Undervalued Premier League Talents: James Tarkowski

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Written by Charlie Ellis & Rhys Desmond

Summer 2022 looks set to be one of the most fascinating transfer windows in recent memory, with many clubs finally willing to splash the cash after a rough couple of years with COVID. Not only that, but several big stars are set to become free agents, and many of Europe’s most dominant figures remain hungry for a move. It’s these moves that have, inevitably, taken the bulk of the media’s attention. But for every Sadio Mane, Antonio Rudiger and Robert Lewandowski who may be on the move this summer, there are also several lesser talked about players who could be made available for cheap. We’ve already seen Aston Villa striking for gold in identifying Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos as under the radar signings to improve their ranks, but others remain on the market.

So with that, we analyze some of the very best Premier League stars who remain undervalued gems worthy of greater attention this summer. In this article, it’s all about Burnley’s James Tarkowski.

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For a team in the relegation zone, Burnley conceded an extremely low amount of goals in 2021-22. They miraculously managed to concede fewer than Manchester United, Leicester City, and six other teams that finished above them in the table (53). Their desperate problems leading to relegation came instead at the other end of the pitch, where they scored the second fewest goals (34). This, in large part, was due to the magnificence of Burnley’s defensive spine of Nick Pope, Ben Mee, and of course – James Tarkowski. Tarkowski is a defensive warrior, a fantastic leader and organizer, and excels in more aspects of the game than he will ever be given credit for. Not only did the Burnley man make more clearances (216) + blocks (92) in the league than any other player, but he also played an important part of Burnley’s long-passing game and progression through the thirds.

Now at the age of 29, Tarkowski remains one of the most sought after defenders to play in the Premier League, particularly with his contract at Burnley coming to an end. Just about every mid-table Premier League side has been linked to the Clarets’ vice-captain, with Everton reportedly leading the charge.

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In a possession-based team, Tarkowski could easily improve upon his 62.5% long pass completion, which already stands in good faith in the league. A beast in the air and a beast at the back, Tarkowski’s main perks do however come at the defensive end, where he’s led the league in clearances (2019-20, 2021-22), aerial duels won (2019-20), and even successful pressures (2020-21). As a Burnley defender, he’s bound to rack up the defensive numbers, but his percentage points paint the picture of a player more than capable of holding his own at any Premier League club – even the very best.

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Going beyond statistics, Tarkowski clearly has the psyche and mentality required to play for a big-hitter. The bravery he exudes in the defensive third is practically unrivalled by the centre-backs in the league, putting his body in the way of anything and everything. His positional awareness and defensive IQ have also been essential to his six-year-stay with the Clarets, and he could fantastically fulfill the role of a rock-solid stopper in any top level team. So with that, here are four of the best options for the sought-after defender, among a myriad of interested parties.

EVERTON

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First on the list, James Tarkowski should take interest in Everton as much as they remain interested in making him their own in 2022-23. Everton are without a real leader at centre-back, capable of fully organizing the defensive line toward solidity. They’ve adapted to a back-three on a number of occasions to fulfill defensive holes, even going so far as to play Seamus Coleman as a right-sided centre-back to re-acclaim leadership and organization within their defense. But defensive reinforcements are evidently needed, especially for a team that conceded 66 goals last campaign – the fifth worst in the division. Ben Godfrey remains a promising sweeper, capable of possessing the speed and awareness to match up with a solid aerial presence alongside him. But he’s been missing that sound and steady partner to bring out the best in his own development, with Michael Keane often quick to dive into challenges, and Yerry Mina unable to achieve prolonged fitness. With a sweeper keeper and excellent long passer in Jordan Pickford in behind, James Tarkowski could easily achieve the same kind of partnership he had with Nick Pope, and play in a team that suits his ‘Stopper’ like characteristics.

Tottenham Hotspur

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Of all their transfer necessities this summer, a centre-back has to be first on the shopping list for Tottenham Hotspur. In an Antonio Conte styled back-three, there becomes little room to hide for a centre-back, and they must possess the necessary tactical IQ in and out of possession. Cristian Romero can be reasonably expected to fulfill the role of Conte’s first choice on the right side of the back three until a new face enters the door, where he could then adapt into being the ‘Libero’ of the side. But Conte loves to sign older, experienced pros when making transfers, and Tarkowski is a realistic and attainable option that would instantly improve their defensive organization. The problem would be in accumulating regular minutes when Romero and Dier perhaps fit the Conte mold more, whilst being a fairly-right-footed footballer who would be better served in the positions of lesser need. What Conte and Spurs should be after is a left-sided-centre-back, and we already suggested Obite Evan Ndicka in the past. Nevertheless, if Tottenham came calling, it would be difficult for James Tarkowski to resist.

Newcastle United

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Unlike Tottenham, Newcastle are in greater need of a right-sided-centre-back this summer, having already added the mighty (and left-footed) Dan Burn to their ranks in January. As we noted in our discussion of Pascal Groß, Newcastle would be wise to continue their shrewd transfer business in securing signatures of accomplished Premier League players, rather than splashing the cash on big-money signings and risking FFP punishment. James Tarkowski would need little time to adapt to some of the long-passing ideologies Newcastle still exude out from the back, in trying to play forwards to the likes of Chris Wood (who Tarkowski played with for years at Burnley), or danger men like Allan-Saint-Maximin. He’d also improve their defensive assembly, and add the necessary leadership in place of club captain Jamaal Lascelles. Having missed out on Diego Carlos to Aston Villa, Newcastle would be wise to swoop in for the relegated Tarkowski, and achieve one more smart summer signing.

West Ham UNITED

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Long touted as a potential West Ham United transfer target, James Tarkowski could finally make his move to East London in 2022. West Ham have offered a sense of consistency and solidity that not many others have found in recent years, inspiring them toward a second successive European quest next season. Competition for places remains essential if they are to continue their ever-improving standards, and Tarkowski’s professionalism and astute anticipation would immediately guide him into David Moyes’ plans.

The 29-year-old completely personifies the robust, aerially dominant mentality of the Hammers under David Moyes, and would add the necessary quality to improve upon Craig Dawson’s partnership with Kurt Zouma or Issa Diop. For that matter, Dawson is now 32 years old, and will slowly start to lose his ability to play week in and week out for a club challenging for European glory. The same could be said for 34-year-old Angelo Ogbonna, who suffered through injuries in 2021-22. Tarkowski on the other hand is just leaving what would normally be described as a centre-back’s peak age, and still has many years to solidify his Premier League legacy. West Ham would be the perfect place for the Burnley defender to do exactly that.


CONCLUSION

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James Tarkowski could easily end up playing in the Championship for Burnley in 2022-23, but that would feel like a major missed opportunity for every Premier League team. At the age of 29, Tarkowski has the quality and leadership to offer any team an array of quality and experience, and should be on his way to another Premier League side soon, at an incredible cut-price.


So there it is! Why James Tarkowski remains one of the most undervalued and underrated talents available for cheap in the transfer market this summer. Be sure to comment below if there’s a player you’d like to see analyzed next, and don’t forget to follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

– Written by Charlie Ellis & Rhys Desmond.

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