James Tarkowski

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What we love about Burnley

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Burnley is one of the truly inspirational stories of the Premier League.

Currently sitting 10th in the league table while the football world waits for the coronavirus to pass, the Clarets are a model for true steady growth. While they haven’t burst to the top like Leicester City has, the club is still a fascinating story

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While the history of the club is a story in and of itself, the Clarets are also currently a club to study, with both a chairman and manager who present positive ideals and embody the identity of the club itself.


Sean Dyche with his Premier League Manager of the Month award for February (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Premier League)

Sean Dyche: The Burnley boss, the second-longest serving manager in the Premier League just 18 days behind Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe – the man he succeeded – is a model for consistency, mentality, and hard work. In fact, his rise to the managerial position itself is a perfect representation of what he brings to the club. After being unfairly sacked by Watford during an ownership change, he joined the England U-21 setup as a temporary backroom staff member, saying at the time of the ability to have a step back, “When you are in a job, sometimes you can get so into it that you forget what’s going on in the wider world. It’s nice to have a little window to go and reflect and look at others, share stories and practices and get a visual on it.”

That step back lasted three months. With Howe leaving for Bournemouth, he signed on at Burnley and has guided the club to steady growth ever since. His first full season saw Burnley record its best start to a league season in club history, and it was all uphill from there, promoted that same season with a second-place finish despite ridiculous financial constraints that saw the club spend just $500,000 on one player the previous summer, forcing Dyche to use just 23 players the entire campaign.

“The main thing you have to get right as a chairman is to pick the right manager,” said Burnley chairman Mike Garlick upon his hire. “If you do that you are halfway there at least. Sean has been key.” Words have rarely been more prophetic. Having just won the Premier League Manager of the Month award for February, it’s likely that Dyche will eventually leave for a bigger job, he has already given his all to this club and Burnley will forever remember what he brought to the team.

Home grown, working class mentality: The Clarets are the embodiment of the working class Premier League fans, a truly homegrown club. Take this quote from the chairman.

“I was born in the town, about 400 yards from the club. I went to school there, then went to uni and came to London to seek my Fortune. When I was 18 I told my dad I wanted to be chairman of Burnley one day. He said: ‘You must be bloody crackers son.’ It was a lifelong ambition to do this. I think one of the reasons we do so well is that myself and the other directors are all fairly local and we all really care. We are not there to pick up a wage. No director gets paid. You get a night in a hotel paid for but that’s it. I proudly state that I am the Premier League’s poorest owner. Everyone else is a billionaire, virtually. But I am proud of that and what we have achieved because we have had to sweat every asset both on and off the pitch to get the best from it.”

The club is truly local from the top down. And they don’t take anything for granted, not even the recent success and growth. When asked what it means to be established in the Premier League, Garlick said, “No such thing.” They are aware of the season-to-season volatility and the possibility that at any moment all the years of building could be torn down with one bad stretch of games. That’s truly the club of the working class.

Burnley chairman Mike Garlick alongside manager Sean Dyche (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

To rock bottom and back up: Burnley nearly didn’t make it out of the 1987 season alive. A founding member of the Football League in 1888, Burnley was relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time in club history in 1985, having suffered five relegations in a fifteen-year span. With newly-introduced promotion and relegation from the semi-pro ranks and the professional levels, it was thought that dropping out of the Fourth Division and into the Football Conference could be devastating for a club to the point where it could cause some to dissolve. With that in mind, after a horrid season that saw the club knocked out of both Cup competitions in the first round, only victory over Leyton Orient on the final day of the campaign plus a loss by Lincoln City saved the club from dropping out of the professional ranks altogether.

That game lives in club lore, as does support of the fanbase around that famous day. The listed attendance for the game is over 15,000 fans at Turf Moor, nearly 5,000 more than any other game that season and only the second time the club recorded a five-digit attendance figure for any league game.

After five more seasons in the Fourth Division, they would win the league and earn a promotion that would set off a period of growth still being experienced today.

