Analysing James Tarkowski’s impressive display during Burnley’s victory over Crystal Palace
When Michael Keane, who was so influential in leading from the back for Burnley last season, switched to Everton early in the summer there were big question marks over who would take over.
The natural course of action would have been to re-invest the £30million fee received back in the transfer market to look for a suitable and proven replacement, but Sean Dyche opted not to do so.
And – despite being a decision met with some uncertainty by Burnley fans – it has certainly paid dividends so far this year as it has given James Tarkowski an opportunity to prove himself.
The 24-year-old has taken the slow route to the top of the English game, moving from Oldham to Brentford and then Burnley 18 months ago, and it’s only now that he’s really coming into his own.
At Turf Moor on Sunday afternoon he was nothing short of exceptional, repelling anything that Crystal Palace had to throw at him as Burnley managed to hold onto Chris Wood’s opportunist early opener.
Tarkowski – along with fellow centre-back Ben Mee – nullified the main and potent threat of Christian Benteke throughout the 90 minutes, out-muscling him and giving him no room to breathe in the area.
The centre-back’s height – being an inch or two taller than the Belgian – made it his responsibility to deal with the inevitable aerial assault and he relished the task, giving Benteke just as good as he got.
The fact that he made 18 clearances just goes to show how much of a mammoth display he put in yesterday, making the most in a Premier League game of any player since December 2016, and he added five successful aerial duels and four critical blocks in an outstanding performance.
His colossal afternoon was perfectly summed up when his last-ditch slide managed to hook Scott Dann’s goalbound effort off the line as Palace applied the pressure on the hosts in the second-half.
It was this desire that ultimately secured the three points for Burnley, moving them up to seventh in the early season table, and if he carries on this run of form he’ll start to alert the attention of the top sides.