Reports are frequently emerging that Albion are on the verge of bringing Celta Vigo midfielder Okay Yokuşlu to the club.
So, who is the Turkish international, what are his strengths, and how does he compare to Albion’s fellow midfielders?
Who is Okay Yokuşlu?
Yokuşlu made his name throughout the 2010-2011 season in the second division of Turkish football, making thirty-three appearances Altay S.K who couldn’t avoid relegation. This earned him a move to Süper Lig side Kayserispor for a reported fee of €1 million (according to Transfermarkt).
After spending four seasons at the Kadir Has Stadium and having helped Kayserispor return to the top flight, Yokuşlu signed for Trabzonspor for a fee of around €2 million.
Three seasons with Trabzonspor followed — including an impressive 2016-2017 with five goals from holding midfield — until La Liga beckoned with Celta Vigo paying €8 million (according to Turkish Football) for the man who would soon be linked with Tottenham Hotspur.
Yokuşlu was awarded a pair of Player of the Month awards in 2019, picking up the accolade in January and February. His contribution saw Celta avoid relegation.
Although this term, he has only registered ten appearances, which indicates the Sky Blues are willing to see him depart. Yokuşlu has also represented his country on 28 occasions, scoring one goal.
What will Yokuşlu bring to Albion?
A major criticism of Albion throughout the 2020-2021 season thus far, has been the lack of defensive protection offered from central midfield. Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore have often been singled out in particular. Yokuşlu should certainly provide steel to central midfield.
To begin with, his heatmaps from the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons — where he played consistently — reveal that Yokuşlu very rarely enters the opponents final third, suggesting that he possesses the defensive discipline to help maintain his side’s shape.
Okay Yokuslu’s 2018-19 Season Heatmap:
Okay Yokuslu’s 2019-20 Season Heatmap:
Yokuşlu also possesses the attributes and qualities needed to break up opposition play. In the 2018-2019 season he made an average of 2 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 1.7 clearances per game.
Throughout the 2019-2020 season his stats are similar with, 1.6 tackles, 1.1 clearances and 2.6 interceptions per game.
He will also add aerial prowess to the Albion ranks. Standing at 6’3, Yokuşlu won 62% of aerial duels in the 2018-2019 season and 64% in throughout the 2019-2020 season.
How does Yokuşlu compare to Albion’s other midfield options?
Yokuşlu’s average of two tackles from the 2018-2019 per game sits higher than Romaine Sawyers’ average of 1.6 tackles per game this season, although Jake Livermore marginally averages more with 2.1 tackles per game.
Yokuşlu narrowly averages more interceptions per game than Livermore with 1.1 and Sawyers with 1 — an attribute that could be important to Albion, especially with Yokuşlu averaging 2.6 interceptions per game in the 2019-2020 season.
Yokuşlu’s defensive strengths are indicated through the amount of clearances he makes per game. Combining his tactical awareness with physical ability he averages 1.7 clearances a game. His future teammates cannot compare with that as Livermore averages 1.4 with Sawyers a lowly 0.6.
Yokuşlu is no fool with the ball at his feet either. In the 2018-2019 season he had a pass accuracy of 86%. To maintain that results are compared fairly, it would perhaps be unreasonable to compare that stat with Livermore and Sawyers who are playing under a manager who does not prioritise possession of the ball, meaning that sideways and backwards passes are not often seen.
But nonetheless if compared Yokuşlu’s pass completion rate of 86% from the 2018-2019 season — when he played regularly — is greater than Sawyers’ 85% and Livermore’s 73% from this season.
To conclude, it is clear that Okay Yokuşlu possesses the attributes to improve Albion’s midfield, bring steel, structure and strength to a side that has looked disjointed for the whole of the campaign.
Although, as Sam Allardyce explained after the arrival of Mbaye Diagne, “catching up with the Premier League in January is one of the biggest tasks a player faces.” Therefore fireworks cannot be expected immediately but an instant impact would be hugely beneficial to Albion.