[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he ball-playing, deep-lying central midfielder is something that most top teams possess, but a figure that the English national set-up has had frightfully few of in recent times.
The unique talents of Xabi Alonso or Andre Pirlo typify the archetypal midfield general, with Michael Carrick the best English player of a generation to fulfil the role for club and country.
With Chelsea’s current blockbuster midfield partnership of Nemanja Matić and Cesc Fàbregas, the fact that Jack Cork was on the West London club’s books for 13 years without making a first-team appearance will not be a cause for concern for the current Premier League leaders.
However, at 25 and having gained considerable top-flight experience at Southampton over recent campaigns, Cork seems ready to step into the breach and become one of English football’s top deep-lying midfielders.
With a contract at St Mary’s running down and Premier League starts numbering a lowly five this term, the impressive central midfielder has penned a £3 million deal to join Swansea.
On first sight this looks like an ideal pairing.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has continued where Mauricio Pochettino left off in preferring a midfield partnership of the all-energy Morgan Schneiderlin and the bruising Victor Wanyama – a duo that continues to impress given the Saints’ tactics of pressing the opposition with vigour.
For Cork, the chance to play more regularly will be appreciated given his underwhelming sum total of 476 Premier League minutes in 2014-15.
In the Welsh side’s last league game, a 5-0 home drubbing by Chelsea, Garry Monk partnered Gylfi Sigurðsson with Tottenham loanee Tom Carroll in the heart of his side.
The Icelandic playmaker has been in superlative form since returning to the Liberty Stadium from Spurs, but needs to be used in a more advanced role to make the most of his considerable attacking virtues.
Carroll is a player that is still blossoming, while Leon Britton is starting to feel his age and Jonjo Shelvey is more of a direct midfielder.
As such, there is certainly a niche for the ball-playing Cork to slot into the Swans’ starting XI and play a key role in orchestrating the side’s possession.
From graduating to senior football and playing out on loan in the lower reaches of English football on seven stints to coming of age at Southampton, the 25-year-old’s ability with the ball at his feet has been clear.
Cork is a precise passer of the ball, an intelligent player and someone who makes excellent use of space, both when in possession and not. These are all attributes that fit Swansea’s style of play very well.
Roberto Martínez and Brendan Rodgers started the Liberty Stadium side’s infatuation with keeping the ball and dominating possession, while this style has been continued by subsequent managers Michael Laudrup and Monk to some degree.
Where Britton used to be the man that Swansea’s possession inevitably went through, Cork seems perfectly poised to be the midfield anchor that can dictate play for the Welsh side.
I am convinced that if Cork plays regularly at Swansea, he can develop into a player capable of filling the Michael Carrick-type role in the England set-up and be regarded in higher regard than he currently is.
The reported fee that Swansea have paid is excellent business by the Welsh side, especially for a homegrown player, with Cork possessing the abilities to slot perfectly into the starting XI.
Although he is unavailable to face former club Southampton later today, Cork’s new beginning in South Wales is very exciting for both the player and his new employers.
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