Opinion: So much to be enthused about despite Burnley's opening defeat to Manchester City

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Burnley boss Vincent Kompany delivers his view on Anass Zaroury's red card in Ma...

This wasn’t so much a rude awakening for Vincent Kompany and his Burnley side, rather a sobering realisation they had been handed the toughest opening possible on their return to the top flight.

It’s not often you lose a game 3-0 and still come out of a ground feeling positive, but this was one of those rare occasions.

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I know it’s difficult to do, but ignore the scoreline for one moment. Burnley more than competed and held their own against the best side in world football.

There’s an argument to make they were actually the better side in the first-half and created the better chances. Certainly, after Kevin De Bruyne’s withdrawal after just 22 minutes, the hosts enjoyed a promising spell until half-time, pressed smartly high up the pitch, forced mistakes and carved some good openings.

But unlike City, and that man Haaland in particular, Burnley just didn’t have that final touch when it mattered. It’s a cliche, but that’s the difference at this level.

Plenty of promise

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Rodri of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the team's third goal  during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Rodri of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the team's third goal  during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Rodri of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the team's third goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Of course there’s still plenty to improve upon, Kompany is the first to stress that point. Burnley showed frailties from set-pieces and there will be concern over how much space Haaland was granted for both of his goals.

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But it’s not like Burnley’s display was littered with glaring errors, it’s just one or two minor things that a side of City’s quality is able to pounce upon and make a tricky game seem like a stroll in the park.

There will also be some disappointment about Burnley’s failure to go through the gears – easier said than done, I know – and apply more pressure in the second-half. But with a two-goal cushion it was always going to be an uphill battle to dismantle and deter City from playing their game, knowing gaps and spaces will open up on the counter.

It was the second goal, nine minutes before half-time, that was the killer. When they were trailing by one, the Clarets were still well in the game and looking the more likely to strike. The second gave Pep Guardiola’s side the confidence to knock the ball about at ease and control the tempo, knocking the stuffing out of Kompany’s charges at the same time.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

City’s authority in the second-half brought about a third, a close-range strike from Rodri after the Clarets had failed to clear their lines from a corner, and the defending champions had further opportunities during the final exchanges to add to their tally. But that really would have been harsh.

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As it was, Burnley can have no complaints with the result. The better side won. But Burnley played well and this wasn’t necessarily a 3-0 game – at least they can console themselves with the knowledge they won’t be facing strikers of Haaland’s calibre every week.

Bright sparks

The star of the show from a Burnley perspective was undoubtedly Lyle Foster. He set the tone perfectly with his energetic pressing, but also showed real quality with his link-up play. Play like that on a regular basis and the supposedly big fee the Clarets paid for his services in the Championship will be seen as a snip at this level.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Lyle Foster of Burnley gestures during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Lyle Foster of Burnley gestures during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Lyle Foster of Burnley gestures during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Zeki Amdouni also enjoyed a bright debut, especially during the first-half where he showed some lovely touches. On first viewing I thought he had been denied a clear penalty when he appeared to be tugged down to the ground in the box by Manuel Akanji, but replays showed it would have been a little soft had it been awarded.

Speaking of refereeing decisions, Anass Zaroury can have no complaints with the red card he was shown in stoppage-time, despite the vociferous appeals of the Burnley faithful.

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It was a needless challenge to begin with, as he scraped his studs down the back of Kyle Walker’s leg. It was cynical and could easily have caused harm.

But back to the debutants, Kompany handed out five from the start, James Trafford getting the nod over Arijanet Muric in goal to face his former side, while Dara O’Shea, Sander Berge and Luca Koleosho also played from the first whistle.

Jacob Bruun Larsen and Nathan Redmond, meanwhile, made their first Burnley outings off the bench.

Back to the grind

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Vincent Kompany, Manager of Burnley, is embraced by Kyle Walker of Manchester City after the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Vincent Kompany, Manager of Burnley, is embraced by Kyle Walker of Manchester City after the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Vincent Kompany, Manager of Burnley, is embraced by Kyle Walker of Manchester City after the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on August 11, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The introduction of so many new players just goes to show the work that is required to build up that cohesion and understanding of Kompany’s methods. As the Burnley boss is so keen to point that, that will take time, and he hopes this version of his side will be the worst we witness all season, with the idea his players get better and better with each passing week.

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What might bizarrely help in that endeavour is an unusual 16-day gap to the next Premier League game, which comes against Aston Villa at the end of the month.

Kompany was delighted to hear of the Luton Town postponement, owing to the £13m worth of stadium works required to get Kenilworth Road ready for the Premier League, because it affords his squad and his new signings more time on the training pitch. Further friendlies to hone that preparation are expected, too.

All in all, there’s not a great deal to be disheartened about if you’re a Burnley fan right now. If anything, many will have come away from Turf Moor with a spring in their step.

The Clarets are dining at the top table once again, results like this - especially this side, in particular - can be expected. But the performance alone should tell you Burnley belong at this level.