Why Leicester Should Spend Big on Burnley's James Tarkowski

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Burnley FC v Sheffield United - Premier League
Burnley FC v Sheffield United - Premier League / Pool/Getty Images
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Despite its disastrous ending, Leicester CIty's 2019/2020 season was pretty spectacular all things considered.

After several years of bold claims and bluster following their impossible 2016 title win, the Foxes finally made good on their promise to break up the Premier League's big six by securing a fifth placed finish.

The promise of Europa League football puts them in a strong position during an important transfer window. With a resurgent Arsenal, an ambitious Everton and a vengeful Wolves breathing down their necks, the Foxes can not afford any recruitment slip ups.

Leicester City missed out on a Champions League spot to Manchester United on the final day of the Premier League season
Leicester City missed out on a Champions League spot to Manchester United on the final day of the Premier League season / Pool/Getty Images

One area that needs upgrading is centre-back and a ghost from transfer windows past has been frequently touted as one of Brendan Rodgers' top targets.

In the immediate aftermath of Harry Maguire's sale 12 months ago, Leicester turned their attention to several Premier League stalwarts. Nathan Aké and Lewis Dunk were targeted with both Bournemouth and Brighton demanding ridiculous money for their star defensive assets. Another well known face on the club's radar was Burnley's James Tarkowski and reports suggest that the Foxes will once again make a ploy for the Englishman in the next month.

Tarkowski is in the top ten centre-backs in the country, make no mistake. Since signing from Brentford in 2015 he has developed into the Clarets' leading light, helping Sean Dyche's side to work miracles on a shoestring budget.

He is an imperious stopper and while other centre-backs are more technically gifted, few can hold a candle to him when it comes to bread and butter defending.

Tarkowski is one of the Premier League's best centre-backs
Tarkowski is one of the Premier League's best centre-backs / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

No one made more clearances (329) than him in the Premier League last season and he also led the way in aerial battles won (215). Tarkowski's incredible numbers do not stop there either. He finished fifth for blocks, fourth for % of aerials won, did not make a single error leading to a goal and was also one of just 15 players to not miss a single second of action for their respective sides.

With numbers like this, it's no surprise that Leicester are interested.

Blindly following the stats does not tell the whole story though. Despite his evident talent, does Tarkowski really fit the brief of what Leicester are looking for in a centre-back?

There is question marks over whether he possesses the technical acumen to play under Rodgers. The Foxes' current defensive duo, Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans saw a lot of the ball last season, both finishing in the top ten for total touches. They also each registered close to 1000 more touches than Leicester's top target.

This is a good reflection of the stark differences between Burnley and Leicester's passing style and Tarkowski would need some to adjust after years of playing direct football at Turf Moor.

Rodgers' shift to a 3-5-2 towards the end of the season may offer Tarkowski some solace. During these games, at least one of the trio of centre-back got away with touches per game numbers close to what Tarkowski averaged per 90 minutes last season. Potentially then, the Burnley star could focus on his defensive duties and leave Evans and Soyuncu to progress the ball into midfield if the Foxes completed the deal and used a back three.

The principle sticking point for this move will be Burnley's £50m asking price. Dyche is demanding more than double to club's current record sale - as he has every right to.

The asking price is partly an indication of how highly he is regarded in Lancashire but also reflects how the record transfer fee that they received for Maguire is becoming an albatross around Leicester's neck.

Tarkowski should be top of Leicester's shopping list
Tarkowski should be top of Leicester's shopping list / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Their Premier League rivals know they have money and know they need a centre-back. Burnley have every right to milk the Foxes dry just as Brighton and Bournemouth tried to last summer.

So, what should Leicester do? Should they really sit back, present their teats and accept a milking from the ginger Mourinho? On this occasion, they may just have to. Of course, they will try to force the asking price down but even at its current level it represents okay business in a transfer market that remains inflated in spite of the COVID-19 crisis that was supposed to 'reset' football finances.

Despite his expensive price tag, the move makes a lot of sense. Tarkowski is one of the best centre-backs that the club can realistically obtain and would add further steel to a Foxes defence that is already one of the stingiest in the Premier League.


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