Hertha BSC have a proud history of producing excellent players. The likes of Jerome Boateng, Nico Schulz, and Kevin Prince-Boateng, are all graduates of the club’s academy. One of the latest talents to come out of Berlin is Jordan Torunarigha.
The son of a professional footballer, Torunarigha joined Hertha at 8 years old, and now, at the age of 21, is one of the most exciting defensive prospects in the Bundesliga. This tactical analysis and scout report will focus on the young German centre-back, who Hertha will be hoping can propel them from being a mid-table side into contention for European football.
Torunarigha is a left-footed centre-back who can operate just as well at left-back. His versatility is a testament to his wide range of physical and technical attributes that make him an incredibly interesting prospect.
As a centre-back he is a no-nonsense defender who is good in the air, even better in the tackle, and reads the game well. I will go into these qualities in more detail throughout this analysis.
Throughout the 2018/19 season, Hertha’s tactics varied, as they rotated between playing 4 at the back, in a 4-2-3-1, or 3 at the back, in a 3-4-1-2. As a back 3, Torunarigha played on the left side and it is a position that suits his best qualities in both positions.
When playing as a left-back Torunarigha enjoys pushing forward. He takes high positions and looks to get behind the opposition full-back before putting in crosses, with a 48.3% accuracy on his crossing. He uses his notable pace to take on players and when running at full tilt is difficult to defend against, particularly in a 1v1 situation.
He has played at left-back eight times so far in his career for Hertha Berlin, and in those appearances registered two assists. Both of these came from crosses. He may well find himself playing at left-back again in the future, and although it leaves a team without his dominating presence in the heart of defence, he is nevertheless an asset at left-back.
As a centre-back he rarely gets forward other than for free-kicks and corners. However, all four of his professional goals have come from set-pieces. He is 1.89m tall and dangerous from crosses, scoring a goal just under every 10 games for Hertha Berlin. Torunarigha’s explosive power makes him incredibly hard to pick up in the box, as he makes short powerful runs away from his marker in an attempt to meet the cross. For such a tall player, with an impressive aerial duel win ratio, this could be an area he begins to improve on, as he is clearly a threat aerially.
A glance at Torunarigha’s defensive statistics show just what a talent the young centre-back is. Torunarigha is a phenomenal tackler and has won an incredible 66.9% of his defensive duels throughout his career so far. To put this into context, Virgil Van Dik has won 54.8% of his defensive duels throughout his career thus far.
Obviously, Van Dijk has played at a higher level for a longer period of time, but it nevertheless highlights just how good Torunarigha is as a defender. He is very strong in the tackle and certainly doesn’t shy away from challenges. He has picked up two red cards for Hertha but he is by no means a dirty player, generally tackling firm, but fair.
He is more than just a centre-back with a knack for coming away with the ball after a defensive duel though. The young centre-back anticipates opposition passes, making 5.57 interceptions per game. He also has a tendency to prioritize clearing his lines when under pressure, rather than looking to pass out, making 3.58 clearances. Some may see this as a negative, but it by no means he isn’t a confident passer. He has a very respectable 84.6% pass completion rate.
Almost 60% of his passes into the final third are accurate. This isn’t bad by any stretch, but there is definitely room for improvement here. Torunarigha is dominant when the ball is in the air too, winning an impressive 63.1% of his aerial duels.
There is definitive data to suggest that Hertha are greatly improved when Torunarigha is in the side.
With Torunarigha playing in defence last season, Hertha BSC conceded 1.4 goals per game, compared to 2.1 without him. The most staggering statistic though is the impact he had on the overall performance of the side. When Torunarigha was playing in defence for Hertha BSC, the Berlin side enjoyed a 46.7% win ratio. But without him they slumped to 21.1%.
Durability is a slight concern for the young German. This season he missed 13 games through injury; over a third of their total games. A recurring Achilles tendon problem cost him 8 of these games, whilst an issue with his ankle in March ended his season prematurely. But with only minor issues in previous years, he will be hoping these injuries are behind him.
The drop in performance levels with him absent from the side shows how important Torunarigha is to the team, even at the age of 21.
Reading of the game
One of Torunarigha’s biggest assets is his reading of the game. His high interception rate per game would back this up.
Torunarigha is excellent at tracking runs, predicting where and when the ball is going to be played and using his strength, speed and excellent tackling ability to intervene and stop the attack.
Below, Torunarigha has seen the France U21 forward begin his run to receive the ball between the German midfield and defensive lines. Torunarigha is confident in being pulled perhaps a little higher than some defenders would feel comfortable. He is able to get close to the forward quickly due to his pace. Incredibly in this instance, he was able to get to the ball first and begin a German attack.
The awareness he displays in the example below shows that he doesn’t get sucked in unless he is sure he is going to win the ball. As he moves to meet the aerial ball, he is aware of the Wolfsburg forward running into space behind him. Due to his body positioning, this shows excellent peripheral vision, as he decelerates, drops back once more, and intercepts the ball.
On the odd occasion where he is flat-footed and perhaps showing a lack of concentration, and hasn’t read the game as well as he can, the centre-back’s pace allows him to get out of trouble. We see in this analysis he is caught flat-footed, not expecting the wayward pass from the Berlin centre-midfielder. The forward has read the poor pass, and despite being flat-footed at this point, Torunarigha was still able to get back and prevent the shot on goal.
Along with the likes of Bayern’s Lukas Mai and Wolfburg’s Felix Uduokhai, Jordan Torunarigha appears to be a young German centre-back with the world at his feet. However, right now he is a player with great potential, but by no means is he the finished article.
He has all of the attributes to be a top defender for years to come: pace, strength, excellent tackling and heading, and a wonderful reading of the game. A full season without injury at Hertha Berlin and we may well be seeing him playing on a bigger stage.
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