James TarkowskiA player who could have left the club for a bigger job on multiple occasions, the 27-year-old defender continues to quietly prove himself one of the best in the Premier League. His best season was the 2017/18 campaign, earning himself a pair of caps for the England national team in pre-World Cup friendlies. This season, he is the fifth-best central defender in the Premier League according to WhoScored.com. Tarkowski makes his hay with a large workload of thankless defensive contributions, among the top 10 in the Premier League in both  clearances and blocks per game. A hard worker with little recognition, Tarkowski is another who embodies Burnley’s mentality under Dyche.

Burnley defender James Tarkowski during a February match against Bournemouth (Photo by Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

2019-20 Premier League Best XI so far

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With the coronavirus shutdown of all major European soccer, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the players who have stood out to this point as the table begins to truly take shape. Liverpool is just a hair away from securing the 2019/20 title, but not everything is about the Reds – although a lot of it still is.

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With that in mind, here’s the frontrunners at each position for Premier League Team of the Season, with the players who could also make a leap into the conversation with a strong finish to the campaign, if they ever get the chance.

Premier League Best XI

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Also considered: Alisson Becker

Harsh on Alisson, who is leading the way for one of the best back lines in Premier League history, but Dean Henderson has been just as brilliant in far more difficult circumstances. The Manchester United loanee has starred at Sheffield United, prompting talk that the Red Devils should cut his loan short and instill the 23-year-old’s loan short and bring him on to take over for a struggling David De Gea. While many have labeled the shot-stopper “England’s future number one,” it’s entirely possible that Henderson would have been the starter had Euro 2020 not been postponed until next season, and it’s certainly fathomable that the youngster could still be first-choice once the tournament arrives. There are recent rumors among English tabloids that Manchester United is preparing a new contract for Henderson worth nearly $120,000 a week, which would be more than backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero currently makes and about equal with new midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Ederson is normally considered part of this list as well, but he just hasn’t performed up to the level required this season considering how he sparkled in Manchester City’s title campaign last time around.

Left-back: Andrew Robertson
Also considered: Ben Chilwell, Lucas Digne, Jonny

While Robertson doesn’t burst off the page like his fellow full-back teammate Alexander-Arnold (more on that in a moment), he is still far and away the best left-back in the league. The former Hull City man who joined Liverpool for just $9 million back in 2017 has flourished into one of the world’s best, and his chemistry with Alexander-Arnold is growing the two into a legendary pairing. He is a long-ball master, delivering 2.4 per game, the most of any left-back in the league and third among full-backs to just Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Also considered: Ricardo Pereira, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did you know the Premier League was absolutely stacked at right-back? If not for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is quickly establishing himself as the best full-back in the world and has a shot at a place among the greatest of all-time should he maintain this form for a number of years, the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Aaron Wan-Bissaka would actually have a legitimate shot at this award. Pereira’s performance this season has been so good he’s earned himself links to Real Madrid, and both he and Wan-Bissaka are tackle masters who are blowing away the rest of the league in that category (both are the only men not named Wilfried Ndidi to average over 4 successful tackles per match). Throw in Kyle Walker and wing-back Matt Doherty, and the ranks of Premier League right-backs are loaded. Too bad TAA trumps them all, with a gargantuan 12 assists this season and 2.6 key passes per game, more than double the total of any other right-back.

Center-Back: Virgil Van Dijk, Harry Maguire
Also considered: Caglar Soyuncu, Wily Boly, James Tarkowski

Selecting one of these players is a no-brainer. Virgil van Dijk is far and away the best center-back in the Premier League, and maybe the world. Selecting his partner is far more difficult.

