His form has largely gone under the radar, but Lewis Cook’s England call-up for the prestige friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy has brought him fully into the public consciousness.
The Bournemouth midfielder has been rewarded for his eye-catching performances since establishing himself as one of the first names on Eddie Howe’s team-sheet.
Keeping the likes of Harry Arter out of the starting XI, Cook has become a fans’ favourite at the Vitality Stadium.
With each appearance, the 21-year-old looks increasingly at home in the top-flight and is growing in maturity.
Cook had been enlisted as cover by Gareth Southgate during last November’s friendlies but didn’t feature. This time, however, he is in the 27-man squad on merit alone.
Despite being a newcomer, Cook has international pedigree.
He captained England at the Under-20 World Cup and followed Bobby Moore as only the second Englishman to lift a global trophy when the Three Lions defeated Venezuela in South Korea.
His progress has been tracked by Southgate, who wants to build a pathway from the age groups to the senior team.
It is a model that has proved successful in Germany, whose 2014 World Cup winners featured a nucleus of the dominant under-21 outfit.
Southgate has made it clear that, ideally, he wants to pick those who are performing regularly for their clubs.
With an increasingly shallow pool of players to choose from, this is not always possible.
But for the likes of Cook and James Tarkowski of Burnley, their call-ups are proof that you do not have to play for a so-called ‘big club’ to receive England recognition.
It gives hope to all those who harbour international ambitions.
Cook arrived in Dorset with high expectations after joining from Championship outfit Leeds United in the summer of 2016, but his maiden season was bedevilled by difficulties.
He lined up for his competitive debut in the 2016/17 Premier League curtain-raiser against Manchester United, only for a persistent ankle injury to sideline him for seven months.
He featured only sporadically at the back end of the campaign.
This season began similarly frustratingly for Cook, who failed to make the match-day squad for the opening fixtures.
However, he made his first Premier League start of the term against Leicester City last September and never looked back.
First, in partnership with Andrew Surman and latterly alongside Dan Gosling, it is no coincidence the Cherries’ revival has occurred with Cook at the heart of the action.
He has been instrumental in their improvement.
Cook’s style has been compared to Jack Wilshere, who spent last season on loan at Bournemouth.
Howe has credited the Arsenal man with aiding his protege’s development, culminating in this England selection.
Like Wilshere, Cook could not be described a prolific goalscorer. In fact, he has netted only two goals in 120 career appearances.
Where he shines is in possession of the football.
Linking defence with attack, Cook’s vision and ability to execute a pass are stand-out qualities. He rarely gives the ball away and always wants to move the play forward.
Occasionally he picks the wrong option, but at such a tender age mistakes are inevitable.
Despite the microscopic scrutiny involved in the top-flight, he can never be accused of hiding.
Cook always demands the ball from his team-mates, no matter how well he is playing.
Speculation has risen that Cook might be a target for some of the Premier League’s elite clubs, most notably Liverpool, who were reported to be targeting him to replace the Juventus-linked Emre Can.
Whether this interest materialises remains to be seen, but should Cook’s form continue then Howe may face a fight to keep his prized asset on the south coast.
There is little doubt from those who watch him regularly that Cook has the potential to reach the very top.
England recognition – and a spot at this summer’s World Cup – will only accelerate his rise.
Fantasy Premier League: Five players to sign for matchweek two
There is plenty of names to swoop for ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.
Fantasy Premier League returned with a bang last weekend, with a number of high-scorers handing plenty of players a solid start to the new campaign.
Popular players Sadio Mane, Richarlison and Aaron Wan-Bissaka all rewarded those who selected them on the opening weekend, each earning 12+ points, while Watford duo Roberto Pereyra (5.2%) and Jose Holebas (5.1%) also caught the eye and secured huge points for the few that opted for the Hornets pair.
Ahead of matchweek two in the Premier League, we have searched the databases for five players you should definitely look to pick up to provide your team with a boost.
Bernardo Silva: Manchester City
The news of Kevin De Bruyne’s knee injury has sent shockwaves across FPL, with 16.8% of players still having the Belgium international in their squad. If you fall into that category, you should definitely look at dropping the midfielder.
Bernardo Silva is the most likely candidate to step up for the Citizens in De Bruyne’s absence and he enters this weekend’s clash with Huddersfield Town in decent form, scoring the second goal in last week’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal.
Huddersfield conceded 58 goals last season, more than relegated pair West Brom and Swansea City, so Silva can be expected to add to his eight-point haul against the Terriers – especially as he has scored five goals in his last seven starts.
Ryan Fraser: Bournemouth
Scorer of the opening goal for Bournemouth in last weekend’s victory over Cardiff City, Ryan Fraser brought home 11 points for the few managers who had the midfielder in their side – and just 2.3% of managers have the 24-year-old in their squad.
Costing £5.5m, Fraser is perhaps a more expensive option to other creative players at lower-end Premier League sides to consider but he certainly has the form to make his outlay worthwhile – as he has been directly involved in six goals in his last six matches at the Vitality Stadium (four goals, two assists).
Ben Mee: Burnley
While the rest of the Premier League prepares for their second match, Burnley are well into their stride as Europa League qualifiers mean that Sean Dyche’s side have already played five matches this season – and they are in superb form.
The Clarets have now registered three consecutive clean sheets across all competitions following Thursday night’s 1-0 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir, although extra time could have taken some wind out of Burnley’s sails.
Hosting Watford this weekend, Ben Mee and the Burnley defence will face a stern test but history favours the hosts – who have not lost to the Hornets at Turf Moor since 2004, securing three clean sheets in the last three meetings in Lancashire.
