It would be criminal for James Tarkowski to miss out on an a place in the England squad for the European Championships. Absolutely criminal. He has been the Burnley Player of the Season and, in this case, that deserves international recognition.
The centre-half has been a big reason for his club's solid season. Tarkowski has always played with a swagger and a confidence but has lacked consistency. There were periods in the 2018-19 season where he was a legitimate concern.
Giving the ball away, pulling down players and simply losing focus at the wrong times, Tarkowski was, at times, a liability. Still, Sean Dyche never axed the former Brentford man as he fully believed in his ability to bounce back to his true form. This season has been a big one for the 27-year-old.
Maturity is so important in the Premier League. Taking responsibility and retaining focus is so important. Tarkowski never shirked responsibility but his attention was prone to drifting. Not so much now. He has demonstrated a consistent defensive assurance.
According to the Premier League's official board of statistics, he has the most headed clearances in the league (81), the second most clearances (148) and the second most blocks (37). Safe. Secure. Getting the basics right.
But what stands Tarkowski out from his partner, Ben Mee, is his technical abilities. While Mee can pass the ball out from the back, it looks like he doesn't want to be on the ball too long. He is at his most comfortable when he is defending.
Tarkowski embraces being on the ball. He regularly dribbles forward and isn't afraid to play elaborate passes. This is why he attracts international interest and Mee does not. The ability to play out from the back is now a requirement at the highest level.
Desire for more?
There is an argument that Burnley limit Tarkowski's technical qualities. At a bigger club, he would have more freedom to roam and showcase his talents. At the same time, more responsibility leads to a greater downfall if you cannot meet the challenge.
Tarkowski turns 28 in November and that is traditionally an age whereby a player is at the peak of their powers. Realistically, this summer could be the last opportunity for the centre-back to make a move to a big club. Big clubs would be frothing at the mouth if Tarkowski was two or three years younger, but he isn't. The last chance saloon is open for business; it's not all doom and gloom.
You get the impression that this Burnley group is very together. Dyche has pieced together a squad that has the right characteristics to succeed both on and off the pitch. His man-management is top class and, to this day, he is still lauded as a genius by World Cup wonder Kieran Trippier.
In terms of England, he really ought to be on the plane. Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire should be the starters.
John Stones probably needs to be there for his experience. Stones remains a very solid option despite his high profile mistakes.
For me, Tarkowski edges out Tyrone Mings and Chris Smalling for the fourth spot.
Mings has impressed in spells for Aston Villa but hasn't been guilt-free in a defence that has been badly costing them all season.
Smalling has had a big career resurgence with Roma, however, Gareth Southgate had previously dismissed his England chances. While the Three Lions manager has backtracked from those initial comments, it is debatable whether Smalling is good enough on the ball to fit the system.
Either way, Tarkowski has really upped his game during this current campaign; he should be taking some awards at the end of the season.