WhoScored’s second-highest rated player at the position this season is Wily Boly, but like Scott McTominay, thanks to injuries he has not played enough this season to qualify. Caglar Soyuncu is another popular choice, and the youngster no doubt has been a pleasant surprise next to Jonny Evans at Leicester City, one of the league’s rising stars at the position. But Harry Maguire lived up to his price tag this season and that’s no small feat as the world’s most expensive defender. His positioning is exquisite, and while he hasn’t displayed van Dijk levels of domination – a slight slip in form through the months of October and November prove that – he has done fabulously at Manchester United, racking up a complete 2,610-minute Premier League season to this point and playing significant minutes through the other Cup competitions as well while the Red Devils struggle with injuries all over the pitch.

Defensive Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi
Also considered: Scott McTominay, Declan Rice, Jorginho

Wilfred Ndidi is a midfield destroyer the likes of which we haven’t seen since…well, since N’Golo Kante did it first at Leicester City just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t take away from the otherworldly performance that Ndidi has put forth this season, given that Kante earned himself Ballon d’Or nominations for his performance in Leicester City’s title-winning season. See this from November:

Ndidi is completing 4.4 successful tackles a game, only second to Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy who has only appeared in 12 games this season. He is doing so in a vicious pressing system that centrals around the Nigerian’s ability to cover an insane amount of ground, easing the pressing load on the other players as to not tire them out. Need an idea how important Ndidi is to the team? Of the five matches he missed in 2020 due to a knee injury, Leicester City won exactly zero of them, with three losses and two draws. He’s so important to the squad that Pep Guardiola game-planned for him successfully.

Scott McTominay has been a revelation this season, taking the next step into one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, but he missed too many games due to injury. Declan Rice continues to push forward as one of West Ham’s best assets, but has been unable to assert the same table-climbing effect on his side that Ndidi exerts on Leicester City.

Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Kevin De Bruyne
Also considered: Joao Moutinho, John Fleck

Kevin de Bruyne is everyone’s first choice on this squad. Leading the league 17 assists and producing scintillating displays nearly every week. The Belgian has displayed positional flexibility, often best sitting behind the striker in an attacking midfield role but also moving back into central midfield to receive the ball deeper or shifting out wide to make use of his crossing technique. De Bruyne will likely battle with van Dijk for Player of the Season should the awards eventually end up given out.

On the other end, Jordan Henderson is a perfect foil for de Bruyne. The Liverpool captain has been gargantuan this season, moving from cult hero to widespread household name. Henderson is a lynchpin of the highest order, calming the side and bringing structure to the buildup while helping defensively when Liverpool is hit on the counter.

The others considered from this position deserve to be mentioned. Joao Moutinho, along with midfield partner Ruben Neves, has turned the Wolves midfield into a dominant force no matter who they play. While they don’t necessarily hold the ball for endless spells of possession, they have been vicious when moving forward and relentless when shielding the back line. John Fleck, meanwhile, has been the other Sheffield United standout this season alongside Henderson, and his performance this season must be mentioned given where the Blades sit in the table.

Attacking Midfield: Jack Grealish
Also considered: James Maddison, Mason Mount

As far as players who are the most important to their team, Jack Grealish is unquestionably tops of that list. The Aston Villa midfielder has produced spectacular performance after spectacular performance this season, often the best player on the field despite Villa’s overall struggles. With his current club potentially going down should the season be concluded, Grealish is being linked with teams scattered across the top of the Premier League table and rightly so. At just 24 years old, Grealish has grown into a flourishing attacker who excels at taking players on and creating chances out of nothing.

Mason Mount has been fabulous for Chelsea this season, but injuries have hampered his campaign. The Blues should nonetheless be encouraged about the bright future of their young star. James Maddison has been equally fantastic for Leicester City in a similar role with freedom around the pitch, but he doesn’t quite carry his team like Grealish does. The youth on this list should be encouraging for the long-term health of attacking systems in the English top flight.

