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Why Rangers’ first summer signing could prove to be a great addition to the squad

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Canadian winger Scott Arfield has confirmed that he will be leaving Premier League outfit Burnley at the end of the season and has signed a four-year pre-contract with Scottish giants Rangers. (Sky Sports) 

The 29-year old is in the final leg of his contract with the Clarets and has decided to move to his birth country of Scotland in order to join up with the Gers, a club he supported as a youngster, on a free transfer ahead of the next season.  

Arfield has been with the Clarets for close to five years now, having joined them from Huddersfield Town back in the summer of 2013 and has been an important player under Sean Dyche over the years. However, he had found himself struggling for game time in the 2017/18 campaign, having fallen behind the likes of Johann Berg-Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady, Aaron Lennon etc., in the pecking order with a calf injury he picked towards the end of February.

So far in the ongoing campaign, the 12-time capped Canadian international has managed just 18 appearances in the English top flight, scoring two goals and registering a solitary assist. In his five-season spell at the Turf Moor, Arfield has mustered up a total of 193 appearances, scoring 22 goals and setting up 12 more and has featured in over 80 games in the Premier League for the Clarets.  

The Scotland-born winger’s volume of experience at the top level speaks for itself. Add to that, the player is well-versed with the Scottish game, having come through the Falkirk FC youth ranks, before going on to play for their senior side for three years, during which he made 108 appearances in the Scottish Premiership, netting 13 goals in the process. 

Able to play on either flanks or as an auxiliary striker, Arfield is a very handful player to have in the ranks given his ability to hit in accurate crosses from the wide areas while contributing with goals of his own. Add to that, his work-rate and defensive contribution is also something that comes in very useful for the team. 

Arfield may not be the biggest name in football, nor he is the flashiest of the footballers, but his experience at the top level with Burnley and his past ties with Scottish football means that the 29-year old will prove to be a useful addition to the Gers’ squad, who don’t have much backup in the wide areas for the likes of Daniel Candeias and Jamie Murphy.  

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Burnley

Opinion – This 31-year-old Premier League veteran should have received a recall to join Gareth Southgate’s England squad

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Why Joe Hart deserves a recall to join Gareth Southgate’s England team

According to the Mirror, Joe Hart was backed by his Burnley teammate Jack Cork for an England recall and his teammates were convinced about his desire and commitment to be back in the Three Lions jersey.

However, England boss Gareth Southgate did not include him in the squad for the UEFA Nations League trips to Croatia and Spain. But that did not stop the manager from claiming that Hart could still receive a recall sometime in the near future (h/t Sky Sports).

Joe Hart put in a wonderful performance for Burnley against Cardiff City. Josh Murphy’s 60th-minute strike cancelled out Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s opener with Hart blameless but ultimately, Sam Vokes won the game for the Clarets with a thumping header to mark his 100th Premier League appearance.

Hart moved to Burnley in the summer after falling out of favour at Manchester City. He did not fare well in his loan stints at West Ham and Torino but has come up with flying colours this season.

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The 31-year-old, who has made a total of 75 appearances for England, has not received a call-up since his debacle at the UEFA Euro 2016 where his mistakes against Wales and Iceland cost England a place in the quarterfinals.

However, the former England No.1 has shaken off his rustiness and has produced some fine saves this season. Not only has he re-established himself as a reliable presence between the sticks but has also been a commanding presence at the back for the Clarets with his leadership skills.

Hart started the season with an impressive clean sheet against Southampton, which definitely was a sign of better things to come. And he hasn’t disappointed his fans.

The four-time Premier League Golden Glove winner showed good agility to keep Romelu Lukaku out in a one-on-one situation against Manchester United before denying Paul Pogba from the penalty spot with a fine diving save. In fact, that save should speak volumes of his confidence between the sticks.

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That was followed by an even better performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers where the 31-year-old made some tremendous saves from inside the six-yard box, including three back-to-back ones in a space of a few seconds. Although he wasn’t able to prevent a 1-0 humbling, he definitely made a strong statement with his performance.

In the game against Cardiff, Hart pulled off a brilliant low save to deny Kenneth Zohore and followed it up with a full-length stretch to tip Josh Murphy’s curling effort over the crossbar.

Those have been just the highlights of his impressive season so far but they aren’t enough to convey how safe a goalkeeper he has been for Burnley. He has shown good agility and courage to come out of his zone to catch crosses played into the box from set-pieces and has looked comfortable while handling shots. Rarely has he spilt an easy shot this season.

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Read More:- 2.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions – Signing this 6ft 2in defensive midfielder could solve a lot Burnley’s woes

A detailed look at the statistics gives us a deeper insight into Hart’s performances this season. The 31-year-old has made a total of 34 saves, 19 of which came from inside the penalty area, including 3 from inside the six-yard box.

With England’s second-choice goalkeeper Jack Butland now plying his trade for Stoke City in the Championship, Hart should have been selected this time. Nevertheless, if he continues performing at this level, nothing can keep him out from the England squad in the near future. 

