Is Jonathan Tah the Missing Piece to Arsenal’s Defensive Set Up? – Scout Report
Jonathan Tah is a player many Arsenal fans will be aware of and someone who could truly bolster the defensive ranks. The 24-year-old allegedly has an “option” to leave Bayer Leverkusen for around £35 million (€40 million) in the summer and may well be a cheaper alternative to some of the other players Arsenal have been linked with.
This analysis report will analyse Johnathan Tah and evaluate his strengths and weaknesses, in order to gain a better understanding of this potential Arsenal signing.
Jonathan Tah arrived at Bayer Leverkusen in July 2015 for a reported £6.75 million from Hamburger SV. The right-footer quickly rose to prominence with his sheer strength and physical ability. More often than not, Tah has played as the right side of a two in a back four. Tah has accumulated 9 caps for Germany, coming off the bench four times. His last international match was a 6-1 victory over Northern Ireland in 2019, during the European Qualifiers. It is reported that aside from Arsenal, Atletico Madrid are the other majorly interested party, willing to stump up the £35 million.
In all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen, Jonathan has played 32 games accumulating 6 yellow cards and 1 red. The 6ft 4in defender is somewhat of an all-action defender. Tah’s aggression and passion for attacking the ball and man depicts a no prisoner approach. As well as this, the big German reads the game as elegantly as German internationals of the past. An exact knowledge of where the ball is going to end up makes Tah an excellent option for Arsenal. Tah is not the sort of player who will dribble the ball out of defence like a Dayot Upamecano might. This season he has only attempted 17 dribbles completing 52.9% of them.
A prominent part of Mikel Arteta’s playing style, is for his centre backs to be able to play out from the back. This season, Tah has played 2582 passes, with an accuracy of 91.7%. Tah certainly fits the bill when looking for players who can build-up play. Tah doesn’t quite have the same accuracy with long passes though. Out of his 190 long passes this season, Tah has accurately played 51.5% of them. This figure doesn’t necessarily correlate with the completion rate over the course of Tah’s career however. Over the course of his career, Tah has had an accuracy of 77% from his 330 total long passes. It should be noted though, the average height of Bayer Leverkusen’s 24 man squad for this season is 5ft 9in. Whilst height doesn’t always correlate to winning balls in the air or receiving long passes, it should be mentioned to offer some context to who he is trying to pick out.
Tah’s ability to read the game is reflective in the amount of interceptions he makes. Over course of his career he has made 468 interceptions (5.39 per 90 minutes). This season has only further enhanced this image of Tah. So far, he has made 171 interceptions with a peak of 11 in two games. Of his total 468 career interceptions, 300 have been cut passes, with a further 58 being ball possession losses. In terms of directly winning the ball off of opponents, Tah has won 42 duels, in which he has intercepted the ball for his team. 81.6% of Tah’s interceptions have come in his own half. Tah has recovered the ball a total of 300 times this season for his side. Of these 300, 76 have come in the oppositions half.
Something which Arsenal have been missing over the years is a defender who can competently clear a cross. Tah stands at 6ft 4in and is very adept at defending crosses and balls into the box. In the air this season, Tah has committed to 129 challenges. Of those 129, he has won 79 (61%). Over the course of Tah’s career, he has steadily fought for 306 aerial challenges (3.52 per 90 minutes) and on average has won 64.7%. This shows a solid consistency throughout his career and it truly is one of his strengths. This shows that he can defend higher up the pitch. One thing I noticed from watching Tah, is his ability to judge the flight of the ball. Any ball over the top of the Leverkusen defence with onrushing players chasing it down, causes him little difficulty. He evaluates the situation and deals with it appropriately.
In conclusion, Jonathan Tah for the reported £35 million, would be an excellent signing. At the age of 24, he could form a very strong partnership with William Saliba for many years ahead. One threat I see, is whilst Tah looks as though he would be comfortable defending a high line, for the majority of his career he hasn’t. His ability to read the game, coupled with his pace and physicality certainly fit the bill for this, it’s just hard to tell how comfortable he would be mentally, and how long it would take for him to feel comfortable playing this way. Other than this, his playing style and attributes seem as though they would translate strongly to the Premier League and for the snippet of the price of Issa Diop, Nathan Ake and others, he would be a very promising candidate.