Forward: Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy
Also considered: Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Adama Traore

Absolutely the most difficult choice of any position here, some high-profile players have missed out on a place in the team, but there’s just no way to leave out the two men at this spot. Jamie Vardy leads the league in goals, and while things have dried up somewhat until his brace against Aston Villa last time out, his goal conversion rate is still at historic levels. The dry spell has lowered his xG that at one point sat above the +6 mark, but he still has converted chances at a +4.76 rate this season, bagging 19 goals on a 14.24 xG mark. While Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah have also been prolific goalscorers, they just haven’t finished at the absurd rate that Jamie Vardy has produced.

Those two also just don’t equate to the importance that Sadio Mane presents to Liverpool. The presence of Gabriel Jesus means that Sergio Aguero could be missed and Manchester City hardly misses a beat, and while that shouldn’t take away from what the Argentine means to the heartbeat of that squad, it just doesn’t stack up to Mane’s vital presence at Liverpool. Adama Traore has burst onto the scene the second half of the campaign, injecting life into an occasionally stagnant Wolves attack and earning himself a place on this list, but he still struggles with consistency and doesn’t quite equate to the massive stature of the Liverpool winger.

Newcastle cannot find way past Burnley

Newcastle v. Burnley recap and video highlights
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Wasteful Newcastle United drew Burnley 0-0 at St. James’ Park on Saturday

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The Magpies enjoyed a rare day of superior possession and out-attempted Burnley 21-8, but sit six points behind the ninth-place Clarets.

Newcastle is seven points clear of 18th-placed Aston Villa, who has a match-in-hand.


Three things we learned

1. Two dull sides fail: Newcastle and Burnley entered this game with horrific stats. Burnley entered the game passing at under 70 percent, with Newcastle the closest team to that 20th-ranked number. On the flip side, Burnley had been kept off the bottom of the possession table by Bruce’s packed-in Magpies. Newcastle showed a superiority, but the Clarets will happily take an away point.

2. Burnley block party a success: Newcastle’s more attacking system worked well in the first half, with the Magpies out-attempting Burnley 10-3. But Clarets goalkeeper Nick Pope only had to make two saves and a couple of collections because his players got in the way of so many Newcastle bids. That defiance is what’s helped Burnley well clear of the drop zone despite what’s detailed in our first thing.

3. Gayle busy but sloppy in rare start: Magpies manager Steve Bruce has promised to make a proper run in the FA Cup, and sat star forward Allan Saint-Maximin as well as January signings Valentino Lazaro and Nabil Bentaleb. It would’ve worked well, but surprise started Dwight Gayle took one too many touches time and again to deprive breaks of their flow.

Man of the Match: Almiron. The ex-Atlanta United playmaker was everywhere with four key passes on the day. He beats Burnley keeper Nick Pope and center back James Tarkowski.


Newcastle deployed four at the back for the first time in months, and also reinserted both Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle into the lineup.

Gayle almost had a terrific chance when Nick Pope slipped while racing to meet the striker’s heavy first touch, but Pope recovered to collect the ball.

Phil Bardsley blocked another Gayle effort in the 18th as Newcastle grew into possession against a Burnley team who rarely cares for it.

Newcastle continued to control the ball, Shelvey having two shots blocked and Almiron dribbling into the box to have a low shot caught by Pope.

Ritchie missed with a back post header in the 32nd.

A series of Newcastle corner’s saw the Magpies threaten goal. First a training ground corner led to a James Tarkowski block before Jay Rodriguez got in the way of a Ritchie drive.

Almiron then led a break to set up Gayle for a shot saved by Pope.

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Shelvey’s 50th-minute free kick from 25 yards sailed over the bar.

A beautiful bit of interplay allowed Javier Manquillo to earn a corner, and Shelvey was saved by Pope on the ensuing set piece. Gayle soon flubbed a promising play as. Newcastle continued to knock.

A horrible back pass from Danny Rose sent Jay Rodriuguez on goal, but the striker somehow mailed it into the cheap seats.

Gayle missed an overhead kick attempt after a delightfully-chipped pass from Almiron. And Ritchie hit a laser wide of the far post with 10 minutes to play.

Substitute Allan Saint-Maximin hammered a shot into Pope’s lap in the 86th.

