Huddersfield Town 0, Burnley 1: Chris Boden's thoughts on a bright new dawn
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Albeit it is just one game, as Kompany likened it to, an “outlier, a cup final – with this being the season opener, I can imagine it will be a little bit hectic as well.”
He was eager to learn about his new charges, as the traveling hordes were to see them in action: “Everything is geared to Friday now but it also can go both ways.
“Either it gives us a really good look at the team and where we are at and what we still need to improve, or it can say ‘do you know what, some of the lads are further on than we thought they were.’”
First impressions are that it is the latter, although no one is getting carried away after 90 minutes - including Kompany, who feels he will know a lot more after the next two games, at home to another side who made the play-offs last season in Luton Town, before another Friday night under the lights at Watford, who obviously were relegated with Burnley: "Probably at the end of the next two games. I see it as a testing period. Huddersfield were 90 minutes away from the Premier League, then Luton, who were another promotion contender and then Watford who are pretty much still a Premier League outfit."
It was easy to be enthused, however, especially given no one really knew what to expect from a side with a completely new playing philosophy and personnel – with five of nine summer signings in the starting line-up, and a sixth debutant in the shape of 19-year-old youth product Dara Costelloe.
There were two further summer arrivals who got on the pitch in the second half, including Burnley’s first Brazilian Vitinho, who, impressively, had his own terrace chant before he had kicked a ball!
All showcased their abilities and what they will bring to the side, in a display which was a case of both silk and steel.
The Clarets played with real energy and purpose in the first half, breaking the lines with pace and precision, inspired by midfield metronome Josh Cullen, who completed all 47 of his passes in the opening 45 minutes, and 79 of 82 overall.
Burnley, as a team, put together 599 passes overall, more than double the hosts, in a clear move away from previous boss Sean Dyche’s methods, which, although tried and tested, ultimately stagnated.
Dyche used to say pressing was the new passing.
With Kompany, he wants both, as the Clarets’ dominated the midfield area, particularly in the first half, with a tackle success rate of 86%.
Both want to be aggressive and on the front foot, but this was easier on the eye.
Another former Burnley boss Stan Ternent once said, as a reality check: “It's Burnley, not Barcelona”, but, at the John Smith’s Stadium, it was hard to tell the difference, as Kompany’s players showed how well he has imparted his thinking, and, you would imagine, much of the innovations he learned under Pep Guardiola, developed and mastered at La Masia.
The only thing missing in the first half was a killer instinct to add to loan signing Ian Maatsen’s wonderfully composed finish, curling the ball with his right foot beyond Lee Nicholls’ left hand, after the ball broke to the Netherlands Under 21 international after Ashley Barnes had stepped over his initial probing pass.
The second half didn’t follow the same pattern, as Huddersfield were more competitive in the midfield area, but after trailing the shot count 8-0 at half-time, they finished the game 16-2 behind, with debutant keeper Aro Muric not stretched whatsover.
Burnley dug in but could again have added to their lead after the break, with Scott Twine coming off the bench to hit the outside of the post with a nonchalant free kick, while the defence stood up to whatever a disappointing home side could muster.
Maatsen was a superb outlet down the left, with Connor Roberts looking more at home with Kompany’s brand of football on the right.
Charlie Taylor – who Dyche utilised briefly as a centre back in the pre-season he arrived at the club in 2017 – looked completely at home in that role, while Taylor Harwood-Bellis was dominant in the air and tidy in possession.
The superb Cullen stood out in a midfield unit that could be as good as anything at this level, alongside Jack Cork, Josh Brownhill and Samuel Bastien, while young Costelloe was not overawed in the slightest. While he snatched at a couple of good chances, his all-round display showed much promise.
And Ashley Barnes was Ashley Barnes – an absolute menace and a nightmare to play against. He had a couple of sights of goal, and might have won a penalty on another night, but outside of the Premier League, we are not subject to VAR, whether you think that is a good thing or not.
All told, it was just great to see the away end so buoyant, reveling in a new-look side and brand of football, and they will hope Kompany and his players can continue to grow and improve as the games come thick and fast.
And, of course, the Clarets are now 24, 24 undefeated at this level, playing football the Vincent Kompany way!