They say you shouldn’t judge teams, results, and players too early in the season, but a good start is exactly that- a good start. In Japanese defender Ko Itakura, Borussia Mönchengladbach already look to have potentially acquired one of the signings of the season.
Arriving with a reputation
Having played a significant role in helping Schalke win the 2.Bundesliga last season, Itakura arrived at the Borussia Park with his stock on the rise. The Königsblauen’s inability to afford making his loan move from Manchester City permanent led to a scramble for his services involving Celtic, Fulham, Bournemouth, and Bundesliga clubs like SC Freiburg and Hoffenheim. Mönchengladbach won the fight paying a reported €5 million to secure his services.
Born in Yokohama, he joined Kawasaki Frontale as a child and made his debut in 2016. He was part of the Championship winning side in 2017 but spent the following season out on loan at Vegalta Sendai. January 2019 saw Premier League giants Manchester City snap him up, although he was immediately loaned out to Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie for two years. Another loan to Schalke followed and he played an integral part in them achieving an instant return to the Bundesliga making 31 appearances (26 as a centre back and five in midfield) and scoring four goals.
Hitting the ground running
In his first two Bundesliga outings for Daniel Farke’s Fohlen, he has already stood out as a star performer in defence (looking to replace Matthias Ginter). He was arguably Man of the Match in the matchday 2 draw with Schalke and looking at the early season stats, he is already leading the entire league in a number of key fields.
In terms of touches of the ball he leads the league with 233 with Edmond Tapsoba the closest to him with 176. 138 of his touches (league 1st) have been in the midfield third showing that he is already the one bringing the ball out of defence for Gladbach. His versatility as a centre back/ defensive midfielder is already apparent.
Itakura leads the Bundesliga in terms of progressive yards (moving the ball forward) with 691 yards. Teammate Kouadio Koné is second with 470 yards. He leads the league after two matchdays for completed passes (195- Nico Elvedi is next on 156). He has a 92% pass completion.
As mentioned, we are only looking at the first two games of the new campaign, but the early signs are very positive and fans of the Foals can be confident that Itakura can fill the void left by Ginter, and maybe even go some way to providing an upgrade on the World Cup-winner.