Almiron led a drive into the right of the box, but saw his shot blocked out for a corner, and Ritchie saw a stoppage-time effort blocked as well.

How important is Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool?

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Roy Keane. Michael Jordan. Mark Messier. Tom Brady. Virgil Van Dijk.

Every great team has a great leader driving it on, demanding high levels day in, day out and raising the bar so high than even their incredibly talented teammates get nowhere near reaching it. They may not be the most gifted players technically but there’s something about them, an aura and confidence they exude which makes everyone around them feel unstoppable.

That is what makes them, and their teams, so great.

Virgil van Dijk and this current Liverpool team well and truly slot into that category as he is the driver of one of the greatest teams in sporting history who sit 22 points clear at the top of the table and can win the PL title at the earliest point in history.

The way in which they are calmly but mercifully dismantling every team that comes their way reflects VVD’s relaxed relentlessness. They are on track to go the entire 2019-20 Premier League season unbeaten (24 wins from 25 games so far) while setting records for the most wins and points secured in a single season and are closing in on Arsenal’s record of 49 PL games unbeaten.

Jurgen Klopp‘s entire team deserve praise but Virgil van Dijk deserves the most.

Jordan Henderson is the captain who has taken his game to new levels, Alisson‘s heroics in goal aren’t under-appreciated, two British full backs have developed into world-class talents and the front three speak for themselves. But Van Dijk kicked Klopp’s project onto the next level as soon as he arrived at Anfield.

Don’t be fooled by Van Dijk’s delightful flicks, masterful long-range passes, elegant stride and beautifully cushioned headers. He is not here to chillax. He is at Liverpool to win. If you watch Virgil van Dijk for the first time, it is like watching a U18 player in a U12 league. He is quicker, stronger and smarter than every other player on the pitch.

Perhaps the only other signing in Premier League history to have more of an impact, on the pitch and off it, than Van Dijk is Eric Cantona. There is a relaxation and likeable arrogance about both individuals. Yes, Cantona was out there and still is, but the way his arrival kicked on a very good United team to one which became a dynasty was both subtle and dominant. Van Dijk’s arrival in January 2018 had the same impact at Liverpool.

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Liverpool’s previous laughably shaky defense suddenly had a new leader, one who demanded the best each and every time they stepped out on the pitch. Van Dijk does not suffer fools gladly. He has work way too hard from Groningen to Celtic and then to Southampton to get to this point and not make the most of it.

Since he arrived at Liverpool from Saints just over two years ago for a then world-record fee for a defender of $100 million they have lost just four games in the Premier League. They have finished fourth then second, won the Champions League and are on the verge of a record-breaking Premier League title in 2019-20. He was also runner up in the Ballon d’Or voting for 2019 (the last defender to win that title was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006), was the man of the match in the UCL final, has become the captain of the Dutch national team as their incredible resurgence under Ronald Koeman continues and simply put the last two years could not have gone any better for him.

When you speak to Virgil van Dijk you start to understand why he is achieving all of this. He looks into your eyes as if he’s searching for your soul to see if you are worthy of his time. At least, that’s what it feels like. With a laugh and a quick quip in his fluid Dutch accent which is almost as smooth as his play on the pitch, he calms down every situation but doesn’t waste a word with his answers. Ruthless. Efficient. Classy.

“Everyone can have their opinion, have their say on the situation we are in right now but we all know that we as a group, everyone who is involved at Melwood, we are not getting carried away,” Van Dijk told Pro Soccer Talk after his header set Liverpool on their way to a big win against bitter rivals Man United at Anfield last month. “The second part of the season just started and we all know anything is still possible. The good thing is that we have that mentality that we just focus on one game at a time.”

There is that focus and that drive from Van Dijk which you can see during and after games. He isn’t one for over-celebrating and can often be seen throwing his arms in the air in disdain when a loose pass is played or a mistake is made by one of his teammates. But the other side to him is that he is a total team player, one who lavishes praise on his teammates and can easily switch off as he’s often seen smiling and joking and enjoying time with his family and daughters in the tunnel area at Anfield after the full time whistle.

