Tomiyasu is a 21 year old Japanese who has played his football for Bologna in the Serie A this season. They brought him in last summer for £8m from STVV in the Belgian League and he’s caught the attention of many in Italy and has developed a lot this season.
He’s traditionally a centre half and was almost always deployed there in Belgium and Japan. Bologna have transformed him into a right back, but their system doesn’t use traditional full backs. He also spent a few games as a wing back or a centre half, sometimes moving to centre half in closing stages of the game while chasing a goal to bring on a more attacking player.
Although Tomiyasu is the right back in a 4–2–3–1 most of the time, they use an asymmetrical system. Tomiyasu joins the centre halves the make a back three in possession but they defend in a back four, similar to Spurs uner Jose Mourinho. In the image, I’ve used the lines to show the lines of the 4–2–3–1 and the left back is in possession.
This is really effective and works well for Tomiyasu. The natural centre half is elegant on the ball in buildup and comfortable on the ball with the makings of a modern defender. But, although he is good athletically, has a decent frame and is 6’3″, he is still a bit lightweight and lacks aggression to compete as a centre half at the top level. He wins 53% of his aerial duels which is low for a central defender but he wins a lot of duels overall. With more time and experience at the top level, as well as gaining strength and growing into his frame more he could be converted to a centre back role really well. If he can become more physical and aggressive he will improve in the air as well.
As you can see his radar from the first few months of the season was good with no real weaknesses being shown. Although this is the full back template even though he doesn’t play as a traditional full back in possession.
Defensively he suits the Serie A’s defensive discipline. He doesn’t press out that much and is good at delaying players to allow for defensive support. He defends the wide areas well, with good awareness and reading of the game. He’s quick to cover space and press the wide areas. He closes down the winger well and stays tight, he’s got good footwork with long legs and is able to force the attacker back. The Japanese international is patient and doesn’t dive in doesn’t allow them space. He makes 1.5 tackles /90 in Serie A which isn’t that high but still defends wide areas pretty effectively and stops attacks.
He deals with changes of direction well with good footwork and body position. Tomiyasu has good overall speed and decent acceleration but isn’t the most explosive, but he has very good deceleration and is able react to changes of direction well. But can be beaten but a burst of pace and can allow powerful wingers to get to the byline.
He’s comfortable on the ball, in buildup he doesn’t look like he’s actively looking to get the ball but he’s constantly adjusting his positioning to be accessible to teammates and create space. He receives the ball well, using progressive touches. He can pass well with both feet which is helpful under pressure. His passing is pretty smooth but could be hit with more speed at times.
He can progress the ball fairly well and likes to play balls down the line to Orsolini on the right wing, along the ground or lifted. He can give the ball away too easily at times passing into midfield. I watched one match with him as a wing back, which wasn’t his best. Further up the pitch he is out of his comfort zone and is fairly average in the final third. At times he looked uncomfortable and like a centre half on the ball who isn’t used to playing in tight spaces up the pitch, which he is. He played some sloppier passes under pressure that were easily intercepted or to players being marked tightly from behind. In buildup he didn’t show much proneness to error and was a lot safer showing some nice balls over the top for his winger but is less comfortable up the pitch, which is to be expected from a player who has been a centre half until this season. With experience he’ll adapt to these situations and grow in confidence.
His dribbling numbers are fairly decent as well. He is good at evading pressure, using both feet well to manoeuvre the ball and will look to knock the ball past his opponent and go round them quite gracefully, creating space to look for a pass. Tomiyasu is fairly good at travelling into the space in front of him and happy to draw in pressing players before making a pass. He isn’t the type to run at players but is fairly press resistant and good at creating space.
His crossing is decent but a little inconsistent. Spending more time working on crossing would really benefit him, especially different types of crosses from different areas and situations. At the moment they are normally between the penalty spot and the 18 yard box and floated in towards the middle or back post. But working on his earlier crosses and getting some more pace on them could make him more of a threat.
Overall, the Japanese international is an exciting player. Japanese players are usually applauded for their humility, professionalism and work ethic, hopefully Tomiyasu is the same. He’s a player that could be a strong option for sides looking for a defensive full back to play a similar role to what he plays now. I’d say that he’s better off remaining at Bologna in this system instead of moving to a club intending to use him as a centre half, for now at least. As I said I think it would be sensible to convert him back to a centre half in the future as he develops.
He’s elegant and calm on the ball, has decent overall technical ability, can defend well with good game intelligence. He has clear areas to improve and with good coaching should continue to progress really well and be a good option for a larger clubs in the coming seasons.