Matthias Ginter (19), a 6’1 German defender who currently plays for Bundesliga side, Freiburg, has recently been linked with Arsenal, following an injury to Thomas Vermaelen, who leaves a hole in our defense in his absence. What can be said about the talented, albeit inexperienced German?
After the winter break of the 2011/2012 season, Freiburg manager Christian Streich drafted in a young player from the U-19’s squad in his first game in charge. Despite his tall, lanky frame, Streich decided to play him as the attacking midfielder on the day. In that game, he scored the winning goal and continued to help Freiburg avoid relegation that season. Coming into the 2012/2013 season, Ginter’s versatility meant that he would be deployed in many positions down the spine of the side, but eventually cemented a spot as the side’s central defender along Fallou Diagne.
In October, Ginter sustained an injury that would rule him out until February, where in his first start since the injury, he scored against Werder Bremen. From then on, Ginter became an ever-present figure in the Freiburg starting lineup and soon became a local icon amongst the fans. In the summer of 2013, Germany included Matthias Ginter in the squad for the U21 European Championships, but despite some relatively impressive performances against Spain and the Netherlands and Russia, he was unable to stop Germany from exiting at the group stage; perhaps a blessing in disguise for the teenager.
Using WhoScored‘s data, Ginter recorded 66 interceptions (2.9 per game) and 40 tackles (1.7 per game) in 21 matches. His pass completion averages around 82% which is the average for a central defender. It is worth noting that Ginter was deployed in positions further forward during the season, and that is testament not only to his versatility, but the intelligence he must demonstrate to fulfill the various requirements needed per position.
Squawka states that despite his tall, fairly well built frame, Ginter struggles to compete aerially against players he comes up against. However, looking at the percentages of tackles that he wins on the floor, it makes for good reading.
Looking past the numbers, Matthias Ginter showed over the course of the season that he is a defender worth watching. Having been brought up playing in midfield in the Freiburg youth team, he was given the opportunity to improve the technical aspects of his passing, whether it be short and simple, or long and splitting. Moving back into a central defensive position allowed Ginter to be a platform for Freiburg to build their attacks from, a transition similar to David Luiz of Chelsea.
Despite his young age, Ginter is already physically well-built and weighs in at approximately 85kg (13 stones 5lbs), taking this weight into consideration, he’s heavier than both Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny (both approximately 11 stones 11lbs) but slightly less than fellow German, Per Mertesacker (14 stones 2lbs). Koscielny gained a significant amount of muscle after his first season with Arsenal. Should Ginter join, there’s no doubt that he would follow suit.
Ginter’s style of play is comparable to Mertesacker in his organizational skills and covering style. However due to his superior mobility, Ginter has demonstrated a fine habit of making good judgement calls when a split decision has to be made; for example, situations such as making a decision between closing down the flank or positioning himself to defend the cross after it has been delivered. Ginter isn’t a defender who goes to ground needlessly, but rather uses his physical frame to ease attackers out the way and win the ball as cleanly as possible. He plays within the same philosophy as Arsène when it comes to tackling. He preaches that when tackling, the player must win the ball in such a way that he is ready to pass as soon as the tackle is completed, without needing to readjust his body balance.
Ginter is famed for his versatility amongst Bundesliga viewers, although as he matures, it is likely that he will begin to refine and hone in one no more than 2 positions. Currently, Ginter possesses all the criteria required to become an accomplished central defender but also had the technical proficiency to be a capable defensive midfielder should the need arise.
At the tender age of 19, Ginter is far from the finished article. Regardless of whether he moves to The Emirates or not, there are aspects of his game that need refinement. There were a few times during the course of last season where Ginter made poor calls in possession, resorting to passes that a midfielder should be able to play, but not from the positions that Ginter was playing it in. Teams targeted Ginter’s aerial/spacial judgement, which was often poor. He looks to win the ball at the highest point but can leave himself exposed easily, as he has yet to master the skill of flight tracking. A big reason why Ginter’s aerial duel percentage is so low is because he can jump too early and intelligent strikers will use that to either win a foul or will leap late and win the ball when its height is lower. This is a similar weakness to what Vermaelen suffers. Ginter, like David Luiz, were midfielders in their respective youth teams and it is evident in both their styles of play that they enjoy defending on the front foot when it often is better to backtrack and read the ball mid-flight. All these are relatively common weaknesses in young defenders, and Ginter has all the ingredients needed to develop in a quality defender.
Would he Suit Arsenal, and Would Arsenal Suit Him?
Ginter, should he join, would likely compete with Mertesacker for the right central defensive spot, and may play in midfield in cup competitions depending on opposition etc. Arsenal have recently begun to develop a strategic approach to defending which was evident towards the end of last season where Arsenal delivered their most consistent defensive performances since the run to the Champions League final in the 2005/2006 season. Ginter joining would be perfect timing for not only club, but player too. In conclusion, Arsène Wenger would do well to secure the services of the young German, especially for the reported price of £6-7 million. Arsène has developed a taste for talent residing within the Bundesliga, and Matthias Ginter is a dish worth tasting.
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