Discover more from No Nay Never
The edge of glory
Plus: Why VK should ignore suitors
Hello again! Burnley could be promoted on Friday, but VK’s future is a concern.
The edge of glory
Not many of us would have said last summer that Burnley could be promoted at Easter.
Despite a drop in our performance levels over the last month, we will be back in the Premier League if Luton do not beat Millwall and we win at Middlesbrough.
It’s worth taking a minute or two to put our season into some sort of perspective.
The close-season saw scare stories about our financial situation, with some of our fans predicting a season of struggle at worst and consolidation at best. Nobody would have expected us to romp to the title, especially after that slow start to the campaign.
Friday’s goalless draw against Sunderland was one of our stodgiest displays of the season, but it shows how far we have come. Sunderland are a good team, still in with a shot at the play-offs after coming up from League One last year, and their physical style and hard pressing caused us problems all game. They arguably deserved more than a point, having hit the crossbar and having had a goal ruled out for offside.
It means we drew two and lost one of our five games in March, with the thrashing at Manchester City in the FA Cup demonstrating the work that is still to do. Vincent Kompany will have learned a lot from that meeting with his old mentor Pep Guardiola and it is fair to say he is still making the odd mistake, despite our league position.
Starting Bailey Peacock-Farrell over Aro Muric was a really bad call at the Etihad Stadium and VK got his team wrong against Sunderland too. While the XI looked very strong on paper, playing three lads - Josh Brownhill, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Manuel Benson - who were all making their first starts in a long while was too much.
All three players understandably looked rusty and, with Anass Zaroury having another quiet day on the wing, there were too many 5-6/10 performances on the night.
Goalless draws against Blackpool and Sunderland sandwiched comfortable wins over Wigan and Hull City last month, maintaining our dominant position at the top.
But with Barnes and Zaroury both without a goal since February, our reliance on Nathan Tella to make the difference has become more notable in the past few weeks.
The recent return to training of Jay Rodriguez - still our second-top scorer despite being out for two months - will give Kompany something to think about in the run-in.
While Barnes has done better than anyone expected to learn the false nine role at this stage of his career, four league goals all season shows an area of weakness in the team.
Rodriguez has superior build-up play and has been a more reliable and consistent goalscorer throughout his career. With Barnes out of contract at the end of the season, he is surely enjoying the swansong of his decade at Turf Moor.
Lyle Foster, who missed Friday due to a passport snafu during the international break, is another option for Kompany in the coming weeks. Foster opened his account for the club with a fine finish against Wigan and it will make sense to give him more games to develop once promotion is confirmed - which could be this weekend.
It has been quite the ride, with the inevitable impact of Kompany attracting interest…
Why VK should ignore suitors
Call me naive, but I think Kompany would be a bit daft to leave us in the summer.
A trio of new vacancies in the Premier League - at Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester City - has prompted a fresh round of speculation about the manager’s future.
One newspaper claims Kompany is a surprise contender to take over at Tottenham, who could go third in the Premier League if they get a result against Everton tonight.
On paper, Spurs would be a great job for Kompany, but in reality that club is a mess. Highly reliant on Harry Kane, who will have a year left on his contract in the summer, Spurs are in a similar situation to Arsenal a few years ago, with their spending power having been hit hard by the need to finance the building of a shiny new stadium.
Kompany is a big enough name that he does not need to jump at the first job offer. At Burnley, he has everything he needs to develop his managerial career. There should be decent money to spend and Kompany has earned the right to control recruitment.
Chairman Alan Pace leaned heavily on Kompany’s knowledge of the Belgian league last summer and the ex-City captain’s contacts will be required again in the upcoming window, as long as Pace gets round to filing out accounts and the embargo is lifted.
Even if Burnley are relegated at the end of next season, Kompany is likely to have earned a fresh raft of plaudits for the way we will attack the Premier League.
(Apropos of nothing, I have a feeling we will be a bit like Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds next season - hugely fun to watch but slightly chaotic at the back due to our risky style.)
Kompany can afford to sit tight and wait for the right job. And not just the right job, but the right job at the right time.
The Spurs job will probably come up again within the next two years. Chelsea? Same. What’s the rush? Turf Moor is the best place for Kompany to be at the present time.
Are you at all worried about Kompany’s future? Let me know. You can reply directly to this email, comment below the post on Substack or tweet me @JamieSmithSport.