Freiburg’s excellent season means they are the new talent hunting ground for most of Europe and holding on to some of their prized assets will be well and truly beyond them this summer. Germany has churned out many wonderful young talents since the previous World Cup and Freiburg boast one such promising young prospect in the form of Mathhias Ginter, the young Freiburg defender who is already penciled for greatness by many an expert.
Arsenal FC have been heavily linked with a move for the German who has been at the heart of the Bundesliga’s 3rd best defence statistically. Mathhias Ginter represented Germany at the Euro U-21 and did his reputation no harm being one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the team. With Boateng, Badstuber, Howedes and Mertesacker yet to convince Löw of a guaranteed place for themselves in the senior side, Matthias Ginter would be hoping to impress the boss. But at the age of 19, is he good enough? We find out.
Not too keen on diving in, Ginter is not the sort of defender you would call hard tackling by any means, unlike what the recently concluded Euros might make one believe. Throughout the Bundesliga season, Ginter seemed too cautious to put in a foot, yet seemed to come out on top whenever he did. It’s funny that despite tackling being considered one of his weakest assets, not many central defenders can top his 1.8 tackles per game. His hesitation and over cautiousness once ironed out could make him another beast altogether, just like we saw in Israel.
Having started out as an attacker, Ginter’s sense of space and movement of players around him are very impressive and playing as a defender, it naturally racks up his ball distribution. Initiating attacks from the back, his passing range is top notch but prefers playing short passes. Passing stats often can be misleading especially for defenders but the fact that he averaged almost 3 accurate long balls per game only underlines his brilliance when it comes to finding a teammate. Being extremely comfortable on the ball, passing is easily one of his biggest strengths.
In Christian Streich’s first game in charge, when Matthias Ginter leaped highest to head in Lumb’s freekick, to score the winner on his debut, his aerial prowess was there for all to see. A wonderful leap backed by astute anticipation makes him tough to beat in the air and his 6′ 1″ tall frame doesn’t do him any harm. His heading ability serves at both ends of the pitch as he can be very effective from set pieces. However against forwards stronger and taller than him, Ginter struggles to match up and this is something he probably won’t be able to improve upon either.
Despite all the skillset, this has to be the biggest and hottest selling quality every young player needs – Versatility. Matthias Ginter started as a forward, then fitted into midfield and now is an able defender. In fact in his last appearance against Russia in the under-21s he played as the deepest lying midfielder in a ball winning role and that is what he did, broke up play and won the ball. If required, the 19 year old can hop box to box and contribute at both ends of the pitch. This attribute of his play was well used by Streich and makes Matthias Ginter even more valuable to the squad and one of the few reasons why Arsenal, among other clubs are interested in him.
As a central defender, Ginter has to shrug off attackers more often than not, something he has developed as the season has gone on. Not a physical specimen, Ginter has refined his game to hold his ground and dictate terms against the hard men in the business. Still in his teens, Ginter has worked hard in the past year or so to become more robust and it shows. His midfield involvements have been good lessons in combating for the ball and helped him bulk up well and with age on his side, he can keep on developing.
Ever since joining the Freiburg academy the one thing about Ginter that has caught the eye is his acute reading of the game. Bravery and good awareness with high concentration levels make the U-21 international the archetypal ball winning defender. Pressing high up the pitch, not allowing much space and breaking down play come naturally to Ginter. This is one of the reasons Streich has operated Ginter in midfield with good effect; the player looking not one bit out of place. He makes almost 3 interceptions per game, a very very impressive stat.
VERDICT: Matthias Ginter is one of the most talented young defenders in the world today
Freiburg might have secured the battle for European football but in the process they have lost most of their soldiers and Ginter could follow too. Comfortable in midfield and composed playing in the backline, Ginter is one of the most promising defensive talents in the world and will improve from here on. Rumours of a transfer away from the club are proof that his performances haven’t gone unnoticed. With none of Germany’s central defenders other than Hummels assured of a starting spot, Ginter would be fancying his chances of making the squad at least. Considering his minimal involvement with the youth setup till before a year back, it would show immense improvement for the youngster. Often compared to Hummels, his playing style is more similar to Howedes and gives the impression of a hybrid of the two German internationals. But he wouldn’t be fussed by the comparisons and would like to establish himself for now. Rest assured, a certain Arsene Wenger is keeping a close eye.