English football has endured a tough time over the course of the last few years as they have time and again come up short on the international stage despite being the host of the league that boasts of arguably the best talent in the world.
The trouble has been further compounded over the last 24 months with the retirement of experienced starlets such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and the team is now on the lookout for a midfielder who can succeed the mentioned players and function as the midfield general of the side.
One player who has constantly been on the radar is Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook, with many even going on to say that it is only a matter of time before the 19-year-old breaks into the English national team. In this segment, we take a look at the player’s style of play, his strengths as well as his weaknesses as a player.
Born on 3rd February 1997 in York, Cook joined Leeds United’s academy as a 7-year-old and gradually rose through their youth ranks at the club, capturing the imagination of numerous critics with composed performances in the middle of the park that belied his young age. The fact that he was drafted into the club’s U-18 side despite being only 15 years of age, speaks volumes about how highly rated he was at the club.
His performances were soon rewarded and the player made his senior debut for Leeds against Millwall, coming on as a 64th-minute substitute and soon Cook was a regular at the club. Over the course of the next 2 years, Cook was a constant feature in the middle of the park for the side as he made 80 appearances across numerous competitions.
His performances ensured that Leeds were willing to extend his contract, which was set to expire at the end of the 2016-17 season. However, that was not to be as Bournemouth intensified their efforts to bring one of the of the best talents in the country to the Premier League and Leeds had to relent as their unwillingness to let him leave at the start of the 2016-17 season could see him leave him on a free.
Cook was involved in Bournemouth’s pre-season and even started his side’s opening day fixture against Manchester United. However, he found subsequent playing time hard to come by and an ankle injury sustained while on England U-20 duty has kept him out of action ever since.
Style of play and strengths
A defensively-oriented player, who can function as a deep lying midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder as well as a central defender, Cook’s versatility as a player makes him a valuable asset to have for managers.
The player has been likened to former Leeds United and current Manchester City player Fabian Delph owing to similar playing styles. He possesses an unbelievable calm with the ball at his feet for a 19-year-old, can carry the ball out of defence into attack with ease and has showcased an ability to control the tempo of the game to his side’s advantage. He is authoritative in the middle of the park, is tidy with his passing and can prove to be a very tough player to dispossess off the ball for opposition, a trait hardly found in players in their late teenage years.
While his passing accuracy might have been 77% during his time at Leeds, it is by no measure a poor statistic when you consider his age and the position he was deployed in. A predominantly a defensive player, Cook is also a constant threat to the opposition with his ability to create opportunities for teammates from a deeper position as he has often been seen launching attacks from a deep position.
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Perhaps, it can be said that the aspect of his game that has impressed critics the most is his maturity as a player. He is very calm and composed in precarious situations and also possesses a good understanding of the game, which he used to a great extent to effect interceptions to disrupt the opposition’s rhythm.
The industrious midfielder might find the step up hard so young in his career, yet, the time was ripe for him to be tested in the top level and if his performances with Leeds were any indication he could become one of the elite central midfielders in the country once he settles down in Eddie Howe’s team.
Cook garnered a lot of admirers during his 2 years in the Leeds United senior team with former club player and legend Eddie Gray and Sky Sports’ Paul Merson being the most vocal of them. While Gray was quoted saying, “He is a terrific player. He plays with a maturity, he’s got good ability, good pace and he works hard in games,” former Arsenal player Merson liked what he saw in the player and commented, “He looked very young to me, he looked about 18, 19, very comfortable on the ball, tries to make things happen, very impressed with him, very impressed.”
Like any other young player, Cook too has his obvious flaws that he needs to work upon to ensure he reaches the potential and none of them are as big as his efficiency going into duels.
While he is frequent going into tackles and headed duels, he does not come out on top on most occasions and he will need to improve on his current average of 37% tackles won and 38% aerial duels won to become one of the mainstays with Bournemouth and the English national team.
Another aspect of his game that needs improvement in is his contribution in front of the goal. While he does create chances at a regular frequency, he is not a goal scoring threat yet and while this is not a major flaw for a defensive minded player, his ability to contribute a handful of goals from midfield could prove to be invaluable to his side.
Having only moved to Bournemouth in the summer of 2016 and tied to a contract that runs until the end of the 2019-20 season, Cook has his future sorted at least for a short while.
Of course, such is the competitiveness in the league that non-performances with the side will lead to him being shipped out and Cook will be keen to establish himself at Bournemouth when afforded a chance.
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