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Rising Star Jack Clarke: Sunderland’s Gem Drawing Premier League Attention

Jack Clarke is a 23-year-old footballer who currently plays for Sunderland in the Championship. Due to his excellent performances in the Championship, he has been linked with several Premier League clubs this January. In the summer, Brentford, Burnley, and Crystal Palace showed interest in signing the winger, but he decided to stay in the North East. However, it now seems that Clarke will leave Sunderland either in January or the summer, as he has been offered a contract but is yet to sign it. The front runners for his signature are Sheffield United and Burnley. But what makes him so special?

Player Profile: Jack Clarke

Jack Clarke dribbling, as a Tottenham player

The York-born attacker began his career at Leeds United but was purchased by Tottenham Hotspur in July 2019 for £10 million. He was immediately loaned back out to Leeds United, but he only featured once and was recalled in January; on the 26th of January, he was loaned out to QPR, but this was again unsuccessful and he only made eight appearances for the club.

Spurs decided to keep him at the club for the start of the 20/21 season and Clarke made his European debut in a Europa League tie against Lask, replacing Carlos Vinicius in the 86th minute. In January, Clarke returned to the Championship, this time for Stoke City, making 14 appearances for the Potters. It wasn’t until January 2022 that Clarke would attract more interest, this time from the Black Cats. Clarke was loaned out to Sunderland and in July the club chose to sign the player permanently for an undisclosed fee. Since then, Clarke has shined under Tony Mowbray and Micheal Beale, making himself known as one of the best players in the Championship.

The 5’11 tall attack-minded winger now has a market value of £13 million and has demanded interest from the Premier League. With Sunderland very unlikely to get automatic promotion and not favourites for the playoffs, Clarke is almost certainly set to leave if he wishes to achieve his full potential.

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Statistical Analysis

Jack Clarke is no doubt one of the best players in the Championship right now, but he is the best winger in the world for certain statistics. Clarke averages 6.84 progressive carries per 90, making him the best winger/attacking midfielder for progressive carries per 90 – this is a key feature of being a winger, especially for a team that doesn’t dominate the ball and likes to counter. Therefore, Clarke would transition to the Premier League easily, with lots of teams looking to counter after winning possession.

However, that isn’t to say he can only play in a counter-attacking team because he also ranks very highly for successful take-ons that have led to goals with 0.16 per 90, he is in the 97th percentile of all wingers. Clarke also ranks in the 96th percentile for fouls drawn that have led to a goal, these traits show he has a similar profile to Jack Grealish because of his ability to win so many fouls and consistently beat the fullback.

The Black Cats attacker also excels in defensive statistics when compared to other attacking wingers, Clarke ranks in the top 10% of all wingers for tackles won (1.46), tackles in the defensive third (0.92), dribblers tackled (0.94) and percentage of dribblers tackled (52.5%). This shows how well he would transition to the Premier League for any team, especially those at the bottom of the table.

Tactical Analysis

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In Sunderland’s most recent league game (against Preston) Jack Clarke picked up an assist from obtaining the ball here, before the halfway line. Clarke takes the ball in his stride and drives forward, drawing a foul but he stays on his feet and then knocks the ball past the second defender. As shown by the statistics, this is a common feature of Clarke’s game and something that sets him apart from other players.

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He finds himself in this position, with just one defender to beat before he is in on goal. Clarke first continues to take small steps and push the defender back, meaning that the defender has to decide to engage and attempt a tackle. This is an intelligent attacking play as it gives Clarke an advantage, allowing him to drive closer to the goal and have a better chance of scoring or assisting. A problem with some Premier League wingers is that they can’t beat their fullback for pace or by skill, but Clarke can do both.

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When the defender attempts to win the ball, Clarke knocks the ball past him and gives himself enough space to cross the ball into his teammate. Despite it being his weaker foot, Clarke puts in an accurate cross, and the striker scores – the cross is in the stride of the attacker and just too far away for the center-back to intercept a superb assist.

This isn’t a one-time occurrence either, Clarke consistently shows that he can beat his man on the outside and inside.

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In this example, Clarke receives the ball on the touchline and recognizes that the fullback isn’t tightly marked to him. He drives forward and reaches the box before the fullback tries to win the ball, but this does invite pressure from other players. In turn, this does create space for other players but it gives him less chance of converting because he is less likely to dribble through multiple men.

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With a small touch to the left, Clarke imbalances the defender and creates space on his right foot, just enough space to get a shot off. Clarke curls the ball into the bottom right corner and puts Sunderland 1-0 up against Liam Rosenior’s Hull side, a team that has been very impressive this season.

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Clarke has all the elements to play in the Premier League and he has the versatility to play in any system in the Premier League. I think Clarke would be a great fit for Brighton and West Ham, this itself highlights how versatile he is because they are two very different tactical systems.

For Brighton, Clarke could play on either side but with Mitoma injured, and potentially playing in the Asia Cup, Clarke could play in his absence. However, they do have a lot of attacking prospects who can play on the wing and they don’t need Clarke. For West Ham, Clarke would play on the left wing and be able to utilize his attacking and defensive skills for David Moyes. Moyes has already shown that he can use Championship talent (Bowen) and transform them into a Premier League player. The future of Clarke will be very interesting, he is an exciting talent.

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