Leeds United are wasting no time at all when it comes to putting in place their plans for the January transfer window. While others are merely dipping their toes into the proverbial water, the Yorkshire side have jumped off the diving board and into the deep end with minimal hesitation.
Having been linked persistently with Sporting Lisbon centre-back Tobias Figueiredo in recent weeks, they are now close to sealing a deal for Japanese midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi. BBC Sport report that a £500,000 move should be confirmed soon, though the player will immediately be loaned out in order to secure a work permit.
Leeds already have plenty of options in central midfield, so fans will no doubt want to know more about the new arrival and what unique qualities he will bring to the team. Kalvin Phillips, Eunan O’Kane and Ronaldo Vieira will also be interested to see what their future team-mate could add.
Ideguchi is a relative unknown to English football, but this is where he is set to ply his trade in the near future. Here, we at Football Whispers analyse his career so far, his strengths and weaknesses, his style of play and statistics ahead of his move to Elland Road.
WHO IS YOSUKE IDEGUCHI?
Ideguchi is a 21-year-old central midfielder who plays for Gamba Osaka, who are traditionally among the top teams in Japan. Having made his debut for the club in 2014, he has established himself as a regular starter over the last three years and has been rewarded with caps for his country.
Japan topped their 2018 World Cup qualifying group and the youngster played his part, making three appearances. He is seen as one of his country’s brightest prospects and is set to play a key role in their tournament next summer.
With two goals in nine caps at international level, many may mistake Ideguchi for an offensive midfielder, but his favoured role is closer to the base of midfield. He is a primarily defensive player, though he also contributes effectively in the attacking phase in various different ways.
Alan Gibson, the chief editor of JSoccer Magazine, told the Yorkshire Evening Post that: “He’s a destroyer but someone who can also go on, create something and score goals…for me he’s one of the few coming through that would enjoy the challenge of England. He’s hard enough to take what’s dished out there.”
IDEGUCHI’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Ideguchi shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to Leeds’ tactics once he arrives in Yorkshire. Throughout the last two seasons the club have, under the guidance of two different managers, stuck by a rough 4-2-3-1 system with two central midfielders acting as anchors.
But, since Thomas Christiansen arrived as head coach in the summer, there has been greater focus on building possession, with O’Kane and Phillips often asked to play deeper.
Ideguchi is ideally suited due his combination of aggression and technical ability.
A simplistic but accurate passer, he combines well with his team-mates in order to progress possession on into the final third. Alternately, he will guarantee that the ball is retained by picking out the nearest available option.
Calling him a playmaker would be a step too far, but he has the control, vision and intelligence to help build positive moves.
He is also strong in the tackle and unafraid to get stuck in, with the energy and awareness to cut out opposition attacks and win back possession.
While he may not have the ingenuity of other creators, Ideguchi does have a willingness to play passes through deep defensive blocks.
He also knows when to push on himself and offer a one-two to a team-mate, while his pressing make him a sound protective shield in the defensive phase.
WILL IDEGUCHI FIT IN AT LEEDS?
Considering his style of play, as well as the fact that he has often played as part of a two-man midfield within a 4-2-3-1 for Gamba Osaka, Ideguchi should fit in well to Leeds’ system. However, does he have the quality to improve upon the existing options in Christiansen’s squad?
On the statistics available, it is possible to determine that the Japanese will add more cutting edge to the team’s possession. In league action in 2017, he scored four goals and provided six assists, averaging 0.35 goal involvements per 90 minutes.
The only player out of his three positional rivals at Elland Road to come close to that is Phillips, who has averaged 0.36 this term. However, it’s worth noting that the home-grown star has at times played a more advanced role behind the striker. The other two, O’Kane and Vieira, average 0.2 and zero respectively.
How Ideguchi adjusts to Championship football is not quite so easy to assess. However, there are reasons to be positive in the presence of other Japanese players operating successfully at Premier League level. Maya Yoshida is not a vital part of Southampton’s defence, while Shinji Okazaki was key to Leicester City’s title win in 2016.
Tactically, stylistically and statistically, Ideguchi’s move to Leeds looks like a positive one for the club. He can add incision and defensive nous to their central midfield duet.