Scouting Jonathan Tah: The Towering Young Centre Half

What would it feel like if you age around the late teens but stand way above every single player on the pitch? A lot confident or authoritative, wouldn’t it?

To receive a far better answer than mine, throw this question out to Jonathan Tah, Hamburg’s young centre half and I bet, you’d pay heed to a more realistic answer than mine. After all, experiencing something practically is far realistic than doing the same theoretically.

Standing on his feet at around 192 cms, Tah also weighs 90 kgs, which is impressive enough for any centre half, at least of his age. His talent has lured interest from a host of Premier League clubs or simply the Big 6 of England and going by the talent he has in his armory, a move to any of them makes perfect sense.

Career so far…

Born in Hamburg,  Tah started playing football in SC Concordia another Hamburg based club. Then he joined Altona 93 before being snapped-up by Hamburger SV. On 4 August 2013, Tah made his competitive debut for Hamburger SV in DFB Cup match against SV Schott Jena.

On 1 September 2014, he was loaned to Fortuna Düsseldorf for one year and currently on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf, Tah had some contractual issues surrounding his presence at Hamburg in 2013. As per FIFA rules, a player below the age of 18 isn’t supposed to sign a professional contract for a term longer than three years but Jonathan Tah signed a new 5 year contract in January and extended it 10 months later.

Style of Play

Limitless height is of course a huge advantage for any centre half, let alone Tah. But some often fall short in fulfilling other qualities because of this. For Example: Per Mertesacker is 1.98 meters tall and is arguably the slowest centre back in the Premier League, probably seconded by Martin Demichelis. And current PSG and former Chelsea and Benfica centre half David Luiz may stand 1.89 meters tall but the big blot on his reputation is his tendency to roam out of position quite frequently.

Jonathan Tah is unlike any of these defenders, in fact he’s more than them. A composed character, Tah forte is his ability to read the game and carry the ball out of the defense. No matter how tricky the situation, he’s confident about what he’s doing and losing the ball in such situations is a rarity, at least in his case. This quality is in stark contrast to Antonio Rudiger, the Stuttgart defender whose only glaring weakness is his proneness to losing the ball in areas where you’d hate to lose it.

He’s very comfortable when the ball is on his feet and it seems, he’s too good for someone of his age. His reflex clearances from crosses drilled in swiftly from the flanks can annoy any opposition. He can stick out his feet to make outrageous blocks and clearances to deny the opposition and form a virtual defensive wall for his side. Although, this wasn’t the case last season but it was all due to Heiko Westermann’s and Rene Adler’s howlers that Hamburg finished 3rd bottom in the Bundesliga. Out of all his average defensive actions, almost 80.6 percent came from clearances, 16.1 from interceptions and others from blocks.

He’s strong and powerful and makes excellent use of his stature. He’s very good in the air and even on the ground, he can shrug off on rushing attackers quite effortlessly. When taking players on, he carries a 93 percent success rate which is quite formidable. He won an average of 61 percent of duels last season and committed 50 percent of fouls while others went successful.

He’s always keen to play long balls here and there, especially towards the flanks. In an average pass length of 22 metres, almost 40 were long balls and his back and forth passing range from 20 or 22 meters.

Looking at how he plays, there’s no significant weakness about him. He made 16 appearances last season, out of which Hamburg lost 8 and won mere 3 of them, highlighting a serious problem at the back. Rene Adler had a disastrous season and conceded an average of 2.10 goals and kept just 4 clean sheets even after making 2.77 saves per game. Heiko Westermann’s performances were also not up to scratch and there’s no wonder why they were compelled to play relegation play offs.

What does the future hold for him?

One thing’s for sure- Any centre back who’s got an aura or composure about him, he’s destined for something big. This guy is an obvious candidate for that ‘something big’.

Playing for Hamburg allowed him not only to prove his mettle, but also to hide his slight weaknesses. A bad season and error laden campaign shifted focus away from what he isn’t doing to what the team is. One slight weakness could be consistency but it’d certainly turn up once he matures.

The Premier League would suit his style of play. Some of the teams that are sniffing around him have a problem of physicality at the back, especially Arsenal, Man United and Liverpool. He will fare well at Fortuna Dusseldorf and the club would hand him an opportunity to get some crucial match time. A time to move would come but maybe a season or two later.





Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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