Guardiola’s ruthless machine teaches old favorites Kompany a hard lesson

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Manchester City had won their last 10 games against Burnley by an aggregate score of 34-1. All of those games were against teams managed by Sean Dyche, a very different team style than Vincent Kompany’s, but six goals later, some things never change. The Belgian has transformed the Clarets from a dour but efficient team into an exciting and free-running team, but the reality of what lies ahead for him next season became clear on Saturday night.

Related: Haaland scores hat-trick as Manchester City beat Kompany’s Burnley 6-0

Promotion is essentially guaranteed, it would take almighty death to give up their 16-point lead in third place with a game in hand in the final two months of the season. Their dominance of the league allowed Kompany to select a near-full-strength team at the Etihad. The fans greeted him again by serenading their former captain, but this was a business event for Kompany.

Unfortunately for Burnley and their manager, hat-trick hobbyists Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are a couple of cuts better than their usual opponents. The visitors showed early on the same intensity they had shown in their 37 league games but quickly found they needed more than work pace and clever positional play to keep City at bay.

Burnley have scored two goals a game in the Championship while having the best defense but that counted for nothing. City can make mistakes going around the back and constant pressure from the Burnley forward line ensured they made mistakes and gifted opens to the Clarets, but they failed to capitalize on what few opportunities they had.

Dyche-era stalwarts Ashley Barnes, Jack Cork and Charlie Taylor may have had flashbacks to their Premier League days off the bench as they watched City enjoy 80% possession in the opening 15 minutes. Burnley are used to having the majority of the ball, but Kompany knew that wouldn’t be possible against the Premier League champions and is intelligent enough to recognize that a gung-ho attitude could take them against an elite side would have made open and opted for Man To Go Man on City to try to contain them.

Related: Manchester City 6-0 Burnley: FA Cup quarter-finals – how it happened

City were unable to break Burnley early on with ease, resulting in Pep Guardiola calling Haaland for a talk on the touchline in the 24th minute to provide instructions and tweak his role to be on the last man to be after playing lower at times in the opening quarter. It paid off as Julián Álvarez sent the ball for Haaland to knock home the first and he added a second thanks to a spot-on Phil Foden cross. Those are tough lessons when you’re up against one of the best teams in Europe. City made the best of being given a split second of space that Álvarez and Foden could use without hesitation and Burnley couldn’t react.

It was a chance for Kompany to show Burnley could make the step up. When they come up there will be more games like this and they have to accept their role as underdogs. At half-time both sides had accumulated five shots, with Burnley having more on target, but City had used both of their chances to show the difference in the last third. By full time, City had quadrupled their number of shots, while Burnley had a lone effort after the break as the gap became apparent in lessons.

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City’s dominance began to show more clearly in the second half as Burnley paid for their efforts with more goals conceded. The hosts were given more space to work, and they were more than happy to use it. Producing Kompany’s high pace in the Premier League for 90 minutes and 38 consecutive times will be difficult. He will improve the squad in the summer but may need to be more pragmatic against the elite.

The loss was a brutal realization for Kompany after a nearly flawless season, but he knows it’s a learning curve for him and his players. He spent his final years at City learning from Guardiola and learned another valuable lesson about defeats. Kompany has five months to decide on the top flight but that may not be enough to develop a plan to stop Haaland and City.

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