Watford 1, Burnley 0: Chris Boden's thoughts on Vincent Kompany's first defeat

Possession may be nine tenths of the law.

But if Burnley don’t start learning how to make the most of their dominance of the ball, they will find the Championship an unforgiving place.

After finishing the opening two games of the campaign with over 70% possession, the Clarets went to Watford - relegated with them from the Premier League - and had 64%.

However, as against Luton last week, they failed to really turn that territorial advantage into golden chances, until late in the game.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Tom Cleverley of Watford scores their side's first goal whilst under pressure from Josh Cullen and Josh Brownhill of Burnley during the Sky Bet Championship between Watford and Burnley at Vicarage Road on August 12, 2022 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

And as against Huddersfield, when those chances arrived, Vincent Kompany’s side were not clinical.

After comprehensively outplaying Huddersfield, claiming a 1-0 win, you could argue Burnley deserved more than a point against Luton after coming from behind to draw.

To lose at Vicarage Road, however, was frustrating in the extreme.

Again, Aro Muric did not had a shot to save, but again, the Clarets conceded a sloppy goal that could have been cut out long before the danger developed, and they have had to play catch-up against hardy opposition.

The cry among the support, particularly on social media, is for a new striker or two.

Vincent Kompany is certainly working hard in that respect, but has so far been frustrated in his efforts.

Strikers are only as good as the chances created, however, and while most of them fell Josh Brownhill’s way, the side needs more craft and invention.

That was missing until the final quarter of the game at Vicarage Road, as Manuel Benson - clattered three times in the opening 10 minutes by Hassan Kamara without punishment - drifted out of the game, while Nathan Tella was quiet after being introduced as substitute, and Dara Costelloe, who again worked hard and displayed good movement, was withdrawn at the break without making an impact.

As against Luton, Burnley did begin to turn the screw in the second half, but when they did carve out any openings, they found home keeper Daniel Bachmann in fine form.

He came out on top of a contest with Brownhill, coming out well to smother an opening after Samuel Bastien flicked on a centre from Ian Maatsen, who remains one of the side’s best outlets down the left.

Brownhill then had a volley saved by the feet of the Austrian from a Maatsen cross, before having a free kick saved by Bachmann, plunging to his left, after Vitinho’s pace and direct running forced Kamara to haul him back when in on goal from a superb pass from Jack Cork.

A red card for the left back was about the only thing referee Thomas Bramall got right all night.

As the Clarets penned Watford in in the dying stages, Brownhill then looped an effort up against the bar after Vitinho again got in down the right.

To show the paucity of options at his disposal up front, Kompany introduced summer signing, centre back Luke McNally, for his debut as a late, unorthodox centre forward, and while the young Irishman had an impact, he couldn’t write his own headlines, sending a firm shot straight at Bachmann with the last chance of the game.

Burnley fans have spent most of the last 10 years enjoying bloodying their noses of clubs who have had more possession, more shots, or a better xG.

Now the boot is on the other foot, we again see that the only statistic that counts is how many times you put the ball in the net, and whether you can keep it out of your own.

Like a former manager would say, it is about finding a way to win.

There are promising signs - Taylor Harwood-Bellis, at 20, stood up to be counted at Vicarage Road, again not intimidated by the physical side of the game, while showing an ability to play astute passes between the lines and drive the side on.

Brownhill continues to pose a goal scoring threat back at this level, with Kompany convinced he will find the net on a regular basis, and the energy and pace in the side is going to cause teams problems.

Of course, it is a lot to expect a side with 11 new signings - and a 12th close - to instantly gel in a league as tough as anything to get out of.

We were spoiled by the first half performance at Huddersfield, against a side who look like they will struggle, but the subsequent displays against Luton and Watford show that Burnley certainly have nothing to fear against teams many expect to be up and around the promotion hunt.

A young side is going to have to learn on the job, however, while finding that resource that everyone wants - a regular hitman.

And they seem in short supply at present, even at the elite end of the game.

As Miguel Delaney of the Independent wrote in June: “The increased technicality of the modern game has seen the number of traditional No 9s coming through academies dwindle and their value in the market rise accordingly.

“There are very few strikers in football,” one figure who works at the top of the game says, “and they’re dwindling annually.”

“For now, the view on forwards is quite clear: the general quality and numbers are going down – and the price is going up.”