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Cork and Muric among quick fixes
After three defeats from three, one word sums up our start to the new season…
Our first few games were always going to be tricky after the initial fixture list did us few favours, but I didn’t expect us to be pointless and bottom going into the break.
Playing a man-to-man style worked wonders for us last term, but the step up is a chasm. Players in the Premier League are faster, bigger, stronger, better on the ball.
Too many times we have been left chasing shadows as teams ping the ball around us.
Leeds were routed time and time again under Marcelo Bielsa, playing a similar style, and I cannot understand why Vincent Kompany thinks he can make it work.
Not to pick on one player in particular, but Josh Cullen encapsulates our struggles. Cullen has not got going yet at all, with Kompany’s on-field lieutenant looking lost.
During Saturday’s game, Spurs stuck James Maddison on Cullen when Burnley were in possession. Cullen is too small and slow to evade that sort of close marking and with Kompany playing three attackers - a top two of Lyle Foster-Zeki Amdouni, plus Luca Koleosho who needs to learn to track back - we lacked options to get up the field.
Foster had another solid game, scoring for the second league game in a row, but he isn’t going to win many high balls. With Nathan Tella not returning, we also lack the option to go over the opposition defence with a well-timed accurate long pass.
As for when Burnley were out of possession, it was an utter shitshow. A high line with fairly slow defenders and a keeper stuck to his line is ridiculous. What are we doing?
Cullen got nowhere near Maddison all game, allowing the England midfielder to dictate terms and run the show. Cullen hasn’t been helped by new partner Sander Berge’s clean sweep of shockers next to him, but he needs to buck up - fast.
Not signing a left-back has left Kompany with little choice but to use square pegs in round holes. I cannot imagine his summer planning ever involved Ameen Al-Dakhil playing as a wing-back, but that’s where the youngster was used in the second half.
With a deadline-day move for Ian Maatsen falling through after the full-back opted not to complete the transfer, Kompany now has to work with what he has.
Whether that means a surprise recall for Charlie Taylor, putting faith in Vitinho as our closest Maatsen-profile player, giving Hannes Delcroix a run of games to learn the system inside-out or coming up with a wholly new idea - he has now got two weeks.
The main concern I have is that when Kompany has changed things mid-game, we have got worse rather than better. We actually started the Spurs game very well, with a high tempo opening yielding a quality goal and a few other opportunities to score.
But another sloppy goal to give away visibly deflated a callow side and when we conceded another soft one just before the break, the final result looked obvious. Nevertheless, it was only 2-1 and Burnley were still in the game. Had we started the second half in the same manner as the first, it could have been a different story.
Losing 5-2 at home after taking the lead is completely unacceptable, at any level of the game. Too many heads dropped and belief already seems to be draining out of some.
Kompany made two changes at half-time and even a few days on, I can’t make head nor tail of the switch. Spurs were using Son Heung-min as a false nine. Kompany, as a former CB himself, should be well aware that three centre-backs against no strikers is totally unnecessary. It left gaping holes elsewhere and Spurs exploited them at will.
Our players also seemed unsure of what the plan actually was in the second half. That is on Kompany’s head and suggests he is giving them too much information to process.
We saw this at times early in last season, with players learning new roles on the job. It took time for Kompany to settle on a regular team and system, then things clicked.
Maybe the same will happen this season, but right now Burnley look like relegation fodder. Too easy to score against, too easy to play against and too easy to beat.
So what can VK do to change things for our next match in two weeks’ time?
Cork and Muric among quick fixes
It’s arguable that different personnel with the same silly system won’t make much difference, but we did seem much more stable after Jack Cork had come on.
Admittedly, Spurs had stopped trying to score any further goals by that point, but there was someone in the middle of the pitch actually directing operations.
Cork is a leader and we lack cool heads on the pitch. Nobody out there seems to know when to put a foot in, when to sit back or when to make a foul to break up an attack.
We are too soft-centred and the introduction of Cork would certainly help with that. The defence needs protection: we have been conceding similar goals from cutbacks as nobody is on the edge of the box. Cork should play alongside Cullen in midfield.
Our midfield this season is far more attacking than last year, despite the step up. Make that make sense. Last year it was almost always a form of 4-3-3, with two 8s providing energy up and down the pitch. Now we have Amdouni as more of a 10.
Amdouni comes alive around the box but he does not do a lot of defending and that often leaves us short of bodies when teams attack. In all three matches so far, we have looked like conceding from virtually every opposition attack. That is unsustainable.
While that isn’t Amdouni’s fault, he is an obvious candidate to drop to the bench in order to bring in a more positionally disciplined player such as Josh Brownhill. Don’t ask me what we’ll do with Mike Tresor, the latest shiny new toy. I don’t know!
In goal, I can’t think of any logical reason why Aro Muric is not starting games. Muric was our most improved player by far last season and our defence grew to trust him, even when he made the odd brainfart of an error. Muric kept a clean sheet with a solid performance in the cup win at Nottingham Forest to further stake his claim to play.
James Trafford may well develop into the Future England Number One tag he has been burdened with but, right now, he is a million miles away from that status.
Trafford fails to command his area, has already given up on sweeping up after his error cost us the opening goal against Aston Villa, and lacks Muric’s range of passes.
Before the season, I suspected Muric would start, but be dropped after his first mistake. Right now, there are no reasons at all for Trafford to stay in the team.
Changing the goalkeeper would surely instil more confidence back in a fragile team. Trafford will come again, but right now it is time for Aro to be given back the gloves.
You can also make a case for Taylor to play at left-back, but I won’t be doing that. Adding another slow player to our team doesn’t strike me as a sensible idea.
Nobody - well, apart from the fans who looked at our summer spending and declared European football was coming back to Turf Moor - thought this season would be easy.
But Kompany’s Burnley are making life too difficult for themselves with naïve tactics. Change those or tinkering with personnel is rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.
My last post about racism at Turf Moor received a few responses. First up is Will:
Couldn't agree more. Awful, depressing stuff but thanks for highlighting it (again).
John also wrote in to have his say:
In absolute agreement with everything in your latest post.
I felt sickened by the behaviour of so-called supporters on Friday, it’s wholly embarrassing when you have friends who support other clubs mocking our return to the Premier League for all the wrong reasons.
I want the club to give a really strong message on this now, we should be saying that racists are just not welcome and they should stay away. It’s a huge societal issue but you only have to see some of the moronic comments from these Burnley fans which illustrates just how far reaching the issue is. It’s shameful.
In terms of the documentary, feels like a vanity project for Pace. Didn’t really show how the club is the heart of our town, as much footage shown of Pace in beautiful locations outside of the UK. Not sure I learned anything that I didn’t know already.
Pretty disappointing week as a Burnley fan, I’ve had many of them over the years - in fact this is season 43 for me, but I feel massively deflated by it all.
It’s a few weeks since I watched MTB now and I remember very little of it, which says it all for me. But here’s what Mark made of it:
I thought the first episode of Mission to Burnley was very good and interesting in how the club is run, and some of the ups and downs of being a chairman and the abuse you get from certain fans.
The Dyche sacking stunned everyone and I also thought they should have waited to the end of the season. But it was the right decision, in the long run.
And last but not least, this one from a satisfied customer, Tish. Printed unedited:
Nothing about racism,we come to the Turf to watch Our team play football.Not pandering and virtue signalling to a corrupt organisation.
I dare you to print this you dick.
No worries! But I don’t want racists as readers, so show yourself out. Cheers.
You can have your say in the comments, or reply to this email. Enjoy the break.