Burnley’s excitement machine Luca Koleosho has been a real highlight in the Clarets’ challenging Premier League season so far.
An absolute dribbling wizard, who adds that vital dynamism and unpredictability to Vincent Kompany’s side, watching the 19-year-old make such encouraging strides has been nothing short of impressive.
Fearless, confident and relishing the step up in class, the Italian youth international, who’s also eligible for the United States, Canada and Nigeria, has certainly underlined why he’s such a highly rated prospect.
Having joined for just £2.6 million, plus £860,000 in add-ons on a four-year contract, there’s no doubting he’s been one of the best value signings out there.
Starting 13 matches and coming on off the bench twice, it’s been terrific to see him making the most of the opportunities afforded to him by Kompany. Coming on in leaps and bounds while he embarks on the steep learning curve of feeling at home at the elite level, he deserves credit for attacking the challenge with gusto.
Considering he’d hardly played any senior football prior to his arrival at Turf Moor, and this makes his adaptation all the more striking.
“We didn’t force it, there was no reason for us to put him ahead of anyone else other than his performances in training and in games,” Kompany said.
“The exciting thing is he’s only just turned 19. We’re not going to build our season around a 19-year-old player, but if he’s performing like he is we’re not going to take him off his momentum as well.”
Injecting so much ingenuity and creativity into his team’s offensive adventures, losing him to a devastating knee injury is a huge blow both for the player and Burnley’s survival hopes. “Yeah it’s bad news for us. He’s going to be out for a while,” Kompany lamented.
“We’ll do everything we can to make sure that he gets back healthy and ready to go again and I think the key concern for us is to make sure he doesn’t sustain any long-term damage because he’s still young. We are really going to do everything that’s right by him. We think he’s going to be fine in the long-term, but short-term, we have to give him the time to recover. I’d like to think he’ll still play this season, but it might be towards the end of the season.”
Particularly catching the eye with his mastery with the ball at his feet, this aspect of his game has seen him breeze by and outfox opponents smartly using his blend of ball wizardry and athleticism.
Possessing searing speed and a terrific arsenal of manoeuvres, including wicked feints, sharp shimmies and blistering changes of pace and direction, to beat foes on the inside or the outside, he’s an extremely tough man to nullify.
Such a nightmare for opponents when 1v1, the Connecticut-born ace shows great confidence and ambition to complement his skill, for he relishes every chance he gets to make something happen on his way to ranking fourth and fifth respectively for progressive runs (4.94 per 90) and dribbles (7.97 p90) among players in his similar position in the Premier League.
Well balanced, with a low centre of gravity, calm under pressure and boasting underrated strength, the way he draws opponents to make space for others, withstands physical attention and wins fouls in advantageous locations compounds problems for his opposition.
The fact he has such a tidy first touch and Velcro-like ball control is also a key driving force towards his success, making his bursts difficult to read and giving him a sound base from which to wreak havoc.
Supplementing the above with his smartly timed runs in behind and into the box, where he uses his speed, ability to identify vacant spaces and if his marker is in a sub-optimal position, Koleosho’s a huge threat when he gets the jump on his adversaries to stretch backlines horizontally and vertically.
There’s been many occasions where he’s shrewdly exploited the blindside of foes with his dynamic out-to-in surges, noticed gaps in the area while defenders are preoccupied and formed ideal overloads out wide to help breathe life into attacks.
Meanwhile, much upside can be gained from his progressive passing even though he needs to refine his craft in terms of pass selection, decision making and execution, for he’s able to feed runners with pinpoint through balls, strike incisive crosses and cutbacks and engage in some intricate link play.
Capable of playing all across the frontline, with still huge scope for improvement and thriving within Kompany’s attacking system despite Burnley currently being in the relegation zone, it’s been fantastic to see Koleosho rising to the challenge.
Rapidly endearing himself to the fans with his entertaining and exhilarating approach, all the signs are hugely positive that he’ll be a superb acquisition by the Clarets.
While he’s still raw and is working hard to refine his craft, the ingredients are all there that he could develop into a truly elite operator sooner rather than later to realise his enormous potential.
But first, he’ll be channelling all his energy into making a successful recovery from injury as soon as possible to get back to helping his struggling teammates, who are sorely missing all the good things he brings to the table.