Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace analysis: Why James Tarkowski deserves a mountain of credit after an imposing display for the Clarets

Tarkowski was a key figure as Burnley kept their first clean sheet in the Premier League this season.

Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace analysis: Why James Tarkowski deserves a mountain of credit after an imposing display for the Clarets
Tarkowski did not give Benteke an inch of space (photo: Getty Images/ Robbie Jay Barratt)

When the opposition boasts 65% of the possession and 23 shots compared to the hosts' four, many will be questioning how Crystal Palace lost their fourth consecutive fixture to Burnley this weekend.

The answer to that question is James Tarkowski. The summer departure of Michael Keane to Everton, who ironically got torn apart by Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, left the Clarets looking light at the back this season. The triumvirate of Tom Heaton, Ben Mee and Keane played a huge role in keeping Burnley afloat with relative ease last campaign but Tarkowski saw the void left by the England international as his perfect opportunity to succeed.

Now three seasons into his Burnley career after spells at Oldham Athletic and Brentford, Tarkowski may have just initiated one of his best performances in the English top flight against the struggling Eagles.

Supported by an organised unit

Burnley did grasp a fair amount of luck throughout the 90 minutes. Even manager Sean Dyche admitted, "they [Crystal Palace] were the better team". Yet Chris Wood, who is beginning to prove doubters wrong with two goals in two Premier League games, executed his finish with aplomb after a dreadful Lee Chung-Yong backpass.

After the New Zealand captain gave the Clarets an advantage within the first three minutes, the home side battened down the hatches. Two banks of four supported by first Sam Vokes and then Ashley Barnes pressing in the number ten role made life difficult for the visiting Eagles.

Yet they were almost level within seconds of conceding as Matt Lowton produced the first of his eight blocks to deny Scott Dann an equaliser. Lowton himself appears to be developing in the right-back role after a rocky campaign last year.

Quiet day for Benteke

The game opened up for a period before Tarkowski organised the defensive unit and led by example. Jack Cork was also a strong influence in front of him making four blocks, but when the defensive midfielder was beaten on occasions, Tarkowski was on hand to produce heroics himself against a Palace outfit determined to attack down the middle.

Tarkowski could have easily been bullied off the ball against the imposing figure of Christian Benteke. Yet the Belgian had minimal impact, particularly when it came to winning the second ball. Tarkowski made an incredible 18 clearances with 12 of those coming within the 18-yard box.

The central defender's key moment came on 83 minutes. With Palace moving through the gears, Tarkowski was on hand to produce a critical goal line block against Dann with the goal gaping behind him.

If further evidence was needed of the 24-year old's impact, Palace only manufactured three shots on goal despite having 29 touches in the Burnley box. Tarkowski simply did not give away an inch of space.

Goalkeeper Pope also impresses

For Burnley as a whole, the future continues to look bright. Despite losing Keane and goalscoring hotshot Andre Gray during the transfer window, the Clarets do not look out of place in the top half of the table.

Chris Wood is third in the country only to Harry Kane and Billy Sharp in the number of professional goals across 2017. With such a prolific striker playing in front of an organised and disciplined unit, Sean Dyche appears to have a recipe for success.

Burnley have always taken pride in their energy and hard graft, exemplified by players such as Tarkowski and Nick Pope taking their opportunities when they arise. Goalkeeper Pope was thrown into action on 35 minutes after Tom Heaton appeared to dislocate his shoulder. Yet he was not overwhelmed and produced an outstanding save to keep Benteke at bay on the one occasion he broke away from the Burnley defence.