Vincent Kompany’s Burnley look broken

Vincent Kompany raised both of his hands, fronting up and acknowledging the bad result and performance. He briefly clapped and then placed his hands behind his back and stared ahead.

Looking back at him were the section of Burnley supporters who had remained in the Selhurst Park stands beyond the full-time whistle after Burnley’s 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. What he saw was a mixture of emotions. Some offered support, others gesticulated to show their frustration and anger.

Kompany eventually began the lonely walk from the far side of the ground to the dressing room. He looked like a man deep in thought, hurting. It is a sight that felt unthinkable in May when he stood on an open-top bus and saluted those fans during the Championship title parade. He had unified Burnley, creating a new identity and belief.

So much has changed again. This looks and feels like a different Burnley and that is not a good thing. It is a team devoid of confidence and lacking a clear identity. The enjoyment of watching them has seeped away. The results of the development Kompany has talked about all season are becoming trickier to spot.

Following the 5-0 home defeat to Arsenal, this felt like a turning point for supporters. The performance did not meet their minimum expectations. Palace offered a chance to right the wrongs and bounce back.

Kompany spoke in the build-up about a run of results being a must. The four games before the international break, starting with Palace, felt crucial and even with 13 games to go, the trip to London felt make or break.

They broke, and may well be broken. It has been a never-ending nightmare season that keeps finding new ways to cause despair.

It was James Trafford’s turn this week. There have been murmurings of discontent about the 21-year-old’s distribution all season but he had yet to be the guilty party for a calamity when playing out from the back. This time, Trafford was not so lucky, failing to spot the advancing Jefferson Lerma when he passed to Josh Brownhill on the edge of his box. The Palace midfielder was first to the ball and Brownhill pulled his shirt to deny a goalscoring opportunity and was sent off.

Kompany in front of the away end, flanked by Jacob Bruun Larsen, left, and Dara O’Shea (Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Should Brownhill have resisted fouling Lerma? Probably. Would it have made a difference to the outcome of the game? Not on the evidence up to that point. It was a pass that should never have been played.

The tone had been set within the opening minutes when Charlie Taylor fired a backpass from near the halfway line towards Trafford. It took an awkward bounce, the goalkeeper attempted to head it, missed, and it went past the post and out for a corner.

Burnley barely saw the ball for the next 20 minutes. When they finally began to gain possession it was fleeting or aimless. On the touchline, Kompany asked for more movement and a faster tempo but by the time Brownhill saw red, Burnley had not registered a shot. It took until David Datro Fofana’s header, which went wide, on 59 minutes for that to come.

Of the five instances a side has failed to record a shot on target in a Premier League game this season, three have been by Burnley (at Palace on Saturday, and at home to Liverpool in December and Arsenal in February). They were unfortunate that a Fofana consolation was ruled out due to Lorenz Assignon being in an offside position while interfering with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

Kompany felt the red card defined the game and that is understandable. Even though his side had been second-best, the scores were level. He saw it as a game his side was growing into, like they did in the 2-0 victory over Fulham in December.

“The overriding disappointment is the fact we had such a key event in a game where we couldn’t afford it,” he said. “That’s where inexperience can be its most costly — in high-pressure situations you can’t afford to put a foot wrong.

The debate over Trafford and Arijanet Muric continues. Trafford has needed to learn on the job while Muric watches on from the bench, replaced despite performing so well in the Championship last season.

There is a growing disconnect between this set of players and the supporters. The cult heroes of last season — including Ashley Barnes, who was out of contract at the end of last season, and loanees Nathan Tella and Ian Maatsen — never returned. Others have been loaned out, such as Anass Zaroury, restricted to a handful of cameos off the bench (Manuel Benson) or become a backup (Muric).

Tella and Maatsen were transfer deals that could not be done. Kompany felt the squad that got promoted from the Championship was not good enough for the Premier League and needed strengthening but not many of their summer signings have been of sufficient, consistent quality.


Winning is a big part of that. Fans will warm to players who are scoring match-winning goals or making important saves. It is harder to do so when results have been so bad for so long and performances range from inconsistent to not good enough.

There was some fight and resistance as the game remained scoreless until 68 minutes, but then the floodgates opened following Chris Richards’ goal and it became the first of three in 11 minutes.

Kompany will refuse to wave the white flag, but it is another week of trying to pick his players up after another significant knock.

(Top photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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