shipping six goals in the process is far from ideal, but Kompany warned this might be a possibility.

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“A lot of those talents would have been inaccessible for us not so long ago, so to have them here and among us is important for us,” he said ahead of Sunday’s game.

“We can either struggle for the next 10 years or we can use this season to maybe struggle for one season but then make a leap forward soon after.

Given the young talent at his disposal, the Burnley boss is confident the future – and we’re talking in two, three and four years’ time here – is bright, but his side might have to endure some pain in the here and now.