James Tarkowski: Burnley defender has exceeded expectations at Turf Moor
Burnley fans will have been worried when losing Michael Keane to Everton last summer. But the transformation of the once fringe player James Tarkowski has been incredible.
The 25-year-old was tasked with 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 the 2017-18 season.
His defensive presence is there to see and was most evident earlier on in the season when Burnley defeated Chelsea 3-2 in the opening game of the 2017/18 campaign when he produced a resolute display at Stamford Bridge.
He kicked on from there as his side defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 with Frank de Boer being in charge of the Eagles then. He managed to outmuscle Christian Benteke and keep him quiet all game, claiming the man of the match award.
The defender yet again showed his authority and helped Burnley to a 1-1 draw at Anfield earlier in the season, despite the Reds' 71% possession and 35 shots on goal. He commanded his area and stood up to the task.
Tarkowski has made 21 appearances for Burnley (1890 minutes) and is ranked amongst the top 10 defenders in the Premier League. He has made 33 interceptions, 160 clearances- more than any other central defender and 36 blocks.
His main strengths are his blocking and his aerial prowess and this has been evident throughout the campaign so far. Burnley are starting to rely on him as evidenced by the game against Spurs when his side was humbled by Poch's men and when they threw away a two-goal advantage against Manchester United.
Kevin Long deputised in his absence but suffered a nightmarish spell.
Arsenal and Chelsea were keen on Tarkowski's services during the January transfer window, but the centre-back put pen-to-paper on a new deal with the Clarets.
A bargain buy from Brentford in February 2016, he has proved to be one of the best buys in the club's history. After losing Keane to Everton, the question remained whether or not Burnley would use their money to fill the hole 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.
The defender is eligible to play for Poland through his paternal grandfather, and their manager Adam Nawalka is keen on the defender to join his squad.
Tarkowski’s growth will only continue under manager Sean Dyche. So how long will it be before he finally gets an England call-up?