Roberto Pereyra: Watford
Selected by 5.2% of managers heading into matchweek two, many may believe that Roberto Pereyra’s 16 point haul last weekend was just a freak occurrence after the 2-0 win over Brighton but the stats suggest that is not the case.
Pereyra has now hit four goals in his last five Premier League games at Vicarage Road and now faces the challenge of transferring that form into away matches – and a game against a tired Burnley side who played 120 minutes in midweek is the ideal opportunity for him to shine.
Watford need to build upon last weekend’s win as they have a tough run of fixtures coming up against Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, with Pereyra’s attacking flair potentially providing the key to breaking down a resilient Burnley defence.
Neil Etheridge: Cardiff City
In last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth, Neil Etheridge became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty on his Premier League debut since Allan McGregor in 2013 by denying Callum Wilson from the spot – earning six points in the process.
The Welsh side are back at home this weekend against a Newcastle United outfit who continue to suffer under the tyranny of Mike Ashley. Defeat last weekend against Spurs was not surprising but has raised the pressure for Rafael Benitez’s side.
28-year-old Etheridge is a good bet to pick up further points this weekend against a Magpies side that scored just 39 goals in 38 matches last term, the lowest tally of any top-ten side excluding Burnley.
Three things learnt from Bournemouth’s win over Cardiff: Fraser is key
Howe’s side kicked off the new campaign in solid fashion.
Bournemouth began their 2018-19 campaign in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Cardiff, finally winning a matchday one fixture.
Eddie Howe’s side had not won on the opening weekend in each of their previous three seasons in the top-flight but goals from Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson put the hosts in the driving seat for three points – despite a first-half penalty miss.
The Cherries will head to West Ham next weekend in good confidence and can take some key lessons from their performances. Here, we have identified three things we learnt from Bournemouth’s win.
King & Wilson’s partnership
Scoring 16 goals last season, eight each, Joshua King and Callum Wilson played a key-part in Bournemouth’s push for stability once again. The Cherries will face another stern test this season, particularly due to the free-spending sides around them, so it was positive to see the duo shine.
The stand-out moment came in the build-up for the opening goal, where King teed the ball across for Wilson on the right side and he then cut the ball back into the middle for Fraser to latch onto and tuck home comfortably.
Both boasting bags of pace, the duo kept Cardiff’s defence under threat throughout the match and Wilson finished the game with a goal and an assist.
Fraser is the star
Entering the campaign on the back of a decent pre-season, 24-year-old Fraser wasted no time opening his account for the season and maintaining a superb run that extends from last term – as he has now played a direct part in six goals in his last eight matches at the Vitality Stadium.
Against Cardiff, Fraser was heavily involved in everything positive that the Cherries created going forward and his goal was just a fraction of his fine performance. He popped up in space all over the field, causing the Bluebirds plenty of problems and not shirking his defensive responsibilities.
Now with over 100 league appearances for Bournemouth, Fraser could be a crucial part of Eddie Howe’s side this season and the relationship he could create with Wilson and King is very exciting.
“If we can keep Ryan [Fraser] fit he’ll be a big player for us this season. We needed this win after a poor start last year.”
Penalty woes continue
Last season Bournemouth were far from prolific from the penalty spot and Harry Arter’s missed spot-kick against Southampton in early April was the third that the Cherries had missed in a row. While we saw plenty of penalties at the World Cup, Howe seems to have avoided penalty practice in training.
To be fair though, Callum Wilson’s first-half penalty against Cardiff was not a horrendous effort. He went low for the right-hand corner and was denied by a brilliant save from Neil Etheridge – although if you were to criticise you could argue he could have put more power behind it.
Fortunately, the miss did not come back to haunt the hosts but it certainly could have done, especially as Neil Warnock’s side looked a lot more threatening in the second period.
One winner and loser from Bournemouth’s win over Cardiff
Bournemouth’s campaign started superbly with a comfortable victory.
Bournemouth won a matchday one fixture for the first time in the Premier League at the fourth time of asking after a 2-0 victory over Cardiff.
Ryan Fraser continued his good form from pre-season to open the lead before Callum Wilson doubled their advantage in the second half, redeeming himself after seeing a first-half penalty saved by Cardiff stopper Neil Etheridge.
Eddie Howe’s side will now head to face West Ham next weekend full of confidence and will take some key lessons into that match. Here, we have identified one winner and loser from the victory.
Winner: Ryan Fraser
Catching the eye in pre-season, Ryan Fraser entered the campaign with good form and continued a fine record that carries over from last term – as he has now been directly involved in six goals in his last eight matches at the Vitality Stadium, scoring four and contributing two assists.
The 24-year-old has now scored a quarter of his 12 clubs goals in that period, from 112 league appearances, and it looks like he could be the shining light for Eddie Howe’s side as they seek top-flight stability once again this season.
Scotland international Fraser will certainly face competition for regular opportunities in his midfield role following the signings of Jefferson Lerma and David Brooks but he has certainly put himself right at the top of the pecking order.
“If we can keep Ryan [Fraser] fit he’ll be a big player for us this season. We needed this win after a poor start last year.”
Loser: Lewis Cook
Handed an extended break after his involvement at the Toulon Tournament with England’s U21 side, and also on the standby list for Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, Lewis Cook did not feature today and may now face a test to force his way back into the line-up.
He is certainly one of the best players within the Cherries squad but the midfield quartet selected by Howe for the match against Cardiff looked strong and composed throughout, keeping the Welsh side quiet and pegged back inside their own half during the opening 45 minutes.
The second half saw Cardiff look much more threatening and the midfield then dropped back to aid the defenders. If Cook is to be one of the first names on the teamsheet this season, he will need to hit the ground running on his return.
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