The second-worst Premier League start of all time can’t get Vincent Kompany the sack from Burnley. Would defeat to the Blades?
As the Premier League season approaches the festive period, it’s astonishing that no manager has yet lost his job, particularly when there were 14 dug-out changes last season; six permanent managers had gone by the end of November.
Of those under the spotlight, is anyone riding their luck right now more than Burnley boss Vincent Kompany?
Saturday saw the latest defeat for the Clarets as they conspired to throw away a 1-0 lead against West Ham in the final five minutes, losing their seventh straight game at Turf Moor.
The two late goals conceded made it 32 goals against – second only to Sheffield United’s 34, and there’s just been 10 at the other end, the lowest in the Premier League this season.
All of this has seen them accrue just four points from their opening 13 games, which is the second lowest total at this point since 1992/93 and the dawn of the Premier League. Only Sheffield United (2020/21) were worse with one point, and that unsurprisingly led to their relegation.
It’s all a far cry from May when Burnley were celebrating the Championship title and an instant return to the top flight, all while undergoing an apparent culture and playing style reboot under Kompany, who had arrived from Anderlecht after relegation with questions about his experience and suitability to the role.
Twelve months later and after earning promotion at a canter – with a Championship-record seven games remaining – it all seemed rosy with Burnley ready to make their mark in the Premier League again, this time with a more sophisticated and stylish approach when compared to their previous iterations under Sean Dyche, Owen Coyle and others.
Instead, it has been an unmitigated disaster with Kompany and his players not appearing anywhere near the level required for survival, which is not being helped by their approach.
It’s all well and good playing a more fluid style when you’re in the Championship, have a batch of players who have just come from the Premier League and a bigger transfer and wage budget than almost any other side, but in the top flight, Burnley are back to being a small fish in the biggest of ponds, and could and should have adapted.
It has got increasingly hard for sides to come up from the Championship and consolidate their top-flight status, such is the financial gap amongst other factors. Brighton and Brentford are the only clubs in recent years to become part of the so-called established order, and the Bees are only in their third season since promotion in 2021.
While both club’s models are widely praised and they’re probably pound-for-pound the best performing sides in the league, neither came into the league playing the exact same way they had in the lower division.
Brentford were compact, tough to break down and had quality in attack with Ivan Toney and later Christian Eriksen, while it took several years of battling before Brighton became the side we have seen in the last two-three years under Roberto De Zerbi and previously Graham Potter.
Consolidation is the name of the game, and so far, Burnley look as if they are set to yo-yo once more, with the possibility of becoming the next Norwich. The parachute payments and riches of Premier League life can be beneficial for another instant return, but it is also risky if you do not climb straight back up again.
Norwich accepted this fate and never really ‘went for it’ upon promotion, never overspending or stretching themselves too much. The same cannot be said for Burnley, with Kompany being significantly backed in the summer.
The Clarets’ net spend of £92.1m gazumped the meagre £20m and £6.8m from fellow promoted sides Luton and Sheffield United. Burnley also took one of the Blades’ best players in Sander Berge, and yet still sit behind them in the table.
There have been other issues, of course. Last season’s top scorer Nathan Tella, on loan from Southampton, did not permanently join, instead signing for Xabi Alonso’s now-Bundesliga topping Bayer Leverkusen, while Michael Obafemi has only just returned from a hamstring injury.
Top scorer Lyle Foster has stepped away from the team due to a mental health issue. It must be stated that the club and Kompany have handled that situation extremely well. There are more important things than football, after all.
With so much going on and with his side rooted to the bottom of the table, one might think that Kompany might be feeling the heat, but he is as cool as he was while playing for Manchester City, even bizarrely claiming that he thought the step up would have been harder. You do you, Vincent.
There appears to be no true appetite to sack him from those above him, which probably plays into his relaxed nature. Are Burnley happy to trust the process and follow through with a proper reset of the club or is the fact Kompany is a Pep Guardiola disciple of sorts playing into their thinking?
Whatever it is, the club are approaching the point of no return, with upcoming fixtures likely to decide whether they have a realistic shot of survival in the new year.
This Saturday’s home game against Sheffield United is the definition of a ‘relegation six-pointer’ and one that the Clarets just have to win. It really is that simple.
Before Christmas, they have Everton at home, who have been dragged right back into the mire with their 10-point deduction. That the Toffees are managed by Dyche and have several former Clarets players only adds to the drama.
By the time Christmas rolls around, Burnley simply have to be within striking distance of that precious 17th position, or they can start preparing for life in the Championship once again. To add to the current sense of gloom and doom, only West Brom (2004/05) have stayed up after being bottom on December 25.
Will it be the gift of home win or two in the next few weeks or coal and a probable p45 for Kompany?