From a statistical point of view, Virgil van Dijk is very, very good but his numbers do not actually place him as being head and shoulders above other Premier League center backs like you might think.

Neal Thurman, the Fantasy Premier League Expert/Editor for our partners Rotoworld.com, breaks down Van Dijk’s numbers which add further fuel to the fire that his mentality and the aura he has perhaps outweighs how he actually plays on the pitch.

Take it away, Neal…


When you look at the numbers on the surface, Virgil Van Dijk doesn’t appear to be exceptionally dominant. Very good, yes. Historically exceptional? That takes a bit more work to uncover.

When you dig into deeper statistics that describe a defender’s activity on the pitch – things like interceptions, tackles won, clearances, and aerial duels won – you see a player who is among the league leaders but not one who is dominant in the way that N’Golo Kante was in his pomp at Leicester City.

Here’s a list of the league leaders in those defensive stats:

Player Team Matches Played Interceptions Tackles Won Clearances Aerial Duels Won Combined per Match
James Tarkowski Burnley 25 43 23 130 124 12.8
Harry Maguire Manchester United 25 42 19 93 117 10.84
Virgil Van Dijk Liverpool 25 26 12 119 116 10.92
Ben Mee Burnley 25 37 19 122 111 11.56
Jack O’Connell Sheffield United 26 31 17 121 100 10.34

The notion that all of these defensive actions are necessarily equal in value isn’t the point of the exercise but rather to point out that, by the raw numbers, Virgil Van Dijk is among the best center backs in the Premier League but not necessarily a dominating force.

The “eye test” tells us otherwise so we have to dig a little deeper and perhaps the way to do that is to layer on the concept of style of play and the resulting opportunity for a center back to take defensive actions.

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Simply put, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, and Jack O’Connell have a lot more opportunity to make interceptions, win tackles, clear the ball, and win defensive aerial duels because their opponents have the ball a lot more. Time of possession stats have their own challenges but, in this case, judging this by the number of passes each team completes is ideal because any pass made is an opportunity for a defender to intervene.  What the numbers show us is that Liverpool enjoy just under 61% of possession while Sheffield United only have the ball 43.5% of the time and Burnley even less at 40.4% (Manchester United are less ball dominant but closer to Liverpool at 56.5%).

If you want to get a sense of how dominant Virgil Van Dijk is, think about the fact that he is putting up statistics equivalent to the other statistical leaders in the league in defensive statistics with only two thirds the opportunities to make those interventions. If you corrected for possession, Van Dijk’s would be in the range of 16 to 17 defensive contributions per match which would better approximate his dominance as a center back.


So, there you have it. In a team which doesn’t have to defend that often because they are so good going forward, Van Dijk still ranks among the Premier League’s best center backs.

He leads the Premier League with more completed passes (2,051) than any other player this season and the Dutchman had an incredible run of not being dribbled past for 49 Premier League games up until the start of this season.

All of this adds to his aura and there is almost an acceptance of defeat among strikers who now come up against him. They don’t try and dribble past or him or challenge him in the air or try to run behind him because they think and probably know, and for good reason, that he will win that duel.

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Virgil van Dijk’s importance to Liverpool cannot actually be measured. The stats show he is an extremely good defender but they can’t measure how big of an impact his mentality, self-confidence and ability to lead others has had on the Liverpool players, staff and even the fans.

When we asked him about Liverpool’s impressive defensive record, the best in the PL which has led to 11 one-goal wins this season, VVD is quick to praise his teammates.

“Everyone is involved in that,” Van Dijk says humbly without hesitation. “We have a fantastic goalkeeper, the full backs doing their jobs, the midfielders and then obviously it starts up front. It is a collective thing but as a defender we are very pleased to keep clean sheets because I think with us, if we keep a clean sheet there is a big chance to win the game. It is a good feeling.”