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Burnley

Long and Vydra to start: Strongest 4-4-1-1 Burnley XI to face Huddersfield Town

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Strongest Burnley line-up to face Huddersfield Town in the Premier League

Burnley have finally hit the ground running in the Premier League this season after an early end to their Europa League adventures in the play-off stages.

The Clarets have registered back-to-back victories, including a 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth a couple of weeks back, and they must aim to extend their winning streak to three games in a row when they play host to Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Huddersfield Town should be looking to get something out of the match since they are currently at the bottom of the table and are yet to register a win this season.

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James Tarkowski suffered a groin injury in the previous game and Ben Gibson is yet to gain full fitness following his pelvic injury. Barring these two, Sean Dyche will have his full squad of players to choose from.

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Formation: 4-4-1-1

Manager: Sean Dyche

Joe Hart (GK)

The former England international has rediscovered his old form and has made some brilliant saves this season. He must continue his good run of form.

Matthew Lowton (RB)

He has done a much better job than Phil Bardsley and must continue in the right-back position.

Ben Mee (CB)

He was one of the stars of Burnley’s Premier League campaign last time around but has been a bit inconsistent at the back this season. However, the manager should keep faith in him.

Kevin Long (CB)

He is one of the longest-serving players in the Clarets’ ranks and will be expected to fill in the boots of the injured James Tarkowski.

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Charlie Taylor (LB)

He has done a decent job and Dyche should hand him another start.

Aaron Lennon (LM)

The former English international has shown glimpses of his brilliance this season and Burnley must rely on him to deliver the goods on Saturday.

Jack Cork (LCM)

He has done a fair job in the midfield with his passing and should start at the weekend.

Ashley Westwood (RCM)

Came up with a strong performance against Cardiff City last weekend and should find himself in the starting XI on Saturday.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson (RM)

He has established himself as a key figure in Burnley’s attack and scored the opening goal in the previous outing against Cardiff. Dyche should continue starting him.

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Matej Vydra (CAM)

The Czech Republic international was a huge success in the Championship last season and Burnley must continue deploying him regularly.

Read More:- 2.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions – Signing this 6ft 2in defensive midfielder could solve a lot Burnley’s woes

Sam Vokes (ST)

The veteran marked his 100th Premier League appearance for the Clarets with a headed goal against Cardiff and he must aim to deliver the goods once again.

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Burnley

2.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions – Signing this 6ft 2in defensive midfielder could solve a lot Burnley’s woes

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Why Burnley should not hesitate to sign Abdoulaye Toure in January

According to an earlier report from The Sun, Burnley were linked to Nantes midfielder Abdoulaye Toure and the Clarets had tabled a £10million offer to sign the Frenchman. However, the deal did not quite materialize and Burnley were left without a quality defensive midfielder.

A product of Nantes’ youth system, Toure began his professional career with his boyhood club and made his debut in the Ligue 1 back in the 2013/14 season. Since then, he has made a total of 56 appearances for the French outfit, netting once.

After a stellar Premier League season last time around – which saw the Clarets finish 7th and earn a Europa League qualifying spot – Sean Dyche’s men haven’t been able to hit the ground running in the current campaign. Burnley lost out to Greek club Olympiacos in the Europa League playoffs and their performances have dipped significantly in the Premier League as well. With 4 points from their first six games, Burnley sit 16th in the standings, just above the relegation zone.

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However, the Clarets somewhat managed to resurrect their campaign and turned their fortunes around with a 4-0 win over Bournemouth at Turf Moor this weekend. Although they still have a lot to do to resurrect their campaign after a calamitous start, the three points should be considered a promise of better things to come.

Ben Mee and James Tarkowski formed a formidable partnership in the heart of Burnley’s defence last season and the solidity in their backline was the key to their success last season. However, the Clarets have looked quite shaky at the back this season and have conceded goals at an alarming rate, having already conceded 10. Although Tarkowski has looked quite solid in the last couple of games, Mee has been rather inconsistent.

The central midfielders haven’t done a great job either. Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood haven’t been at the top of their game, thus failing to provide solidity and cohesion to the midfield. Moreover, Burnley lack a midfielder who can dominate the opposition with his strength and stem the flow of attacks by breaking up the play. Consequently, the defenders have been in the firing line on a regular basis.

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To put things into perspective, Abdoulaye Toure is the ideal option to add solidity to Burnley’s midfield. A perfect defensive midfielder characterized by strength, the former French U20 international is adept at breaking up the opponent’s play with crucial tackles and interceptions.

Standing at 6ft 2 inches, the 24-year-old combines his exceptional game reading ability with his sharpness and strength to cut out the attacks from a deep position in the midfield. Furthermore, his technique allows him to run comfortably with the ball at his feet.

Read More:- Food for thought – Failure to handles these two aspects has been the reason behind Burnley’s undoing this season

The Frenchman can also burst forward with energy and link the play with the attackers up front. Although he does not have a good scoring record, he is unafraid to test the goalkeeper with some occasional cracks on goal.

Toure had a brilliant season last time around as he averaged 2.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game. In fact, his playing style and stature is comparable to someone like Yaya Toure. That said, Burnley should not waste any time and splash the cash to table a bigger offer and land the Frenchman in January.

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