After a decade of Sean Dyche, Burnley have officially kicked off a new era with Premier League legend Vincent Kompany. The Clarets played admirably in their first Championship match since 2016, with a new set of tactics on full display. Kompany’s bright start got off without a hitch – his team achieving a brilliant 1-0 victory over last season’s Playoff Finalists. Here is our in-depth analysis of Burnley’s 1-0 win over Huddersfield on the opening day of the 2022-23 EFL Championship season.
SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-1-4-1
Burnley set up in a brand new system in their opening match, deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation, full of fluidity, flexibility and positional nuances. Of returning players, Connor Roberts, Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes were the only three to operate in their normal roles, with Charlie Taylor seamlessly transitioning into a left-sided centre-back.
While the 4-1-4-1 held true throughout defensive phases, the Clarets operated more like a 4-2-3-1 in attack, with Joshua Brownhill firmly ahead of a double-pivot in Jack Cork and the brilliant Josh Cullen. The shape would adapt to further complications and nuisances in possession, allowing the Clarets to achieve full fluidity, as though they had been playing together for years.
IN POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
In possession, Burnley built out from the back in a 3-3-4-esque shape, with one fullback venturing forward at a time. Connor Roberts often fulfilled the deeper role, allowing Charlie Taylor to shift wide left and Ian Maatsen to play high and wide. Samuel Bastien could then respond by drifting inside to find pockets of space to receive and bounce to his wing-back.
Switches of play were also common in this shape, where Dara Costelloe magnificently held the width on the right. Joshua Brownhill would then leave his high position to quickly motor over to the right, creating wide overloads with Connor Roberts and Costelloe. The Burnley men were creative in combining down the wing and wreaking havoc, delivering 11 crosses between them (albeit, some of those came from Brownhill’s set-pieces).
Joshua Cullen could then run the show from midfield, switching play left to right in finding Costelloe, and allowing the Burnley Express Train to shimmy down the right for 42% of the team’s attacks. Cullen’s spatial awareness found its way toward utter brilliance on Friday, always picking up the right pockets of space to receive the ball, where he would immediately look forward in hopes a teammate could be found in an advantageous position.Embed from Getty Images
The man who played under Kompany at Anderlecht completed 7/8 of his long-passes on the day, showcasing absolute class in picking out pockets of space and teammates from anywhere on the pitch. Often times when playing through the thirds, he immediately found Brownhill, who would continue the team’s forward momentum himself. Both reached over 90% with their passes (Cullen – 96.3%, Brownhill – 90.3%), acting as strong dictators of possession for Kompany’s team.Embed from Getty Images
To see this kind of positive possession in Kompany’s first match will be a welcomed change for the Clarets, who would have been worried about any new manager creating a drastic departure in tactics from Sean Dyche‘s long-ball ways. They were patient in their circulation without being overly-cautious or ineffectual, and had moments of brilliance in the final third, such as Ashley Barnes’ dummy in the lead-up to Maatsen’s goal. Only Swansea kept a higher percentage of possession on the opening day (73.5%) than Burnley’s 69.5, with the Clarets completing over 500 passes.Embed from Getty Images
Even then, they never departed away from the use of long passes altogether, but were smarter in selecting moments to go long in finding players over the top. Burnley fans will be hoping for more of the same in possession next time out, as Kompany looks to lead his team back into England’s top flight.
OUT OF POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Burnley built an identity around defensive resilience under Dyche, and it’s nice to see that under Vincent Kompany, that resoluteness will continue. It’s not overly surprising that one of the Premier League’s greatest ever defenders would be able to coach a well-constructed team out of possession, but the Clarets gave Huddersfield a miraculously low amount of chances. In fact, Kosovan keeper Arijanet Muric had only 2 shots to contend with, neither of which landed on target. That amounted to an xG of just 0.1 for Danny Schofield’s team, about as bad as it gets. The 23-year-old keeper showcased strong command in the moments he was called upon in claiming crosses and springing into action, but Burnley’s ability to keep last season’s Playoff Finalists at bay to such a strong regard should be considered an immensely impressive feat.
That came through a staunch 4-1-4-1 defensive structure, with Joshua Brownhill and Josh Cullen triangulating ahead of Jack Cork, and Ashley Barnes leading the press. They blocked high with great precision and intelligence, even winning the ball back in the final third eight times over the course of the match, the joint-top performance from a team on the opening weekend.Embed from Getty Images
It was also nice to see some of Sean Dyche’s defensive principles remain in-tact, such as the decision to pull every single player back when defending set-pieces, giving the Clarets strength in numbers from any dead-ball. The compactness they held in midfield also locked up central areas in a way that was reminiscent of Dyche’s days, with the added body of Josh Cullen thrown into the mix to only further complicate the compactions.
If Burnley defend like this all season, they will be incredibly difficult to break down for even the most fluid of outfits.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
All and all, it was a brilliant performance for the Clarets on their opening day with Kompany at the helm, and one that puts them in good faith for the remainder of the season. Kompany made sound tactical tweaks in inspiring greater possession, circulation, patient progression through the thirds, and a nicely connected 4-1-4-1 formation. But he also kept much of Dyche’s defensive resilience and elements of long-passing in-tact, even if upping the ante on elaboration and imagination. If the Clarets can continue to play with this kind of panache throughout the 46-game season, Burnley will be heading straight back into the Premier League.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of Vincent Kompany’s first match in charge of Burnley, and the various implications of his system and style moving forward. Be sure to check out more of our tactical analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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