Takehiro Tomiyasu


Lee Scott

September 1, 2021

This profile was originally published in the sixth edition of the Scouted Football Handbook, available here.

Who is Takehiro Tomiyasu?

In July 2019, Takehiro Tomiyasu became the first Japanese player since Keisuke Honda to move to Serie A when he completed his switch from Sint-Truiden in the Belgian top-flight. That Tomiyasu became an unqualified success in Italy was no surprise considering Bologna’s track record as one of the smartest recruiting clubs in Europe over the last two or three seasons.

The 21-year-old Japanese international is an extremely versatile player who offers cover at centre-back, right-back and even in the centre of midfield; tactical versatility is relatively common in Japanese players as they receive a high level of tactical coaching from an early age.

Tomiyasu began his career in Japan with Avispa Fukuoka and quickly established himself as an important player for the Japanese international setup at various youth levels. Japan has proven a lucrative market for European teams for the last decade, with players possessing an excellent technical and tactical base being available for a relatively low cost. Even then, it was something of a surprise that when Tomiyasu made the move to Europe it was to join Sint-Truiden in Belgium. 

The Belgian top-flight is an excellent introductory league for players from outside Europe to adjust and acclimatise to the demands of European football but the likes of Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Genk and Gent tend to be more fashionable destinations. Sint-Truiden are at best a mid-table club, but Tomiyasu was immediately exposed to first-team football. 

Over the course of his single season in Belgium he played mainly as a central-defender, and he rose to prominence amongst data analysts for his ability and willingness to progress the ball. It was therefore not a surprise to see Bologna make a reported €9 million bid to bring him to Italy.

Takehiro Tomiyasu Style of Play

At Bologna, we have seen Tomiyasu used primarily as a right-sided full-back or wing-back, but again his ability to move the ball forward has stood out. Tomiyasu is tall – he stands at 6’2” – and slight, but his defensive output is still extremely impressive. As of Serie A’s COVID–19 suspension, the Japanese international is averaging 26.2 defensive actions and 3.8 aerial duels per 90 minutes.

He is a front-foot defender, with an ability to read the game well; he commonly times his movement to step in front of the attacker and win the ball when an opposition player attempts to pass into his zone. This is further evidenced by the young defender’s 1.8 interceptions per 90. These outputs, for a side that is not considered to be amongst the best teams in a highly tactical league, are extremely impressive. It is not surprising that top sides in Italy are already throwing admiring glances in the direction of the 21-year-old.

The tactical versatility touched on above is further exhibited by the ease with which Tomiyasu switches from the centre of defence to the right-hand side. He is comfortable playing as part of a low and compact defensive block when the collective responsibility sees him defending in set zones, communicating and shifting according to the angle of the opposition attack. He is equally adept playing as part of a higher defensive line when expected to defend in space isolated against attacking players, or recovering back towards his own goal.

This variety of tactical styles that Tomiyasu can fit means that Bologna are able to switch between different systems from game to game, or even multiple times in the same game. It also allows them to change the players in the defensive line, because Tomiyasu is so versatile he can complement a wide variety of team-mates.

"Tomiyasu can access all areas of the field with the range of his diagonal passing but also fire low and hard passes through the lines of the opposition into the feet of forward players."

While the defensive output from the 21-year-old has been impressive, it is his performances with the ball at his feet that have really stood out on practically every level he has played at. One of the most accurate predictors of performance for defensive players in recent seasons has been progressive passes. 

A progressive pass is defined as one that moves towards the opposition goal either 30 meters if the pass starts in the players own half, 15 meters if the starting and finishing points are in different halves, or ten yards if the starting and finishing point are in the opposition half. So far this season Tomiyasu is averaging 8.1 progressive passes and 5.1 passes into the final third per 90.

In a short period of time, Tomiyasu has established himself as perhaps the key component of Bologna’s buiild-up play. The performances of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool have left us used to seeing a full-back as a playmaker in possession, and this is evident when watching Tomiyasu play. 

He can access all areas of the field with the range of his diagonal passing but also fire low and hard passes through the lines of the opposition into the feet of forward players. Tomiyasu has earned the confidence of his team-mates very quickly and it is not unusual to see them look for him when they come up against a deep block and have to recycle play.

Forecasting Takehiro Tomiyasu's Future Prospects

When you watch Tomiyasu play it is easy to forget that he has spent less than two full seasons in European football. The way in which he has transitioned form Belgium’s Pro League to Italy’s Serie A has been really impressive.

Making such a step up, sizeable in terms of athleticism and quality, is no easy task; we often see players fail to adapt to high-level leagues, yet that has not been the case with Tomiyasu. In his brief time at Bologna, his development has been nothing short of remarkable. 

We have already seen Sint-Truiden make a huge profit in selling him on and we will likely see similar for Bologna, a club who pride themselves on finding value in lesser-known markets before flipping their finds on to bigger, richer clubs. Less than a year since Bologna bought him, the likes of Juventus, Roma and Inter have already been linked with a move for him, and it would not be a surprise to see other top European clubs come into the mix; Bundesliga and Premier League clubs especially.

A player of Tomiyasu’s technical and tactical versatility would be a great addition to almost any squad.

Takehiro Tomiyasu is a great versatile athlete that excels in the physical side of the game, but is also an underrated distributor from defence.

Untested as a bucaneering style right-back. He will probably be tasked with playing more of a hybrid centre-back/right-back role at Arsenal.

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