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Aston Villa frontrunners in James Tarkowski race

Aston Villa have reportedly moved ahead of their rivals in the battle to sign Burnley defender James Tarkowski, as Steven Gerrard plots further summer additions.

What’s the word?

As per The Athletic, the Villans are the ‘early favourites’ to sign the 29-year-old in the upcoming window, with the centre-back set to be available on a free transfer as his current £70k-per-week deal nears its expiry.

The Englishman had been retained in January by the Turf Moor outfit despite reported interest from Newcastle United, although his influence could not help the Lancashire-based club avoid a return to the second tier after a final day defeat to the Magpies.

While interest from the Tynesiders remains – as well as from Everton – it is Villa who appears to be to providing the most ‘substantial competition’ – as per this latest report – with recent speculation insisting that the Midlands side are already in talks regarding an agreement.

Gerrard’s perfect fit

Although NSWE have recently confirmed the capture of Sevilla defender Diego Carlos, it would seem that there could well still be further defensive reinforcements to come prior to the start of next season, with Tarkowski the solid presence needed to shake up the Villans’ backline.

Recent reports have suggested Gerrard could be looking to cash in on both Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa after a somewhat disappointing campaign that ended with a 14th place finish, with the shaky defensive unit shipping 54 Premier League goals in all.

The departure of the pair would then heighten the need for the arrival of another central defender, with the Burnley man offering vital top-flight experience to come straight into the starting XI, while the aforementioned Carlos may need something of a bedding-in period.

Is Tarkowski the answer at Villa?

Not for me!

Not for me!

Yes, total faith

Yes, total faith

With just two caps for the Three Lions, Tarkowski has failed to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans in recent years, although he remains arguably one of the most consistent defenders in the division, notably averaging 5.2 clearances, 1.8 tackles and 1.4 interceptions in 35 outings in the 2021/22 campaign.

Equally compared to those in his position across Europe’s top five leagues the £19.8m-rated colossus also compares favourably, ranking in the top 1% for blocks and aerials won, as well as in the top 3% for tackles made.

For all the emphasis on attacking play among top-flight managers, having a player in tow who is willing to do the dirty work is crucial, with a no-frills approach sometimes needed even if it may not be pretty on the eye.

At Rangers – where Gerrard won the Scottish Premiership title – the Liverpool legend favoured a stubborn, defensive approach, albeit while demanding his full-backs to offer a threat in attack, putting a greater onus on the centre-back pairing to provide cover and security.

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In that regard, Tarkowski is a real safe pair of hands and will likely look to get the ball to the attacking talents ahead, while he himself can also pose a threat in the final third, as he ranks in the top 1% among those in his position for touches in the attacking penalty area.

Having that ability to impact proceedings in both boxes will likely be hugely attractive to the Villa boss, with the “outstanding” brute – as he has been dubbed by Sean Dyche – the type of player needed at Villa Park, even if he may not be the most high profile figure.

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Article title: Aston Villa frontrunners in James Tarkowski race

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