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Josko runs the show

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Croatia has truly been a boon for the footballing world. The 2018 World Cup finalists have been excellent in producing world-class players regularly. Luka Modric, Matteo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic, and Ivan Rakitic are some of the most heralded names of this generation.

The next crop of players is also making a steady name for themselves, including Lovro Majer and Luka Sucic. However, the brightest talent in this pool is of course Josko Gvardiol.

 

The centre-back for RB Leipzig is just 20 years old but is already an established player for club and country. Gvardiol has been excellent ever since bursting onto the scene with Dinamo Zagreb in 2019.

He is set to become a star for the ages if he can continue his upward rise. Recently in the news regarding a swap deal with Chelsea for Timo Werner, Gvardiol’s potential is an open secret in the footballing world now.

FootTheBall brings the Josko Gvardiol Scout Report.

Josko Gvardiol scout report

A progressive defender

Gvardiol’s scout report cannot begin without highlighting how he is not a conventional defender at all! Yes, Gvardiol is nowhere near a traditional centre-back. One look at his numbers makes it clear that this is a player who loves getting high up the pitch and advancing the ball.

Gvardiol makes 5.31 progressive passes per 90 along with receiving 0.61 progressive passes per 90.

 

That shows how much involved Gvardiol gets with attacking sequences. Moreover, Gvardiol also averages 5.45 progressive carries and 1.30 touches in the opponent’s penalty area. Domenico Tedesco has continued with the 3-4-2-1 with Gvardiol as the left-sided defender of the back three.

The role allows him to flex his ball-playing skills in the buildup as there are two other CBs who can do the conventional defensive work. He is above the 90th percentile in pretty much every buildup stat- expected assists, progressive carries and passes, dribbles completed and shot-creating actions.

Therefore, it is easy to see why fans are so excited about Gvardiol. Still so young, the kind of promise he is showing makes it a guarantee that Gvardiol will remain a marauding presence for opponents.

Read also: How Lukas Klostermann became one of the premier attacking defenders in the Bundesliga

Behemoth at the back

Even though he is so adept offensively, a picture of Josko Gvardiol’s true potential is incomplete without mentioning his defensive work. He applies 11.92 pressures per 90, which allows him to close attackers quickly often. Moreover, Gvardiol has recorded 2.05 tackles and 2.02 blocks per 90.

 

Given how far up the pitch he likes to venture, the true standout of his defending comes in interceptions. He averages 3.22 interceptions per 90, putting him in the 98th percentile amongst defenders across Europe. This shows how well Gvardiol reads the game and gets in the positions from which attacks can be broken up.

Gvardiol is extremely quick on his feet, meaning he covers ground rapidly to diffuse any threatening situations. Therefore, it is no surprise why Gvardiol is being looked at by Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel wants his defenders to engage with the opposition higher up the pitch. Gvardiol fits this template perfectly. Combine that with his ball-playing skills, Gvardiol is an all-round package.

An all-round package

Having already mentioned his attacking and defensive ratings, it is now time to have a deeper look. Gvardiol’s style of play cannot be discussed without talking about more than what meets the eye. He is an excellent passer, averaging 90% completion over short and medium distances. Gvardiol has already been involved in 26 shot-creating actions and five goal-creating actions.

 

He hates people dribbling past him, succeeding more than 50% of the time in putting in a fair tackle. The Bundesliga has been in awe of the defender ever since his arrival. The 2021-22 season was his debut campaign in a foreign league and Gvardiol is already on the radar of many clubs.

Gvardiol’s playing style is that of a perfect modern CB which is why so many ball-playing teams are interested in his services.

Future national hero

The conclusion of Josko Gvardiol’s analysis has to focus on his international career and his prospects in the future. Gvardiol made his debut at UEFA Euro 2020, becoming the youngest player to play for Croatia at a major tournament. He had solid outings and earned rave reviews. However, Gvardiol had a shaky performance against Spain which goes to show there is still much room for improvement.

 

Moreover, there are some areas that could definitely do with an uptick. While his ball-playing skills are elite, he lacks the bite of a conventional defender. It’s the same scenario as an attacker’s pressing. A striker might be important to their team for their pressing game, but ultimately, they have to be adept at putting chances away too. Similarly, Gvardiol is world-class with the ball at his feet, but he lags behind in good old defensive characteristics, like heading, clearances and aerial duels. The game is evolving at such a rate nowadays that centre-backs have to develop an attacking mind effectively. Therefore, Gvardiol has done the same. However, polishing his raw defensive skills will make him a complete defender.

 

Josko Gvardiol has shown that he is able to take any challenge in his stride. Be it a debut season in a foreign league, or being a young debutant internationally, Gvardiol has looked unfazed by the occasion. Therefore, the interest by Chelsea won’t faze him either. He has supreme confidence in his abilities. Any team that manages to pry Gvardiol from RB Leipzig will have a defender that can marshall their backline for the next decade.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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