Simply put: Liverpool have never struggled to score goals but keeping them out was the problem. VVD has fixed that.

A future Ballon d’Or winner, Van Dijk has the potential to go down in history as one of the all-time great center backs and he has already become a Liverpool legend in just two years at the club.

That is so tough to do at such an esteemed, historically successful club. Think about all of the legends which have pass through Anfield and Van Dijk is already among them.

The Song Liverpool fans have for him (to the tune of Dirty Old Town) and chant time and time again sums up his importance and he seems to almost feed off the lyrics as a calming influence in possession and a dominant force at both ends of the pitch.

He’s our center half,
He’s our number four,
Watch him defend,
And we watch him score,
He’ll pass the ball,
Calm as you like,
He’s Virgil van Dijk,
He’s Virgil van Dijk.

Aston Villa secure huge win at Burnley

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Aston Villa beat Burnley 2-1 at Turf Moor on New Year’s Day as Dean Smith‘s side put in a battling display to grab a crucial three points.

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First half goals from Wesley and the superb Jack Grealish were enough to win it for Villa, who had Wesley and goalkeeper Tom Heaton stretchered off late in the game. Chris Wood pulled one back for Burnley but it wasn’t enough as Villa secured their second win in their last three Premier League games.

With the win Villa move on to 21 points as the relegation scrap is now wild, as Burnley sit just three points above them on 24.


3 things we learned

1. Grealish is the real deal: He led by example with a superb goal and assist but it was the other stuff which was almost as important. Grealish ran his socks off and Villa needed him big time. The skipper was superb and his extra quality is capable of keeping Villa up.

2. Injuries pile up for Villa: Wesley and Heaton are big players for Villa and even though Smith will be delighted to get a win it came at a big cost. Just as Tyrone Mings returned from injury he has now lost his best striker and goalkeeper. Let’s see how Villa cope with this.

3. Sluggish Burnley slumping: Three defeats on the spin over the festive season suddenly has Burnley in a proper relegation scrap. A few weeks ago it looked like they would finish in the top 10 but things change very quickly and a sluggish first half cost Sean Dyche‘s side dear.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish – He was everywhere. Set up the first, scored the second and when Villa needed him in the second half he ran with the ball to try and take the pressure off.


In a tough battle Grealish took an early whack from Jack Cork in midfield as Villa dug deep early on.

From a corner Burnley could only have clear and Konsa crossed for Grealish to head home but VAR intervened to first check a foul and then offside in the build up, as Wesley’s heel (half of it) was offside and the goal was ruled out.

Grealish then played in Wesley who was denied by Nick Pope and Burnley’s goalkeeper kept out Douglas Luiz‘s effort on the rebound.

Dwight McNeil and Chris Wood were off target for Burnley as the hosts struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Villa got the goal their dominance deserved as Grealish and Wesley combined to see the latter squeeze an effort past Pope and in to make it 1-0 and score his first PL goal in almost three months.

Before half time Grealish scored a stunner to double Villa’s lead as their star man cut inside and smashed home to delight the away fans at Turf Moor.

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Villa should have wrapped up the win at the start of the second half but Luiz shot straight at Pope, as Burnley brought on Jay Rodriguez at the break to try and get things going in attack.

Rodriguez had a shot deflected wide from a corner then somehow knocked James Tarkowski‘s cross over from close range.

Burnley dominated and peppered the Villa goal as Heaton flapped at a cross which flew just wide.

Kortney Hause couldn’t make the most of a glorious effort at one end then Chris Wood fired wide at the other and Tyrone Mings then stopped him going clean through as the game opened up.

Wesley was carried off on a stretcher late on after suffering a nasty injury in a huge blow for Villa.

Then it got worse as Wood got his goal late on with a fine header to set up a tense finale.

Former Burnley goalkeeper Heaton was then carried off on a stretcher as he was struggling with a leg injury throughout but Villa held on for a huge win despite late pressure from Burnley.