FOOTBALL LEAGUE FOCUS: Vincent Kompany has turned Burnley into mentality monsters… it’s hard to deny that he’s doing one of the best managerial jobs in second-tier history
- Vincent Kompany has had an incredible start as manager of Burnley
- They are seven points clear an on course to reach 103 points this season
- A typically defensive team is now free-scoring, with a league-high 58 goals
Are Burnley the best team in Championship history? Let’s revisit that question in May. Is Vincent Kompany doing the best managerial job in modern, second-tier history? Convince me otherwise.
Before fans of Steve Coppell’s Reading pipe up, let’s start with some facts. Kompany is just 36 years old. He inherited a deflated club which had just lost its entire spine, with Nick Pope, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski the headline departures.
After six seasons of top-flight action, some fans had grown tired of negative and defensive tactics. The club needed a gutting rebuild and many doubted whether Kompany, with just one managerial job on his c.v. at Anderlecht, was the man for the job.
Fast forward eight months and here is the state of play. Burnley are on a nine-match winning run, 17 points clear of third-placed Middlesbrough, having lost just once since August. They are averaging 2.24 points per game which, if continued all season, would take them to 103 points.
If that was the case, that would be the third-highest points tally in second-tier history, after Reading in 2006 and Sunderland in 1999. A big ‘if’? Perhaps, but Kompany’s side are making a habit of winning and look unstoppable.
One of the former Manchester City captain’s main mantras in an early-season team talk was to do just that, and to gain the muscle memory to score goals to win matches out of habit.
Vincent Kompany has done a brilliant job since taking charge of Burnley in the summer
‘My passion is scoring goals,’ said Kompany in that passionate speech. ‘I’m a defender… or I used to be. But my passion is having teams who are looking to score goals at every opportunity.
‘I don’t care if it’s a defensive throw-in or corner… we clear it and get up the other end and score. I know the “build-up” is a fetish – everyone wants to be a build-up team. It’s not enough.
‘Just bear with me until we get over that hurdle where we can execute it without thinking about it.’
Kompany told his group of players, many who had just been relegated from the Premier League in a turbulent season, that they were all winners. His young squad’s eyes grew transfixed, and they have followed his lead ever since.
Don’t be fooled by the Kompany you see in interviews, always beaming from cheek to cheek and joking with reporters. His football is modern but his managerial style is somewhat old-school, and his angry voice often beams down corridors after matches.
His father was a mayor, his mother an activist. Clearly, authority runs in the family. If a Kompany speaks, you listen. When he left Manchester, some saw a future career in politics. David Silva, who took over as skipper, joked: ‘Who will give us lectures now? They could use him at the UN!’
It’s fair to say he is giving lectures in football and delivering a masterclass in the art of coaching. Burnley’s possession this season is 62 per cent, a rise from around 40 per cent over their last five years in the Premier League. Another disciple of Pep Guardiola.
Kompany has his team playing some of the best football the Championship has seen
A typically defensive team is now free-scoring, with a league-high 58 goals shared by 16 different scorers. No man has netted more than Jay Rodriguez and Nathan Tella’s nine each.
But that doesn’t mean the Clarets are not defensively solid. One of the best centre-halves the English top flight has seen in modern times, Kompany’s fingerprints are all over a well-drilled defensive unit which has conceded just 26 goals.
Above all, though, Burnley are growing into mentality monsters. At just 36, and noting the resources at his disposal, can anyone seriously challenge an argument that Kompany’s work is among the very finest in second-tier history?
Swansea failing top coach Martin
Possession is nine tenths of the law, goes the old idiom, and in Vincent Kompany’s case – as outlined above – dominating the ball is leading to Burnley dominating the league.
But one team has more average possession than any team in the EFL, Swansea City, and have nothing to show for it. They are 13th having won just two of their last 15 matches.
So on to their manager, Russell Martin. The 37-year-old is one of this country’s brightest coaching talents but is being undermined by Swansea and took the unusual – and often damning – step of launching a tirade on the board in a press conference this weekend.
Following a shambolic January transfer window, a defeated-looking Martin was joined by all of his backroom staff in his pre-match media briefing. Fans were pleased to see him call out the board for a lack of activity.
Russell Martin is one of this country’s brightest coaching talents but he is being undermined
Based on expected goals (xG) metrics, Martin’s side would be challenging the top two in around fourth.
The Welsh club’s owners are business minded and are fearful of risk-taking with transfers. But in not doing so, they are limiting the growth potential of where this team could go with a passionate and positive coach at the helm.
No luck at the top for Carlisle!
Talk about smash and grab. Harrogate became just the second team to win at Carlisle’s Brunton Park on Saturday – and did so without a single shot on target!
League Two’s third-placed team dominated the ball but were undone by a comical own goal from defender Paul Huntington.
They say you have no luck at the bottom of the table but for Harrogate, this was a first win of 2023, and a big boost in their relegation battle. As for Carlisle, who had not lost at home since October and had 18 shots here, how’s your luck?
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