Sassuolo loaned Jeremy Toljan from Dortmund with an option to buy. The Italian side made a good reinforcement and took a player who can play as a right or left-back, centre back and also in midfield. This tactical analysis explains the crazy style of play of the 24-year-old defender and how can he fit in Sassuolo’s squad.
His style of play is something that you cannot see in many players in European football and the analysis of that is very interesting. Although he is a defender, he is a very offensive player and some times forgets to come back to his position. But that wasn’t a problem for him when he played in Hoffenheim, a team with offensive tactics, that plays something like hard rock football and the matches have more than two or three goals and crazy rhythm.
Toljan’s great performances made Tottenham’s technical staff watch him and send some positive scout reports to Mauricio Pochettino but finally, Dortmund paid his 7 million euros release clause on the last day of 2017 summer transfer period.
One thing that expresses Toljan is his body. He is a strong and tall (182cm) footballer, who dives in the feet of his opponents and sometimes his defensive style of play is tough. He spent last season on loan to Celtic and some of his stats were respectful. He had an average of 63.6% defensive duels won and his successful tackles were up to 60%. He makes at least one sliding tackle in each match and also 3.63 interceptions. He recovers the ball about seven times per game and he makes 1.71 clearances.
Those things are important in Serie A because the teams are based a lot in defensive tactics and play more defensively, trying to concede few goals. Sassuolo, also, is a team that, based on its tactics and is a tough side to score against.
He is also one of the fastest players in his position among the other players in the top five European championships. His acceleration and sprint speed help him to stop or catch his opponents but also help him to move in the space and get the ball. If we want to make it simple we can say that he is physically strong and very quick. Finally, he has the stamina to charge up and down in the line and supports both the defensive and offensive phases.
Reading the game
He could be also a member of the technical staff. Toljan can read the game and analyze the opponent’s style of play. He makes interceptions, he blocks shots and the opponents can’t pass him easily, as he is good in one-versus-one situations. He also provides good cover for his teammates and knows how to mark an opponent who has the ball or cover the space in the counter-attacks of the opposite team.
Passing accuracy and offensive abilities
He is a player who has the ability to make accurate passes. Last season he had an average of 86.4% passing accuracy and 36.5% long passes accuracy. He tries 63 passes per game and 4.5 long passes. His passes to the final third of the pitch were 71.4% accurate while he tries to make 6 passes in each game. Also, his accuracy in forwarding passes are 74% accurate, his back passes are 96.7% and the passes or the box are 45.2%. His passing ability can help his teammates to keep the ball more and move in the pitch, creating spaces. He can be an important player for Roberto Di Zerbi and can help the style of play of the team, that is based on ball movement and the fast counter-attacks.
He is making one shot on target every three games and he creates a chance by himself mainly from outside the box. He has 47.1% successful dribbles and 41.5% in winning offensive duels that are important cause it means he recovers the balls, often. We need also to notice that his crossing accuracy is at a low level and also his through passes.
Fitting in Sassuolo’s squad
The coach of Sassuolo, Roberto Di Zerbi, took Toljan in his team and knows exactly how can he fit him in the lineup. He prefers an offensive 4-2-3-1 and wants a right-back that can help in the final third but when he changes his tactics he is using the 3-5-2 and Toljan is the perfect full-back to have. But, he needs to fight with Pol Lirola for a place on the right side of the defence if he wants to be in the starting eleven.
His main problem would be his concentration, regarding his positioning and tactical awareness. But playing in Serie A can help him be better in his defensive tactics and learns some important things about his position that didn’t learn in Bundesliga and Scottish League. He has some weaknesses in his game as like he forgets to get back in his position and that can cos to his team.
The last year, Toljan played in 14 games with Celtic in the second half of the season, made some good performances and he thought he took a boost to come back to Dortmund and play again with Borrussia’s shirt. But this was always unlikely as Dortmund is full at right and left-backs and the 24-year-old defender had to find a new team to try his luck.
Sassuolo is the perfect destination to make a new start, and improve some of his defending abilities. He fits perfectly in Di Zerbi’s plans and if he makes some performances like those when he played for Hoffenheim, he would be a useful player for Sassuolo.
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