Burnley fans will have been worried when losing Michael Keane to Everton last summer. But the transformation of once bit part player James Tarkowski has been incredible, writes Sam May.
The 25-year-old was tasked of filling the boots of Michael Keane and he has done just that. Tarkowski’s meteoric rise in Sean Dyche’s back line has made all the difference for the Clarets in 2017.
His defensive presence is there to see and was most evident earlier on in the season when Burnley defeat Crystal Palace 1-0 when Frank De Boer was in charge of the Eagles. He managed to muscle out Christian Benteke and keep him quiet all game, claiming the man of the match award.
The defender yet again shown his authority and helped Burnley to a 1-1 draw at Anfield, despite the Reds 71% possession and 35 shots on target. He commanded his area and stood up to the task.
Tarkowski has the 2nd most defensive clearances per game (8.8) and the most shots blocked per game (1.7). He is also in the top ten among qualifying central defenders in total successful tackles (16) and interceptions (15) in the Premier League this season. He has made 74 clearances, more than any other central defender and 15 blocks.
A bargain buy from Brentford in February 2016, he has proved to be one of the best buys in the clubs history. After losing Keane to Everton, the question remained whether or not Burnley would use their lump sum for Keane to fill the opening in central defence. Instead, they built around the heart of the defence with purchases at left and right back along with the acquisition of Jack Cork to sit in a defensive midfield position.
Tarkowski’s growth will only continue under manager Sean Dyche. So how long will it be before he finally gets an England call-up?