When Burnley made the move to sign James Tarkowski in January 2016 I was a little puzzled.
Our back line was very settled and performing well, with Keane and Ben Mee in the centre of the back four. Tarks’ time has been limited since he joined Burnley because of the formidable partnership Mee and Keane have forged, but we don’t need to fear losing Keane.
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Firstly I want to say Michael Keane is an outstanding footballer, and easily the best centre back i’ve seen play for Burnley. He will go on to play for a top four club, he will win plenty of trophies and play for England.
His behaviour whilst at Burnley has also been exemplary. We signed him in January 2015 on the strength of a successful 6 month loan period and since the 2015/16 season he has been sublime in the centre of defence. Keane’s ability on the ball, added to his physical tools make him a real all round star at centre back. He has years ahead of him to mature but already he has several mature traits that some other top defenders are incapable of. Add to this his ability to bring the ball out of defence and pick a pass – somebody is getting the real deal.
That being said, Keane is almost certain to leave the club, despite the recent Sky report that he has told the club this, we have known for a long time that was the case as he wasn’t signing a new contract. I would still say he is worth anything we can afford to give at this stage but appreciate he likely wants a fresh challenge.
With Keane departing it leaves a huge void in our back five which i believe is the best since we won the league 56 years ago. Despite this, I am confident that James Tarkowski can be the ‘next man up’ as they say in American Sports, and be a direct replacement for Keane.
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As well as having over 162 nicknames, Tarkowski is a big lad, at 6ft 3″ and 81kg. Despite this he has shown good mobility. Whilst not having ‘pace’ per se, he is clearly a mobile centre back, more so than his more diminutive partner, Ben Mee.
Tarks also possesses good awareness on the ball, and is able to carry it out of defence and deliver accurate passes. I’d say he’s more confident that even Keane at carrying the ball, however i’m sure he will learn it’s not always the right time to do it.
In his cameo’s we have seen he can be a little over exuberant in his decision making and I do feel there is a mistake in him at times, however playing alongside a rock steady Ben Mee will help him no end, Keane will testify to that.
When Keane inevitably leaves Burnley, I am confident we have a good replacement to slot in his place right away, the tricky task is finding the next James Tarkowski.